Presence in Absence

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your life today!

Day 23,376

And today marks my 64th revolution around our sun, the beginning of my 65th year. I almost gave myself an extra year. Must have gotten a little carried away with “spring forward,” there. Today also marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, or, as I like to call it, “Fake Time.”

I got a couple of early birthday presents Friday evening, delivered by carrier, from R. I went ahead and opened those, and received a library scented candle, and a book, Just Kids, by Patti Smith, that has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. It’s memoir, by a singer/songwriter who was influential in the emergence of punk rock in New York City, in the seventies.

Last night, we cut into this wonderful thing:

It is very delicious, although we may have finally succeeded in getting too much icing on the cookie. “I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do,” to quote King George, from Hamilton.

We will be going to our house church gathering, in a little while, and since the time is later than usual (fake time), I need to get moving. I’ve only had one cup of coffee, too, for Pete’s sake.

Who is Pete, even? I’ve always wondered that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have successfully completed another revolution around the sun; by "successfully," I mean still alive
2. for the legacy of faith in my life; it's not perfect, but it's consistent; through all these years, God has kept me in His hands
3. for a godly wife and mother; between the two of them, they have helped keep me on the path
4. for days of rest
5. that God is always present, even when it seems He is absent

Today’s prayer word is “sabbath.” That is very interesting, considering that today is Sunday. Of course, Sunday is not the “sabbath,” even though the modern evangelical church has considered it to be so, as long as I can remember. The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day. That’s why we have denominations like Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe they are more righteous than the rest of us because they observe a literal, legalistic “sabbath.”

All of this misses the point of “sabbath,” in my opinion.

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
(Hebrews 4:4 ESV)

Did God need to rest? Of course not! How would God be “tired?”

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:4 ESV)

But humans need rest, and God knew that. Which is why there were laws concerning the Sabbath. I insist that we, who are under grace and not law, and who are not Israel, do not observe the Sabbath, as such. There are some who disagree with me, and that’s fine. But we need rest, and the principle is still in play.

Rest is important for the human body. When we sleep, it repairs itself. I have learned more about sleep and what it does for the body, in the last couple years, than I knew my whole life. Rest is crucial. So taking a “sabbath” rest each week is good. It is helpful, and it is necessary. Just don’t get legalistic about it. For me, “rest” might be sitting in my easy chair playing on the Playstation. Or it might be reading a book. But it also might be bowling. Recreation can be rest, in my opinion.

It has nothing, however, to do with whether or not I can buy pantyhose on Sunday. Not that I need pantyhose. I don’t even know if “blue laws” are still a thing in Texas. I just did a small bit of research and found that the only thing that cannot be sold at all on Sunday is hard liquor. Beer and wine after noon, and car dealerships must close either Saturday or Sunday and have the ability to decide for themselves. But there was a day when you could not buy certain items (like pantyhose, which was ridiculous, because the likelihood of church ladies needing new pantyhose on Sunday morning was, at one time, pretty high) on Sunday.

But I digress.

The important thing is that we, as humans, recognize our need to have a day of rest, at some point in the week. In my opinion, it could be Wednesday. Doesn’t matter what day. Just rest.

How does this fit into prayer? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think the soul needs rest, just like the body needs rest. So, maybe there need to be times where we turn off all the social media and televisions and podcasts and simply turn our spirits, restfully, toward the heavens for a while.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Maybe we can make some correlation between “sabbath” and Lent. Honestly, I never thought of that until today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1Peter 1:3 ESV)

We are in between times. In between the wonder of Christmas and the joy of Easter. It’s a long stretch, and this season of Lent lasts forty days, in the middle of it. Many people never recognize Lent at all. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think I even heard of it until at least my college years, and possibly after. And, although I may not actively participate ever year, at least it is on my mind, during the time.

I think the placement of it, in the Church calendar, is good. While we know that God is always present, there is a sense of “absence,” during this time of Lent. And maybe, just maybe, what Lent is about is “finding God in the in-between times of life, seeing how He might be present in a veritable absence.” (Rick Hamlin)

Father, I pray for more of a sense of Your presence during this season. As I consider the relationship between the sabbath and Lent, may I have a heightened sense of You and Your presence. Help me to rest better. Help me to “sabbath” better. And may the season of Lent be a sort of long sabbath for me, especially along the lines of that which I am trying to give up or avoid, the act of being critical about things and people. It’s going “okay,” but could be better. You have given me more of an awareness of when I do fall into it, and that is good.

I thank You for sixty-four years, and pray for a few more. Maybe many more. I don’t know how many I want. I want however many You want for me. I’m not picky. I do enjoy this thing we call life, though. And it is more enjoyable when You are surrounding me. Thank You for being part of my life all these years, and please keep being part of it.

I love You, Father. Through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Beautiful One

Today is Saturday, the fifth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,340

It’s still rather cold, here in DFW, but better. It’s currently 20 degrees with a projected high of 49, today. I don’t think it quite made it to 40, yesterday, but it did get above freezing, and the street in front of our house seems to be dry. I’ll probably try to leave a little early for work, this morning, just in case there is any difficulty. I’m not expecting any, but you never know.

Here’s my Wordle score for today.

Wordle 231 3/6*

⬜⬜🟨⬜🟩
🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

There’s another similar game that someone came up with, that involves math. It’s called “Nerdlegame.” It has eight spaces and involves equations. No thank you. I choose to not do math for fun. I avoid math whenever possible, and am most certainly not entertained by it.

I don’t want to risk running out of time, this morning, so I’m going to move on to my devotional content. I will say that Mama is still here, and is immensely enjoying her time here. At this point, there is no definite plan as to when she will return home, and for how long. We haven’t talked all that through, just yet.

I have forgotten to mention a couple things. Wednesday night, I think, it was, we all watched Hamilton on Disney+. Mama really enjoyed it. Last night, we watched The Greatest Showman, and we all enjoyed that, as well. It was a lot of fun. I have no idea how accurate it was, as I know virtually nothing about P.T. Barnum and his life. But the movie was good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; 
your judgments are like the great deep; 
man and beast you save, O LORD. 
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! 
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house,
 and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
 For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light do we see light. 
(Psalms 36:5-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord
2. that I have drunk from the river of His delights
3. that the Lord has said to my heart, "Do not fear!"
4. for the beauty of God
5. for beauty in creation, that reflects the Beautiful One
"I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; 
you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!' 
You came near when I called on you; you said, 'Do not fear!'"
(Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV)
Come, let us worship and bow down.
 Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. 
We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. 
If only you would listen to his voice today! 
The LORD says, 
“Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, 
as they did at Massah in the wilderness. 
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
 even though they saw everything I did."
(Psalms 95:6-9 NLT)

We are called upon to love the Lord through the hard times, just as much as we love Him through the pleasant times. This seems challenging to some. There are types of people who simply lose their minds when things don’t go the way they think they should. And I’m not talking about how it can ruin my day if the Internet doesn’t work right. That’s just me being petty and silly.

I’m talking about folks who believe the world is ending in Revelation-style proportions if the “wrong” guy gets elected. This hearkens back to where we put our trust. If our hope and trust is in the Lord, and we listen to His voice that has said to us, “Do not fear!” then there is no place for this dismay.

“Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for HE is our God.” Let us love Him just as much when things are going great, when things seem like they are catastrophic or disastrous, as we love Him when things are just dandy. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this creates a calmness in life that is unequaled. It helps one to live life on more of an even keel, as it were. In case you don’t know what that means, to be “even-keeled” means to be characterized by stability or consistency.

And there is nothing more stable than the love of God. I promise you this is true. Because His love reaches to the heavens and stretches to the clouds. It is like the mighty mountains, and His justice flows like the ocean’s tide.

Go back up there and listen to that Third Day song again (or for the first time, if you skipped it). Read the Psalm right under it while you listen. Dwell in that for a few minutes, meditating on the mighty love of God, the unchanging, steadfast love of God. There is nothing better.

The prayer word for today is “beauty.” John Keats is quoted as saying, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

This idea of beauty can be taken several ways. The author today’s reading in Pray a Word a Day comes from the perspective of a walk through a botanical garden in New York. I can only imagine the kind of beauty that she sees there.

But I believe that we can also take that word and apply it to our God. He is beautiful beyond all imagination. He is more beautiful than anything this person saw in that botanical garden. But the thing is, His beauty is reflected in that garden, because He is, ultimately, the Creator of all of that beauty. And God, the Beautiful One, creates things that reflect His beauty.

Father, I praise You, this morning, as You are the Beautiful One. I thank You for the word You spoke to my heart when You said, “Do not fear.” I thank You that this word continues to be true for me and for anyone who chooses to believe that You are Truth.

Lord, please help us to love You the same during hard times as we do during the good times. It is easy to love You during the easy times. Oddly enough, though, we tend to only pray during the hard, challenging times. Why is that, Lord? You must think us really strange people!

Help me to see beauty today. There is a chance that there will be may children at the library today. Help me see beauty in their faces, as well as the faces of their parents. Give me grace to be patient with all circumstances that arise today, and to remember my love for You through all things. Help me to love others, as well, even, and especially, when they are failing to love You through their difficult times. Help me be one who shows them what an “even-keeled” life looks like. That, of course, requires me to live life on an even keel, so help me to do that.

I want to show love to people, Father. I want to show them Your love, and I want to show them that I love them, as well. Help us to have a love revolution in our world. I pray for Your Church to remember who is in control, here.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Leaves of sound are shed they fall
On this murmuring mind
Where the lullabies call
And from these words I sink and fall
To the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

Deep waters sound, who loves that deep?
I make my way
Up the toilsome steep
In green meadows now I sleep
In the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

And in the wind a song
And moonlight on the lawn
Draws me on, and on
And thru the day a sigh
For dreamers such as I
Who steal away
To watch and pray"
(Words and music by Terry Scott Taylor and Tim Chandler, copyright 1986 Broken Songs)
I challenge you to
find some beauty in your world
on your way, today

Grace and peace, friends.

Lessons in Futility

Today is Monday, the twenty-fourth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,328

I’m having one of those “difficult-to-get-going” kind of days. I’ve been up since 6:45, it’s currently almost 9:30, and I’ve just started typing. I have managed to have breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, though.

The big thing today is our Hamilton experience from yesterday. We got to the Bass Performance Hall in plenty of time. There was quite a line going into the building, but it was moving quickly, as they checked for either negative Covid tests or vaccine cards outside the front doors. Everything went really smoothly to get in. We stopped at the merch counter first and got a t-shirt and a shot glass that says, “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

The production was not at all disappointing. The closer we got to the time, the more excited I got and the less worried I was about how it would stack up to the original cast. I had seen one “bootleg” video, made at the Broadway show, and the version that is on Disney+ (edited for a few language places, of course). We both felt that the weakest part was the Schuyler Sisters, but they were still good. The people that played Hamilton, Washington, Mulligan/Madison, and Laurens/Philip were all very good. The guy that played Lafayette/Jefferson was good, but there is no way he was going to be as good as Daveed Diggs, and, in the same vein, the guy that played Burr was also very good, but I don’t see anyone being as good as Leslie Odom, Jr., in that role. Oh, and our King George III was excellent. He played the role a little differently than Jonathan Groff, and that’s okay. It was a great performance, though, greeted by a rousing ovation at the end. And, of course, I was crying at the end. The ending of this show wrecks me every time. I mean . . . how many Broadway productions do you know of that end with A SOB?? It could be argued that Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was really the star of the story.

As predicted, we picked up Applebee’s for dinner (and Sonic drinks, of course) on the way home, watched an episode of Lucifer and chilled for the rest of the evening.

Today, C works from home (and for the rest of the week). Monday is one of my normal days off every week, and I don’t work until 4:15 tomorrow. I have no concrete plans for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Long Winding Way, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

I shall
not tire of
seeking

©2022 S. Michaels
A Waking Season
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please click on the link to see the poem in its best environment, as there is always a beautiful image accompanying the verse.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
 he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
(Psalms 40:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books, and that I can read
2. that I can pray about anything and everything; really . . . everything
3. for Jesus's question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
4. for the way Ecclesiastes teaches us the futility of trying to find meaning without God
5. for God, the Source of all things
“You will guide our feet into peace”
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 
And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 
"What do you want me to do for you?" 
He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." 
And Jesus said to him, 
"Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." 
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 
(Luke 18:35-43 ESV)

I love this passage, and the question that Jesus asks the blind beggar. I easily envision Him asking the same question of you and me. Sometimes, when I ask people for prayer requests, I ask, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?”

Who among us has not read the book of Ecclesiastes and wondered at the “vanity” of it all? If read in the wrong spirit, this book of the Bible, possibly most famous for the lines quoted in Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” could be depressing.

What Eugene H. Peterson gets out of it, as described in day 21 of Symphony of Salvation, is that the writer of Ecclesiastes has set out to “expose our total incapacity to find the meaning and completion of our lives on our own.” It seems that we are always looking for something . . . some way to be other than what we are. “We explore the countryside for excitement, search our souls for meaning, shop the world for pleasure. We try this. Then we try that. The usual fields of endeavor are money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.”

Oddly enough, the author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t say much about God. He “leaves that to the other sixty-five books of the Bible.” Here’s an example of the lesson that is to be learned.

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.] 
There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke. 
What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth. 
The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. 
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. 
Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. 
All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. 
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. 
Everything's boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. 
What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There's nothing new on this earth. 
Year after year it's the same old thing. 
Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"? Don't get excited—it's the same old story. 
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. 
And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered. 
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 MSG)

You see? Like I said, if this is read at face value, it’s depressing. Why bother at all, if these things are true?

Peterson calls this a “John-the-Baptist kind of book.” He says that “Ecclesiastes sweeps our souls clean of all ‘lifestyle’ spiritualities so that we can be ready for God’s visitation revealed in Jesus Christ. . . . It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging.”

The words of the wise prod us to live well. 
They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. 
They are given by God, the one Shepherd. 
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. 
There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. 
The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. 
And that's it. 
Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 MSG)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
(Philippians 1:9 NLT)

Always be humble and gentle. 
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 
(Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need,
 and thank him for all he has done.
(Philippians 4:6 NLT)

Father, I don’t worry as much as I used to. Thank You for that. I don’t know if I pray more or not. I know I don’t pray enough; we can never pray enough. And there are so many prayer needs in front of me, right now. Sometimes I don’t feel up to the task. You know what they are, and in my private prayer moments, I voice them to You, specifically. There are healings needed for illnesses, both Covid and non-Covid-related. There is comforting needed for lost loved ones, and for hopeless situations. There are people who need You in their lives and don’t realize it. And there is rampant division in our world, in our country, and even in Your Church. It is that last thing that hurts my heart the most. I pray for unity and peace within the Body of Christ, that we would all focus on the “greatest commandments” of Jesus.

I thank You for how well Ecclesiastes points out the futility and vanity, utter uselessness of attempting to find meaning through the various pursuits that do not involve You or Your wisdom. I am grateful for the way You have moved my heart to see these things and believe them. I confess the times that I engage in some of those pursuits, anyway, even though those times have been fewer in recent years. Thanks for that, too!

May I, as the author Ecclesiastes suggests, find whatever I have to do, and do it with all my might. May I “eat, drink, and be merry,” but all the while remembering that You are the source of that life, of the food and drink, as well as the merriment.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

GOD's there, 
listening for all who pray,
 for all who pray and mean it.
(Psalms 145:18 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Love (Again)

Today is Sunday, the twenty-third of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,327

Our Hamilton show is today. I’m not sure what I’m going to count down to, next.

I had a pretty decent night’s sleep, last night. The new CPAP seems to be working pretty well. I’m getting more used to it. However, I have learned that I can’t use the humidifier feature in it, as it tends to clog up my nose. Fortunately, that feature can be turned off.

I learned a couple new things at the library, yesterday, the coolest being how to encode our RFID (I have no idea what that stands for) tags that are stuck in the back of the book. This is an electronic tag that is used to both check the book in and out, as well as provide security at the front door. So when I lay a book on the electronic pad at the circ desk, it checks the book out to the patron and unlocks the security feature so the alarm won’t go off when the patron leaves.

A patron was trying to check out a book that she had placed on hold, and the computer kept saying that the book was not in the system. I noticed that, when I scanned the book on the pad, the number that went in simply said “0.” The assistant librarian on duty helped me and showed me that the RFID tag had not been encoded with the bar code number, then taught me how to do that. Lo and behold, I had to do it again, later in the day, as I was clearing one of the book drops.

I also learned how to clear a patron’s charges from being billed for a “lost” book, after they returned the book to the library. This had not come up, yet, when I was on duty.

As previously stated, our show of Hamilton is this afternoon at 1:30. So we will be heading downtown as soon as we leave our church gathering, today. We will likely pick up Applebee’s on the way home for a mid-afternoon meal.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
without reserve
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father."
Charles de Foucauld
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalms 34:1-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music and all the joy it brings me, both in the realm of worship and praise, as well as entertainment
2. for brothers and sisters in Christ, and the opportunity to read God's Word together
3. for chocolate candy (all kinds, actually . . . I pretty much love candy, but chocolate is my favorite)
4. that God has been merciful to me, a sinner
5. for the beautiful innocence of children, and for Jesus's teaching that we must become like them to enter the Kingdom

In this morning’s Bible readings in You Version, I came across this passage.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. 
And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 
But Jesus called them to him, saying, 
"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, 
for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 
Truly, I say to you, 
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
(Luke 18:15-17 ESV)

As we were closing the library last night, a young family with two small boys were leaving. As they went out the front door, the two boys were waving and saying goodbye to everyone they saw. The circulation manager was standing by the front doors, as is customary at closing time. Suddenly, I heard one of the little boys shout, “I LOVE YOU!” to the manager.

My heart nearly exploded. Is it any wonder that Jesus told us that we need to become like children to enter the Kingdom? This is the kind of love we must have for others. This is the kind of love I have been striving for for at least five years, now, and more intensely every year, especially in the current political climate of our nation.

Folks, this is not negotiable, in my opinion. There are two “great commands” (here he goes again . . .) that Jesus speaks of. Love the Lord your God with all of your being, heart, soul, mind, and strength. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And then, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus delved a little deeper into that second one when He told His disciples that they were to love one another as He had loved them.

This love transcends everything else, and, most importantly, it transcends our blasted opinions about everything!! We should be able to shout, “I LOVE YOU!” to anyone we meet, just like that little boy, last night, regardless of their political affiliation, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of the color of their skin.

Trust me, I’m preaching to myself as much as I’m preaching to anyone else. There are some who know me, who know my political leanings and opinions, but I try to keep them away from this place. You may think you know, but you might be mistaken. What I am striving for is to not “lean” in either direction, politically, but to lean toward Jesus. I am reminded of Psalm 146.

Praise the LORD! 
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
 I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. 
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man,
 in whom there is no salvation. 
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; 
on that very day his plans perish. 
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, 
whose hope is in the LORD his God, 
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, 
who keeps faith forever; 
who executes justice for the oppressed, 
who gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets the prisoners free; 
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
 The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
 the LORD loves the righteous. 
The LORD watches over the sojourners; 
he upholds the widow and the fatherless, 
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, 
to all generations. 
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 146:1-10 ESV)

My hope is not in a human prince, but, rather, the Prince of Peace. My hope is not in a human king, but, rather, the King of Kings. My hope is not in a President or any other human ruler. Hope is in Jesus Christ, Lord of Lord, Son of God, maker of heaven and earth.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 ESV)

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?
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
(John 3:19 ESV).

Today’s prayer word is “always.”

And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
(Exodus 27:20 KJV)

Father, may my love for You and the Light that is within me burn brightly, consistently, and “always.” Father, my heart is aching this morning, as I consider how I have failed to be like a child in my striving to walk in Your Kingdom. Sure, I’ve gotten better, over the years, but I still let differences of opinions and attitudes affect the way I feel about people. I confess this . . . it is sinful . . . and I ask, not only for the forgiveness that You freely give, but that You . . . well . . . fix me. Embed that light of Jesus, that love that He has, within me so deeply that I know no other way. Help me to beat my breast like that tax collector and cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” I pray that prayer daily . . . “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” May it be so in my life. My hope is in You, Father. My hope is in no man. For only You can give us the resources and ability to execute justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry, set the prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, lift up those who are bowed down, love the righteous, and uphold the widows and fatherless. You watch over the way of the travelers and sojourners, Father. Protect us when we travel, but help us to look out for those who are fleeing oppression in another land.

Father, help us to start a love revolution.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

“Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Today is Saturday, the twenty-second of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,326

Tomorrow, we finally get to see Hamilton! Our show is a matinee show, beginning at 1:30 PM. We will likely head straight over to Bass Hall from our church gathering. Since I have seen the original cast in the movie presentation that is on Disney+, it will be interesting to see someone else’s interpretation of the different historical figures in this story. Of course, I have no idea who is in the cast, nor would I likely recognize any of their names.

Today is another full day at the library, in the circulation department. Several hours of that time will be spent at the front desk, but will be broken up by an hour or two doing different tasks, such as clearing the external and internal book drops and processing new material that is coming in. Processing is probably my favorite task when I’m working circ, because I get to see what new books are coming into the library.

I don’t want to run out of time, like I did, yesterday, so I’m getting right to the matter at hand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
 I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; 
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I can walk without pain (most of the time)
2. that I have all of my senses (even though sometimes I act as though I have no sense at all)
3. that I have trusted in the Lord from birth (Psalm 22:9-10)
4. that I know that I'm never too old to stop learning or gaining wisdom, and that You are still teaching me
5. that You have given us ample resources, along with the willingness to share them; please show us where we can share them

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson’s chapter on Proverbs is called “The Art of Living Skillfully.” He points out that many people mistakenly believe that the majority of the Bible has to do with “getting people into heaven.” Having grown up Southern Baptist, I can say that this is not inaccurate. There are a lot of folks out there whose main thrust in life is getting to heaven when they die, and taking as many people with them as they can, willingly or not.

I confess that that statement was typed with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

But there is a measure of truth to it. In fact, there are a lot of people who care nothing whatsoever about what kind of life they lead, once they say “that prayer” that they believe automatically gets them into heaven. “Fire insurance,” as it were.

We would do well to remember that line in Jesus’s model prayer. You know the one . . . it’s the title of today’s blog. “On earth as it is in heaven.” The Scriptures are concerned with “living on this earth – living well, living in robust sanity.” This might also be called “wisdom.” “Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such.” (italics mine)

Just because one has a college degree does not guarantee that one has wisdom.

The ways of right-living people glow with light; 
the longer they live, the brighter they shine.
 But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker— 
travelers can't see a thing;
 they fall flat on their faces.
(Proverbs 4:18-19 MSG)

I’m going to quote a more lengthy passage, here, because, well, I certainly can’t say it better than Eugene did.

“Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; 
don't try to figure out everything on your own. 
Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; 
he's the one who will keep you on track. 
Don't assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! 
Your body will glow with health, 
your very bones will vibrate with life! 
Honor GOD with everything you own; 
give him the first and the best. 
Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. 
But don't, dear friend, resent GOD's discipline; 
don't sulk under his loving correction.
 It's the child he loves that GOD corrects; 
a father's delight is behind all this. 
(Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG)

And here may be the most important statement in this entire book.

“In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.”

Proverbs is more concerned with the here and now than any other book of the Bible. Some of them are quite humorous; others are downright frightening. But they all come together to give us that thing called “wisdom.”

And honestly, going back and re-reading that paragraph about what constitutes wisdom, I’m not so sure that I have very much. But I also fully acknowledge that I’m not through gaining it, either. One thing I know . . . you are never through learning and never through gaining wisdom, no matter how old you are.

"I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; 
Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street. 
The Fear-of-GOD means hating Evil, 
whose ways I hate with a passion— 
pride and arrogance and crooked talk. 
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; 
I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out."
(Proverbs 8:12-14 MSG)

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
(Luke 3:11 ESV)

"And now, O sons, listen to me: 
blessed are those who keep my ways. 
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 
Blessed is the one who listens to me, 
watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 
For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, 
but he who fails to find me injures himself; 
all who hate me love death." 
(Proverbs 8:32-36 ESV)
"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, 
or thirsty and give you drink? 
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, 
or naked and clothe you? 
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 
And the King will answer them, 
'Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, 
you did it to me.'"
(Matthew 25:37-40 ESV)

I’m sensing a firm direction in prayer today.

Today’s prayer word is “twist.” The referenced verse is Luke 1:30 from The Message.

God has a surprise for you.
(Luke 1:30 MSG)

Yes, the context has this spoken to Mary, by the angel, Gabriel. But let’s step back a bit. While we don’t ever want to attempt to build “theology” by taking Scripture out of context, I think there are times when we can take such a line in the Bible and apply it to ourselves.

Remember Isaiah 43? That passage popped up a number of times about three weeks ago.

"Forget about what's happened; 
don't keep going over old history. 
Be alert, be present. 
I'm about to do something brand-new. 
It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! 
I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)

God is constantly in the business of doing “new things.” He is full of surprises, and anyone who has truly followed Him for any length of time can attest to that. I know I have been surprised by God countless times in my almost sixty-four years on this planet.

That is not necessarily, however, the full meaning of this word, “twist.” It might mean that we have to intentionally “twist” to look at something. We might have to bend over and get uncomfortable for a moment to see something that God is doing. In other words, it’s not always going to be right there in front of us, in plain sight.

I might have to (GASP!!) inconvenience myself!

Father, as I walk through this day (and every day, for that matter), remind me that I have to look around, that I have to keep my spiritual eyes (and my physical eyes, too) open, watching to see what You might be doing around me. Help me to see what You are doing and enter into that, whenever applicable. You have gifted me with abilities, talents, resources. These are not to be hoarded. I have too many coats. Show me someone who needs one. We have plenty of food. Show me someone who needs some. We have plenty of money. Show me someone who needs help. I’m going to seriously begin to pray for You to point these things out, and then ask You to make sure that, when You do, I’m paying attention. And make me willing to go out of my way, sometimes, to help someone. And, above all else, give me wisdom to live on this earth. Make me fully aware that You are the most important subject for me to consider, and that my most important job is to love You. However, when I am doing that right . . . if I am loving You, then I will be loving others, too.

Please help us all be aware that the most important thing in life is not necessarily getting into heaven when we die. Help us to live in Your Kingdom, on earth as in heaven. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Over and Over and Over Again

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,324

Only three more days until Hamilton!

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your Window, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People are generally shocked when they do what he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You for Your everlasting love.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Today I am grateful:

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Rumors or Reality

Good morning. It is Wednesday, the nineteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,323

Only four days until Hamilton! I’ve gotten both emails and phone calls encouraging me to visit the Bass Performance Hall website to see protocols for entering the theater, so it appears to be on schedule.

I’m up before C, this morning. She gets up at 6:45 when she’s working from home. I sometimes sleep until she gets up, but this morning, I was awake, so I got up. I will admit it was a rough night of sleep with the new CPAP machine. It’s different, and I think the pressure is lower. I just have to get used to it. I believe it will get better.

I work from 9:15-6:15 today, in circulation. The schedule has settled back into normality, now, so that’s good. Last night went well, and there were only a couple of carts to be shelved. A third one was added, later, by the tech services folks, but I didn’t have time to get to it.

I’m moving on to the devotional, because I don’t want to run out of time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

open to the word of God.

Heart humbled to his will.

offered is the servant of God."

“In all that is going on around me, all the movement, all the noise, Can I find a moment of calmness and stillness now, Can I feel God’s presence here,  And surrender myself to it, Opening myself to listen to God’s word?”

Father, still my heart and soul as I enter into Your presence, seeking life and wisdom from Your Word. Guide my meditations, this morning.

And David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." 
And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth." 

And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!" 

Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 
And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 
And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 
The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field." 
Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 
and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand." 
When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. 
The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. 
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 
(1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 ESV)

This is a long, familiar, passage of Scripture, often referred to as the story of David and Goliath. Often cited in sporting events, we see an underdog defeating the favorite “champion.” We often celebrate when an underdog wins (unless the favorite was the team we always root for, of course).

But we go deeper into this story. The thing that I take away from it is nestled in verse 37. The faith of David is seen in his statement to Saul. “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul had no comeback to this, and simply told David to go, “and the LORD be with you.”

It is easy to see David as being cocky and arrogant in this story. He was young. We really don’t know, I don’t think, how old he was, but they keep calling him a “youth.” The Hebrew word is “na’ar,” which literally means, “a boy” or “a girl,” somewhere between birth through adolescence. But he was old enough to have worked as a shepherd, and he had, reportedly, killed a lion and a bear in that service. And arrogant as he seemed, he credited the Lord with those feats.

And he was ready to give God all the glory in this battle, as well. As we look at the different “players” in this story, Saul, Goliath (and his shield-bearer), David, and God (mentioned eight times), I see God as the most important. That may be obvious to some, but maybe not to others. I believe that the Lord directed that stone, as it flew from the slingshot in David’s hand.

There is an aspect to this story that we don’t, I believe, often consider. In the midst of the miracle, there is something we miss. David was a child. Maybe he was twelve or thirteen. Maybe. But he was most definitely younger, by at least a few years, than the minimum age that we in the U.S. determine a young man or woman old enough to go to war. He grew up in a culture that was well-familiar with battle and war. And he willingly, as a child, went out to fight against and kill a man.

This is not simply some fairy tale, with a glamorous ending. This is life in the trenches, and, perhaps something that should be considered as we ponder the miracle. To me, it is chilling. It is brutal. But, to David, it seems to have been just another day. The reason I even bring this up is because it is far too easy for us, sitting in our easy chairs, to judge others.

I never had to go fight in a war. I was never in the military. I missed out on the draft, by the grace of God, I say. Others weren’t so lucky. Some of my friends enlisted and served willingly. God had other plans for my life. And I am grateful beyond measure that I never had to face any of that. So I read this story, now, from a slightly different perspective, understanding that I don’t truly understand anything about war and its elements. There is also a lot I don’t understand about how God works and the things He does. But I, like David, trust Him to fight my “battles” for me.

Father, in this tale of underdog beats champion, I see Your strength and I see Your purpose. I see Your orchestration of events. But it is easy for me to look at this history, which I have read hundreds of time, and see how You worked through it. In fact, every time I read it, I can see more of You. It’s not so easy to look at current circumstances and feel the same way, because we haven’t seen the outcome. We have no idea what is “around the bend” for us. What I do know, though, is that, as I walk in Your Kingdom, this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be. And, like David, I trust in Your hand to provide and protect me. And, like Job, I can firmly say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

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

(From Pray As You Go)

As I quoted a verse from Job, it reminds me of Eugene H. Peterson’s chapters on Job in Symphony of Salvation. I find it interesting that Peterson thought Job to be important enough to dedicate four chapters to the book. The fourth one is called “Entering the Suffering,” and primarily deals with our tendency, as humans, to try to prevent and/or alleviate suffering.

Peterson cautions against doing like Jobs “friends,” who pontificated while believing that they could actually “fix” his troubles, or make him “better.” I addressed that in a previous blog entry.

“We may look at our suffering friends and imagine how they could have better marriages, better-behaved children, better mental and emotional health.” The first thing we need to know is that, regardless of how well-intentioned (or even accurate) our assessment may be, “we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems.” Never, EVER tell someone, “I know how you fell.”

No. You don’t. Even if you have been through the same thing, yourself, you most certainly DO NOT KNOW HOW THEY FEEL!

A second thing to understand is that they may not want our help or advice. Notice that Job never asked his friends for advice.

There is an ironic third thing to understand. “More often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more. When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.” This thought is directed more toward people who have this fallacious idea that God never wants His people to suffer.

So, looking back up there at our natural tendency, which is to prevent or alleviate suffering, perhaps we should not focus on that, but, rather, simply focus on “entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able – entering the mystery and looking around for God.” Don’t feel sorry for the person who is suffering. “Look up to them, learn from them, and – if they will let us – join them in protest and prayer.”

Granted, it is difficult to know exactly how to follow Job’s lead, here. But we do know that God finally spoke. His answer, though, wasn’t exactly what Job was looking for.

And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: . . . 
Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!  . . . 
"And have you ever ordered Morning, 'Get up!' told Dawn, 'Get to work!' So you could seize Earth like a blanket and shake out the wicked like cockroaches? . . . 
"Can you get the attention of the clouds, and commission a shower of rain? Can you take charge of the lightning bolts and have them report to you for orders? 
(Job 38:1, 4, 12-13, 34-35 MSG)

The book of Job should be read “prayerfully and meditatively” as we face questions that arise during suffering, when our lives don’t turn out the way we planned or expected. We can ask the questions . . . there is no harm in this. We may get stock answers from “friends,” but we keep asking, maintaining our dignity in suffering. Eventually, we realize that “suffering calls our lives into question, not God’s. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us.”

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”
(Job 42:5-6 MSG)

Father, may we all stop living by rumors and strive to know You in reality.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I pray that, as I walk through this day, I will be aware of the suffering of people. Perhaps not anyone I encounter directly, but simply knowing that there are people who are suffering. If any of my friends enter into such suffering, help me have the wisdom to enter into it with them, not offering advice or help, but, rather, simply being with them. When things don’t go the way we expect, may Your Spirit enable us to ask hard questions of You, boldly, not unlike David as he faced Goliath, knowing that You can take it, and will not be angered or offended at our questions. Most of all, make Yourself known to us, through all of our life-circumstances, good or “bad.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The revelation of GOD is whole and pulls our lives together. 
The signposts of GOD are clear and point out the right road. 
The life-maps of GOD are right, showing the way to joy. 
The directions of GOD are plain and easy on the eyes. 
GOD's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, 
with a lifetime guarantee. 
The decisions of GOD are accurate down to the nth degree. 
God's Word is better than a diamond, 
better than a diamond set between emeralds. 
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring, 
better than red, ripe strawberries. 
(Psalms 19:7-10 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have the ability to read, and comprehend what I read
2. for the ability to quiet my soul and know the presence of God
3. that I have learned to trust in the Lord in all circumstances
4. that my life has been relatively free from suffering and has been peaceful
5. for the Word of God and the value it has in my life

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Prayer for Unity

Today is Tuesday, the eighteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,322

Only five days until Hamilton!

I’ve piddled a bit too much, this morning, and found myself with barely an hour to get my devotional in. It wouldn’t matter, but I have to go pick up my new CPAP machine, this morning, at 11:00 AM. I figure I will probably stop by Subway afterward, for lunch for C and S (and their dinner, as well), since C is working from home, this week. Then I get to work at the library from 4:15-8:15, this evening.

The Rams pounded the Cardinals 34-11 last night, so the divisional rounds are set. Saturday, the Bengals will play the Oilers Titans, and the 49ers will play the Packers. Honestly, I don’t care at all about either of those games, other than I find that I cannot root for Aaron Rogers after his fiasco behavior regarding Covid vaccines.

On Sunday, the Rams will play the Buccaneers and the Bills will play the Chiefs. I’m rooting against the Buccaneers and for the Bills. But I really don’t care. I probably won’t watch any of the games.

I can’t help but wonder . . . if the Super Bowl winds up being the Bucs and Packers, will it be the lowest-watched Super Bowl in TV history? At least half of the country hates both quarterbacks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Restore My Being, by Daryl Madden

Into your Presence
I come before
In my humanness
A time to adore

With shoulders of burden
Of stress that I store
It all melts away
Poured out on the floor

And worries and fears
As I start to pray
For by your grace
They all drift away

The greatest of all
Through the mercy of You
For all of my sins
Are washed away too

To restore my being
Of blessing to find
Gives this broken soul
A taste of the divine

A lovely prayer to begin my morning. Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

"My soul rests, my soul rests, in your embrace
My spirit sings, my spirit sings all your praise."
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 
and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 
And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 
And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 
how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" 
And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." 
(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t recall ever hearing of this before, but I believe it is significant and something important for which to be praying.

Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much unity in the realm of Christianity. In the reading from Mark, the religious leaders are criticizing Jesus and His followers for “doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath.” This sounds a lot like yesterday’s reading, where they were criticized for not doing “religious things.”

So Jesus is criticized for not being religious enough. Legalism abounded in His day, just as it does today. Even today, in the midst of “Christianity,” there is a way of thinking that says, “You can’t be a Christian and ___________.” But truly, Jesus knows nothing of this way of thinking. According to Scripture, there is only one way to be a “Christian” (by the way, that word only occurs three times in the whole Bible, and none of those describes how to be one), and that is to be a follower of Christ.

The modern “church,” just as the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, is quick to be critical. This surely accounts for the division in the church, especially in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but the “church” in the United States (perhaps even the “Church”) is as divided as the nation is, pretty much 50/50. It’s very sad. There is a severe shortage of “love one another.”

The thought, in the reading, that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around, leads me down a path of realization that the law has a purpose, but it is not the purpose that many people try to use it for. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of all. Scripture is clear that the law’s intent was to point out our flaws and shortcomings, not to be followed jot and tittle.

As we pray, we need to be praying for unity within the Church of Jesus, the Body of Christ. We need to stop being so judgmental and critical of one another (I have been guilty of this, myself, and it is something I have struggled with mightily over the past years). We are all only human, we are made from dust, and we are far from perfect, all of us. We will make mistakes, and none of us has a corner on the market of “truth,” or what is wrong and right. We all have our own opinions about things, but those opinions, in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. Our job is to love God and love people. Those are the two commands upon which the entirety of the Law and Prophets hinge, according to Jesus, Himself.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be aware of the time of prayer that is being called for, for unity in the Church. I pray that we can somehow manage to set aside our differences of opinion (largely on things that are not of eternal significance) and love one another. I pray that some can stop being critical of others for not being “religious” enough, and I pray that the other half can stop being critical of those they deem to be “too religious.” May we all simply follow Christ, doing the things that He said and did, and love one another, doing whatever needs to be done for “the least of these.”

Help me to find some time to be quiet and reflect as this day continues.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock,
 in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my strength, my rock, and my fortress
2. for the possibility of unity within the Body of Christ; I believe it is possible
3. for the privilege of prayer, and the responsibility, as well
4. for times of quiet and reflection, during the day
5. for the blessing of my life and family
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Fixers

The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.”

Good morning. Today is Monday, the seventeenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,321

Six days until Hamilton!

We had a nice gathering, yesterday, for our house church. There were six of us in person, and two on Zoom. We only managed to get through one Psalm (52), but had some good discussion, and great fellowship. I really feel that we are closer to what the first century church did at their gatherings, anyway. We talk about our lives, read some Scripture, and pray together. Occasionally, we also break bread together. One thing I’m missing, though . . . we haven’t taken the supper in a while. I need to bring that up.

C is working from home, this week. She still doesn’t feel great, but feels better than yesterday. We feel like that terrible wind on Saturday blew in some junk or stirred it up in the air. Not even a hint of fever, for any of us, though. I’m sneezing and sniffling a bit, this morning, but have felt pretty much fine for a few days.

There is nothing much on today’s agenda. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to pick up my new CPAP machine, at 11:00 AM. Once I get that and get it set up, I may be looking at changing doctors. C’s doctor has moved from the clinic he was at, along with a couple other associates. I may be switching over to them. I haven’t decided, yet. It’s a lot easier for me to find time to visit a doctor’s office, these days, so they don’t have to be real close. Their new office is on South Main in Fort Worth, close to the “hospital district,” about twelve miles from my house. That’s not too bad, and is about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the time of day.

All the wrong teams won, yesterday. The Buccaneers blew out the Eagles, the 49ers beat the ‘boys, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers. I’ll probably be rooting for the Bills from this point on. It feels like rooting for the end of the world, though, so I don’t know. The Cardinals and Rams play tonight, and I literally could not possibly care less who wins that game.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 
And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." 
(Mark 2:18-22 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are being criticized for not doing “religious things,” such as fasting. They are being compared to two different groups, neither of which had much in common. It is worth noting that Jesus, in His response, refers to Himself as “the bridegroom,” and seems to indicate that his “taking away” will be of a violent nature.

As I read this, I consider the idea of “religious things,” and how I feel about them. There is certainly nothing wrong with ritual. I’m somewhat a fan of it, actually. I am drawn toward church settings that employ ritual and liturgy, even though the current setting that I attend does not. I have not, however, ever been able to get a firm grip on the ritual of fasting. I have fasted before, but not on a regular basis.

But when ritualistic things are done “religiously,” without focus on the object (i.e., the “bridegroom”), they are meaningless. Ritual for the sake of ritual is worthless.

I will confess that I have never quite understood the examples of the cloth and the wineskins. I get the technical descriptions and understand the truth that, if you patch and old garment with a piece of new material, and then wash it, the new material will shrink, and destroy the work that was done. And I understand that fermenting wine swells, which would burst a wineskin that had already been stretched out.

What I’m not sure of is how this applies to people and their relationship to Jesus and the Father. I’m looking at some commentary at the moment, in particular by Alexander MacLaren, and it says that, “The attempt was made to keep Christianity within the limits of Judaism; it failed, but not before much harm had been done to Christianity. Over and over again the effort has been made in the Church, and it has always ended disastrously,-and it always will.” This makes sense, and I can see, as the New Testament progresses, that similar disagreements arose, especially concerning things like circumcision.

I would welcome any other thoughts or suggestions regarding this. And as we, as the opening song suggests, turn our eyes upon Jesus, may the things of the earth truly grow strangely dim.

(From Pray As You Go)

I find it interesting that, in Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson takes four chapters to go through the book of Job. Today, I’m in the third of the four, which deals with Job’s “friends” who come try to “fix” him, during his suffering.

And who among us has not experienced something similar to Job? The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.” I actually love that last sentence!

And, you might notice, these people are usually full of “advice” from God’s Word! They tend to play “fast and loose” with biblical quotations. The question is, though, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they’ve said their piece?”

Many of the things that Job’s “friends” said were “technically true.” But it is that “technical” part that spoils them. “They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And here is how Job defended himself:

Then Job defended himself:
 "I've had all I can take of your talk. 
What a bunch of miserable comforters! 
Is there no end to your windbag speeches? 
What's your problem that you go on and on like this?
 If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. 
I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. 
But I'd never do that. 
I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse!
(Job 16:1-5 MSG)

“The book of Job does not reject answers as such. There is content to biblical religion. It is the secularization of answers that is rejected – answers severed from their Source, the living God, the Word that both batters us and heals us. We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.”

And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, 
holding everything in common. 
They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
(Acts 2:44-45 MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: 
Love one another. 
In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other."
(John 13:34-35 MSG)
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives 
and splashes over on everyone around you, 
just as it does from us to you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG)

Father, as I turn my eyes toward Jesus, this morning, I pray that my focus may stay sharp. By this point in my life, I am surely an “old wineskin,” but have I been fully stretched to my maximum capacity? I think not. I believe there is still room for me to be stretched, and You continue to do so, as each year goes by. I pray to You, constantly, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. And just when I think I’ve got Your way figured out, You take me a little deeper and show me something that, while it may not be “new,” it is new to me. I pray that I will continue to be receptive to that wisdom and knowledge, as it comes.

I also pray that I would never fall prey to the temptation to be like Job’s friends. We all think we’ve got all the answers, and it is very easy to sit around and instruct someone who is suffering, to tell them why they’re suffering, and what they did wrong to get there. When, truthfully, we have no idea whatsoever. I pray that, when I encounter suffering in others, I would have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it. I also pray that I might have the wisdom to not “say” at all, but to merely sit and listen, or simply be with the person, sitting in silent support. May we not be guilty of citing chapter and verse without having Your mind and heart on the matter.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Father, I pray for continued work in the area of racial reconciliation. We seem to have moved tremendously backward in recent years, and, sadly, driven largely by people claiming to be followers of Christ! May it never be, Lord! Help us, Your people, to be compassionate people who fight for the equality of all men, especially considering how we have been graciously given the salvation that began with Israel! Were it not for Your compassion and Your equal treatment of all people, we “Gentiles” would be permanently lost! Oh, how we seem to have forgotten this. God have mercy on us and help us!

Finally, in the spirit of yesterday’s readings, I invited Jesus to intervene and intercede in our world today. Jesus, please bring forth healing. We beg You to eradicate this plague from our world, and I pray that Your people would demonstrate more willingness to stop thinking selfishly and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today I am grateful:

1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation
2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them
3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people
4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts
5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, 
standing tall in his bright presence, 
fresh and celebrating— 
to our one God, 
our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master,
 be glory, 
majesty, 
strength, 
and rule before all time, and now,
 and to the end of all time. 
YES. 
(Jude 1:24-25 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Inviting the Lord

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

As threatened predicted, it was 27 degrees when I got up, this morning. It is already up to 30, by this writing time, and supposed to get up to 56, later this afternoon. All of that wind, yesterday, must have stirred up some serious stuff in the air, though. I’m feeling better this morning than I did last night, but C has some coughing going on. No fever, not even close, for either one of us. My eyes were itching like mad, yesterday evening, but they are better, this morning.

I’ll be going to the house church gathering, this morning, but C will stay home and probably get on Zoom. I don’t have a lot of time, though, so this may actually not get finished until this afternoon.

The football playoffs have begun. Yesterday, the Bengals beat the Raiders, and the Bills beat the Patriots. The first one, I had no opinion about, whatsoever. The second one, though, I’m glad the Bills won. I have at least one friend who is predicting that they win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that can’t happen, though. The Bills, like the Vikings, don’t win Super Bowls. If they do, the end might be near.

Today, I’m cheering for the Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys) and the Steelers. As for the Eagles and Buccaneers, can I root for a tie? Or for both of them to lose? I can’t bring myself to cheer for either team. I also have no opinion concerning tomorrow night’s game between the Cardinals and Rams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Trust in Him and do not fear.
The peace of God will protect your hearts. Alleluia.”

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 
And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
(John 2:1-11 ESV)

Notice the setting of this, the first recorded miracle that Jesus did. It is a wedding, a celebration. It is a social event, “the coming together of family and friends.” Who among us has not been involved in a setting such as this? It is, in fact, somewhat ordinary.

Notice the invitation. Amusingly, it may seem like more than in “invitation.” Mary seems to be almost demanding that Jesus intervene in the situation. The question is, how often do we feel this need in our world? How often do we actually invited our savior to intercede “into even the simple needs of the day?”

I find this to be an excellent question to ponder. Sure, we pray. We ask the Lord for big things, to heal people from pancreatic cancer or leukemia or Covid-19. I will say that I frequently give thanks to the Lord when I make it through a “stale” green light at an intersection. But how often do we ask for the help of our Lord for simple things, the basic needs of the day? Or, as in the case of this wedding, an even seemingly frivolous thing. They were running out of wine. The only consequence this could possibly have is that the party might be less than stellar!

Here’s another good question to ponder. “Do you take time to acknowledge the Lord’s generosity when you experience it?” As stated above, I do, sometimes give thanks for seemingly insignificant things. But I’m not terribly consistent about that. Yes, I have a gratitude list every day. But it often focuses on “big” things, “religious” things, like salvation, grace, mercy, and so on. The unfailing, steadfast love of the Lord. You know . . . things like that. Occasionally, you will see me be thankful for things like coffee and grapes.

How often do we acknowledge the basic generosity of the Lord in our lives? The Bible says that He is good to all and that He even makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

There may be a temptation to say, “Well, that was Mary, His mother, who asked that. Of course He is going to do that for her!” My response to that is to say that I am His brother. I am an adopted brother of Jesus Christ, a sibling of the Son of God. And, He loved me enough to die for me. Why, then, would He not answer my invitation to intercede in my life and in my world?

It is always good to remember, though, that little line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(From Pray As You Go)

Still, I know that God lives—
the One who gives me back my life— 
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. 
And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— 
see God myself, with my very own eyes. 
Oh, how I long for that day! 
(Job 19:25-27 MSG)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 18:19 NIV)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. the calming effect of the purring cat who is sitting in front of me
2. my coffee
3. for modern technology that allows us to communicate and minister to one another over long distances, virtually instantly
4. for the love and care of the community of saints
5. that I have the ability to invite Jesus into any situation in my life

Father, I am so grateful for the things listed, above. I am especially grateful, this morning, for the thought that I can invited Jesus to intercede in the simplest areas of my life. If I see a need in this world, all I need do is ask Jesus to intervene. And, if it lines up with Your will, something will happen. That’s where my faith needs to line up. That’s where my confidence needs to rest.

The world is full of questions, right now, about where You are, if You exist, and why there is so much evil in the world. I don’t need to focus on those questions, because I don’t have the right answers, or at least not answers that would satisfy the people asking the questions. I need to focus on loving You, loving my neighbor as myself, and loving the saints as You have loved us. Thank You for all of Your gifts and blessings. Thank You for stretching us when we need stretching. I do believe; help my unbelief. All glory to You, through the son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.