True Freedom

Today is Tuesday, August 30, 2022, in the 22nd week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell in your soul!

Day 23,546

It is the last day of August. No it’s not. That’s tomorrow. Oops.

Princess’s (guinea pig) eye is much better! The vet said that there is basically just a scar there, now, which may take some time to go away. She recommended putting the ointment in the eye for another week, but we don’t have to go back and re-check.

Yesterday, we hit a high of 93. The forecast was for 95. The record high for that date, from 2011, was 104. I’m glad we aren’t breaking those records! Today’s high is forecast to be 89, and as of right now, the highest temp over the next ten days is 90. There appears to be much chance of rain and/or thunderstorms over the next ten days, with the highest chance of rain being tomorrow. Even after last Monday’s monsoons, we could still use some rain.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for moving our hearts so that we may know we are your children. Even in the midst of turmoil and evil, fear and pain, you bring us happiness; we can know that you are holding us with your right hand and will finally deliver us from all evil. Let your Spirit be at work everywhere. Give us patience when time is needed in our own hearts and in the hearts of all people, who also belong to you. Continue to strengthen us so that even the heaviest burden does not crush us and we may exult in hope because you right every wrong, to the glory of your name. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
(John 10:27-28 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. that my eternal destiny is secure; I cannot be snatched out of God’s hand
  2. that, because of God’s strength in us, even the heaviest burden will not crush us
  3. for forgiveness; it is the great work of love among us who love poorly (Henri Nouwen)
  4. that the Truth (which is Jesus and no one or nothing else) sets us free
  5. for the miracle that is life

"Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."
(Henri Nouwen)

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32 ESV)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”
(John 8:42 ESV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." 
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
(Lamentations 3:22-25 ESV)

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(Matthew 9:37-38 ESV)


There’s a lot of talk about freedom, these days. Having lived in the USA all my life, it has been impressed upon me that this is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” But what is real, true freedom?

Jesus talked about freedom, and he related it to truth. He said something that has been quoted many, many times. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” There are many people who have grabbed onto that statement.

However, I fear that many people are missing a key component of that “truth.” There was a condition that we tend to miss when we quote John 8:32. And that condition is seen in John 8:31. “If you abide in my word . . .”

To “abide” means to “live” or to “dwell.” The KJV uses “continue” to translate the Greek “meno,” which can also mean “to stay.”

There is so much to be unpacked, here, that I probably don’t have the time or space to do it. I’m sure entire books have been written on this. But there is one thing of which I am convinced. Very few of the people who are shouting the most loudly about “freedom” are abiding in the words of Jesus.

There seems to be some confusion about what “freedom” really means. In Jesus’s teachings, it does not mean the right to do whatever you please. And the way that I know that those people aren’t abiding in the words of Jesus is that they are not doing what Jesus commanded. They are not loving; not only not loving their neighbors, but most of them aren’t even loving “one another.” Essentially, we, as Western human beings, are mostly loving ourselves. We have a “me” problem.

Another result of abiding in the words of Jesus is that we will know the truth. The Greek word, there, is “aletheia,” which literally means “truth” or “verity.” And the same word is used when Jesus proclaims that He is the truth in John 14:6.

Jesus is the Truth. So, if we dwell, live, stay in His words, we will know Him, and He will set us free. And I think that the freedom of which Jesus speaks is more of a “freedom to” than a “freedom from.” Of course, Jesus sets us free from sin. But He also sets us free to serve.

When we experience the true freedom of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we learn how to deny ourselves. We are free from selfishness and self-centeredness, and free to spend ourselves and our resources doing the things that Jesus commanded us to do. We are free to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, release people from slavery and oppression, care for the sick and the refugees and the widows and the orphans, and so on.

And we are free to love extravagantly, not unlike the woman who dumped a vial of perfume worth a year’s salary on Jesus’s feet.


Father, help me to truly abide in the words of Jesus, that I might be free to do the things that He has commanded us to do. I pray for the freedom to step outside of myself and my comfort zone, that I might serve others. Show me new ways to do this, as I continue to suss out the meaning of retirement life.

I pray for all of Your people in this world, in this land, that You might show us how to truly be free. Teach us to love sacrificially, like the woman who anointed Jesus. Teach us to care more about others than we care about ourselves. Teach us to care for “the least of these,” and, in doing so, care for Jesus, Himself, as He taught us.

Thank You for Your mercies that never end, for Your steadfast love that is fresh and new, eternally, every day. It never runs out; it is always new. Help us to abide in this, that we might know Jesus, and, in knowing Him, know You. May we experience, as much as we can handle it, the fullness of You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Joy of Being in the Light

Today is (I had to stop and thing) Saturday, August 27, 2022, in the 21st week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,543

It’s going to be a busy, but fun, day today. We start out with C’s company “picnic,” from 11:00 – 2:00. I put picnic in quotes because it is mostly inside, this year. They are having it at the ITRC facility, and will have food trucks outside (all free for us), bowling available, as well as tours of the museum and Hall of Fame. And, for additional treats, Steel City Pops will be there. I’m sure we will have a limited amount of choices, but I do hope they bring some peach pops.

After the picnic, we will be home for a couple hours, after which we will head to a good friend’s house, where we have been invited for dinner. Mama will be going with us for that. We don’t know what’s for dinner, but feel confident that it will be delicious.

Weather continues to be pretty mild, here, especially for this time of year. Yesterday’s high was 93, which is just shy of the average for that date. The record high for the date is 104. I’ve started looking at multiple sources, and will, going forward, use the record highs and lows from a different source, because it gives a year. But I can only see the current date for that, so today’s record high is 106, back in 2011. I don’t remember much about that year, but it must have been hotter than this year, or at least hotter later, because a lot of the record temps seem to be coming from that year.

The forecast for the next ten days shows three days in the mid-nineties, three in the lower nineties, followed by four days in the upper eighties.

The Texas Rangers won a rare one-run game, last night, beating the Detroit Tigers 7-6. Texas scored all of their runs in the first three innings. As is par for the course, the bullpen (mostly Leclerc) tried to blow it. I really wish they would stop giving the ball to Leclerc. The Rangers are now 58-67 (nine games below .500), still in third place in the AL West. They are 22 games out of first place, and 10.5 out of a Wild Card spot. At this point, I think we are just hoping they can get up to .500 before the end of the season. They play the Tigers again, today, at 6:05 CDT.

The Red Sox ended the Rays’ winning streak, in spite of the Rays surging with four runs in the top of the eighth inning. Final 9-8. Go figure. The Red Sox are now 61-65, still in last place in the AL East. They are 17 games out of first place, and eight out of a Wild Card spot. They play Tampa again today, at 4:10 EDT.

The Dodgers won again, making their MLB-leading record 87-37. The Nationals lost, making their record 42-84, 3.5 games worse than the struggling Oakland team. The Yankees (BOO) and Phillies are both enjoying a five-game winning streak. The Rangers have a two-game streak, currently. The Pirates are finally alone in the losing streak column, having lost six in a row. Nothing has changed in the differential column, other than the numbers on both ends getting higher. The Dodgers are now at +279, while the Nats are -213. The Rangers are now at +17, and the Red Sox at -44.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We thank you, dear Father in heaven, that you let the light from your face shine into our hearts. Look upon our time, we pray, with your clear, penetrating eyes, and let all people sense that they are watched over by more than they are able to see. Let them realize that a strong God and Father is watching over them. Protect us on our way, and let your light shine ever more brightly, so that in all we do your name is glorified. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Hear my voice when I call, LORD; 
be merciful to me and answer me. 
My heart says of you, 
"Seek his face!" 
Your face, LORD, I will seek. 
Do not hide your face from me.
(Psalms 27:7-9a NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the light of God, the Light of the world, that shines brightly in our lives
  2. that the Lord hears when I call; He is merciful!
  3. for this pilgrimage, this journey into the heart of God
  4. for the ministry of Renovare and their inspirational writings
  5. for the joy of simply being

“As Never Before,” by S. Michaels/Lightwriters

Expect divine reversal
a coming into Promise
a whole new joy in being

©2022 S. Michaels
Always Believe
(Prophetic Haiku 7-7-7)

As I read this little poem, this morning, I was struck with the line about “joy in being.” Such a simple, yet complex thought. Simple, because we should all be blessed with that joy, the joy of simply being. Complex because it’s not as easy as all that. But as we seek His face, as encouraged by Psalm 27, that joy becomes easier to find.

One of my favorite verses in Psalms is 16:11.

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)

You see, as we seek His face (which He is not hiding from us), we will experience that “fullness of joy,” that is found in His presence, and those “pleasures forevermore” at His right hand. These are not at all dependent upon circumstances; in fact they transcend circumstances.

Please check out more of Susan’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.


I came across an article from Renovare, this morning, written by Rev. Laura Rasmussen. The article is called “Always Look for the Light.” In it, among other things, Rev. Rasmussen talks about pilgrimage. I found this to be very enlightening.

“As a pilgrim, I am journeying to the heart of God. To journey to the heart of God is to journey to that divine spark of light, of life, within me. Pilgrimage is not about arriving quickly and efficiently to the destination, it is about giving space and time, attention and love to the actual journey towards an intended destination.”

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)

“To walk in the light of Christ,” says Rev. Rasmussen, “is pilgrimage—navigating us to the heart of God.”

Jesus also understands our vulnerabilities, as we walk through this world. There are things that are going to distract us from the Light. Daily life, daily tasks, unexpected circumstances. “It’s not Jesus’ nature to shame us and alienate us in our vulnerabilities. Instead, his nature is to light our way through our vulnerabilities and into the abundance of his life. Jesus is all about bringing us back to the heart of God, to our true self. On the way we are met, loved, healed and transformed in this divine light.”

May the Light of the world illuminate your pilgrimage!


So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
(John 7:16-18 ESV)

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 ESV)

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
(James 1:26 NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 NIV)

Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.
(Proverbs 21:23 NIV)

In light of the last three Scripture references, I want to share some words from Henri Nouwen.

"In Jesus, no division existed between his words and his actions, between what he said and what he did. Jesus’ words were his action, his words were events. They not only spoke about changes, cures, new life, but they actually created them. In this sense, Jesus is truly the Word made flesh; in that Word all is created and by that Word all is re-created. 
"Saintliness means living without division between word and action. If I would truly live in my own life the word I am speaking, my spoken words would become actions, and miracles would happen whenever I open my mouth."

And, to kind of wrap all this up, here are some words from Andrew Murray: “We are continually praising or thanking God by our actions and by the manner in which we treat others. At times God cannot hear the prayer of your lips because the worldly desires of your heart cry out much more loudly and strongly.”

Our life, indeed, exerts a profound influence over are prayers. But if we walk in the Light of the world and allow the light from God’s face to shine into our lives, we are delivered from this, and we can pray without hindrance. In that, as we journey on this pilgrimage, we can truly experience the simple joy of being.


Father, I am thankful for the words of all of these people that have been represented here, today. From the poetry of Susan Michaels, to the writing of Rev. Rasmussen, to the words of Andrew Murray and Henri Nouwen, all of it seen through the lens of Scripture and illuminated by the Light of the world, Your Son, Jesus.

I pray for this “joy of being” to be displayed in my life, today, and every day, going forward. Whenever circumstances threaten this, help me to remember that I am on a pilgrimage into Your heart, with the way illuminated by Your light that shines from Your face, which I am constantly seeking. Your face will I seek, O Lord! Do not hide Your face from me!

I praise You for the everlasting nature of Your covenant with us. We walk in the confidence that Your covenant will never be removed from us, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
(Acts 2:42 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

From Death to Knowledge to Obedience

Today is Sunday, the thirty-first of July, 2022, in the eighteenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you, today!

"I really wish you an ever deeper peace. I know that that peace quite often lives underneath the turmoils and anxieties of our heart and doesn’t always mean inner harmony or emotional tranquility. That peace that God gives us quite often is beyond our thoughts and feelings, and we have to really trust that peace is there for us to claim even in the midst of our moments of despair."
(Henri Nouwen)

Day 23,516

Nineteen days until S turns 29!

We got a long-awaited break from the heat wave, yesterday. I mean, 99 is still hot, but it’s better than the triple-digit temperatures we have been enduring. And it rained again, more in some areas than others. We drove through quite a rain shower on the way home from Mineral Wells, but I don’t think it rained nearly that much at our house. The average temps for July 30 are 97/73. The record temps are 107/65. The forecast for the next ten days predicts 100+ for five of those days, and then, beginning August 5, the next five days are predicted to be below 100. We shall see if that holds true.

I had a most wonderful time with my high school bandmates (and even a couple of their mothers showed up), as we met for lunch yesterday. There were three from my own class (class of ’76), a couple from the class of ’75, one who I’m not sure was ’75 or ’74, and then one who was probably either class of ’72 or ’73. After our lunch, a handful of us got to go over to the high school and visit with the current band director and a couple of his assistants, and we got to see their band hall. I was shocked (my, how time flies) when it was pointed out that they have been in that “new” band hall for 23 years!

What made it even more special was the way we were received and treated by them. I mean, we were practically treated like royalty! Of course, most of us were part of the first band to ever get the “Sweepstakes” award, which is a first division in all three categories of marching contest, concert contest, and sight-reading contest, which, I think, happened in 1975. One of the assistants even insisted on taking a photo of all of us, so we posed in front of our old band banner that the current band director found stored in a closet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, with all our hearts we come before your countenance. Our hearts shall always be in your presence, asking, longing, and believing that you will guide our affairs aright. Protect us, for you are our God and Father. Protect all who are in danger or who must go into danger. Make known your great love and your living presence to the hearts of the dying. Draw our hearts together so that we may have community in you, our faith and hope set on you alone. Protect us during the night, and help us to be at peace about all our concerns because they are in your hands. Every concern of every person is in your hands. We ourselves are in your hands, Lord God, our Father, and there we want to remain. Your hands can heal and restore everything. Praised be your name! Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)(emphasis mine)

Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us.
(Psalms 4:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful time I had with my high school classmates, yesterday
2. that all of my concerns are in God's hands
3. that every concern of every person is in His hands
4. that there is nothing or no one that is insignificant in God's Kingdom; even the littlest things matter - nothing is wasted, nothing goes unnoticed
5. for everyday miracles that often go unnoticed; I took a breath, I see colors, I hear music and other sounds, birds fly, rain fell yesterday, the sun, moon, and stars continue on the paths to which they were appointed
6. for more rain showers, yesterday

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 
"Death is swallowed up in victory." 
"O death, where is your victory? 
O death, where is your sting?" 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV)

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
(John 1:48 ESV)

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
(Psalms 104:34 ESV)

Glory in his holy name;
 let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually!
(Psalms 105:3-4 ESV)
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, 
who seek him with their whole heart, 
who also do no wrong, 
but walk in his ways!
(Psalms 119:2-3 ESV)
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down 
and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, 
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
it is high; I cannot attain it.
(Psalms 139:1-6 ESV)

Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
(John 6:11-12 NIV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

“O, death, where is your victory? O, death, where is your sting?”

Even at my age, death seems like a distant thing. Even though I don’t know if I will finish this sentence, death doesn’t often seem like reality. I know it is, of course, because family members and friends have died, over the years.

It is quite tempting, at times, to adopt solipsism as a philosophy.

Nevertheless, when I do think about death, it is a strange feeling. I know people contradict themselves constantly. They claim to be atheists, and don’t seem to believe in any kind of afterlife, but then, when their favorite rock stars die, they talk about what a great band there must be, “up there.” What? Up where?

Furthermore, I cannot fathom, whatsoever, the concept of not existing. Have you ever tried it? Just try it for a few minutes. Try to consider what it would be like to have never existed. Then try to think about what it would be like to no longer exist, if you believed, as some, that this life is all there is. It makes my head hurt.

I believe that we were created to be eternal beings. I believe, along with Dallas Willard, that “We are unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” And I believe, along with a multitude of saints, that Jesus Christ has won the victory for us.

Related to that, I also believe what Scripture teaches about how I am known by God. Jesus saw Nathaniel, before Phillip called him, sitting under a fig tree. Jesus knew Nathaniel before Nathaniel got to Him. Jesus knew me long before I was called into His Kingdom. He continues to know me, down to the knowing of what I’m going to say (or type) before I do so.

Now, when we speak of “miracles,” we usually think about such times as when Jesus turned water into wine, or when he fed thousands of people with a little boy’s sack lunch. And, of course, we think of the miracle of all miracles, the resurrection of Christ, from the dead.

I consider God’s knowledge of us to also be a miracle. As the psalmist proclaimed, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” And it is through this knowledge that I can begin to know His will for me. Is that too far a reach? I don’t think so.

It stands to reason that, if God knows me the way Scripture says He does, then it is also true what Paul declares in Ephesians.

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

When Jesus chose His disciples, the works that they would do had already been prepared for them. When Jesus chose you and me, the same is true.

There has been a lot of talk, and many, many books written, about finding God’s will for our lives. There have also been myriads of questionnaires, designed to tell people what their “spiritual gifts” are.

I don’t pay any attention to most of those, any more. For one thing, I learned that it is possible to answer the questions on those questionnaires so that the answer comes out what you want it to be.

Here’s the thing. If we can embrace the truth about how completely God knows us, and simply walk in that, we won’t have to search for God’s will or His wisdom. And, if we must seek, the place to look is deep within our own hearts.

No, I’m not saying “follow your heart.” That is the worst advice anyone every gave. I’m saying that that is where God works, and that is the purpose of meditation and contemplation, two disciplines that have been widely neglected in the contemporary evangelical community.

“Learn that God’s working, and the place where He gives His life and light, is in the heart, deeper than all our thoughts. Any uncertainty about God’s will makes joyful obedience impossible.” (Andrew Murray)

Wait. When did he start talking about obedience?

Well, it’s all related. If I am not confident about God’s will for my life, then how can I be joyfully obeying? On the other hand, if I am confident that God will direct my steps on the path that He has appointed for me, walking in those “good works” for which He has prepared me beforehand, then I am also confident that whatever I am doing is His will, and I don’t have to seek for it.

Consider, said Jesus. We worry too much about too many things. The disciples had food for a few days after Jesus fed those thousands. One time, there was a basket apiece left over. Another time, there were seven baskets left over. They were eyewitnesses to these events, and, bless their hearts, they still struggled to believe the things Jesus said.

He doesn’t make it hard. We make it hard.

“Life is a series of a thousand tiny miracles. Notice them.” (Quoted in Pray a Word a Day, as “Inspirational Christian quote,” but found to be attributed to Roald Dahl)

Today's sources:
Pray a Word a Day
Daily Guideposts 2022
Power in Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Father, I thank You for more rain, yesterday, and that our temperature was a bit lower. The relief was much needed. I also thank You for the wonderful time of memory-sharing that we had, yesterday, as a group of former high school bandmates met for lunch. I’m hoping we can do more of that.

Lord, You know me, as the psalmist says, in Your Word. You know me, as has been said, better than I know myself. And I take comfort in this, because You love me, anyway. That’s right. You know all of the nooks and crannies of what makes me, me. You know how I am apt to react to any given circumstance, You know my tendency toward being judgmental, You know my anger issues, and You know my impatience with things and people, yet You love me anyway, with an everlasting love that won’t quit.

I praise You for that love. I also thank You for how You have arranged things in my life, and for the “good works” that You prepared in advance for me. Now, I know that I can only be aware of those things when I encounter them and walk in them. I won’t likely know about them until I’m in the middle of them. I believe that Your will for me is being worked out on a daily basis and revealed to me only as I spend time searching my heart for the ways You work within me. I have confidence, as I meditate and contemplate, that Your grace and mercy will be revealed in me, and that I will embrace Your knowledge of me in all things.

I thank You for Christ’s victory over death, so that death, itself, has no sway over us. Oh, sure, our physical bodies will die, someday, as we all do. But that is not the final word for us, because we are unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in Your great universe. There will be, as promised in Scripture, a new heaven and new earth that will appear when Christ returns to set all things right. And we pray,

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Strong Tower ~ Refuge ~ Redeemer ~ Deliverer

Today is Thursday, the second of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,457

We finally got C home, last night, but it wasn’t easy. S and I headed to the airport at about 2:45, planning to meet C when her plane landed at a little before 3:30. We got there and parked across from the expected gate. It was then that I saw, on Spirit Airlines’s terrible website (it constantly gives errors) that the plane had been diverted to AUSTIN, because of a tiny thunderstorm that was in the area for about five minutes. They would be returning, but not until close to 6:00 PM. Ugh.

So we went back home, not 100% sure that we would be seeing C last night, at all. In fact, I was prepared to drive to Austin to get her. But, eventually, everything worked out fine. C and I talked, after they finally told the passengers what would be happening. Then she texted me when their plane taxied back onto the runway. I kept checking the website, and when it finally said that the plane was “in flight,” I got S and we headed back to the airport. The ETA was 6:49, but at 6:39, while we were still a few minutes away, C texted us and said they had landed. We met her at the baggage claim, and there was much rejoicing.

Suddenly I could breathe again.

I noticed, during all of this, that Spirit’s website declared that they would soon be combining with Frontier Airlines. That figures. I wonder what you get when two terrible airlines combine?

The Texas Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, last night. Well, the Rangers didn’t actually lose (my opinion, here). MLB lost it for the, with their ridiculous Little League “zombie runner” in extra innings. The reall sad thing is that Jon Gray pitched excellently, striking out twelve batters. The Rangers are now 24-25, in third place in the AL West, eight games out of first, and 2.5 out in the Wild Card race. They have guaranteed at least a split in this series with TB. They will play again today, at 1:05 CDT.

The Red Sox finally won a game, beating the Reds 7-1, last night. They are now 24-27 for the season, in fifth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 3.5 out in the Wild Card race. They are playing the Athletics in Oakland tonight, at 9:40 EDT. I always feel sorry for east coast teams when they play on the west coast. Check that. I only feel sorry for the Red Sox. There are no other east coast teams for whom I ever feel sorry about anything.

The NY Yankees (34-15) continue to have the best MLB record. The KC Royals (16-33) are holding onto the worst record, for now. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to have the longest win streak, now at seven games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at six games. The Dodgers are atop in the run differential category, with +112 (it seems to be going down), and the Royals are now tied with the Pirates for the worst run differential, both at -77. The Rangers are at +12, and the Red Sox are at +22.

Today being Thursday, I will be working in the Computer Center at the Hurst Public Library, from 11:15-8:15. I have Creamy Italian Chicken soup cooking in the crock pot.

All is well.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, with all our hearts we want to thank you for giving us joy on earth and for sending us your radiant light from heaven. We praise you for the light you give our hearts, the light that lets us find great joy together because we become one in you, one in your Spirit, one in awaiting your promised good. Grant that we may be your children. May we always find the paths where you can go with us and give us what we cannot give ourselves. May our whole life glorify you and our every breath belong to you. Through communion with you may we remain in your safekeeping in body, soul, and spirit. For all you have done and for all you will do for us, we ask you to accept our thanks. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Let all that I am praise the LORD. 
O LORD my God, how great you are! 
You are robed with honor and majesty. 
You are dressed in a robe of light. 
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
(Psalms 104:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the radiant light from God, sent from heaven to light our hearts and our paths, and to give us joy
2. for the "starry curtain of the heavens," stretched out for us to see
3. that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that nothing . . . NOTHING (not even sin!) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
4. for the hope of being mature (perfect?) in Christ, lacking nothing, being complete (teleios)
5. that God is our strong tower, to whom we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 91, Isaiah 41:10)
6. that God interacts with us, validating our language and words as we have conversation with Him
"Of one thing I am sure. Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive. Whenever I express my complaints in the hope of evoking pity and receiving the satisfaction I so much desire, the result is always the opposite of what I tried to get. A complainer is hard to live with, and very few people know how to respond to the complaints made by a self-rejecting person. The tragedy is that, often, the complaint, once expressed, leads to that which is most feared: further rejection. . . . Joy and resentment cannot coexist."
(Daily Meditation from Henri Nouwen)

Based on this quote, and my observations, there is very little joy on social media, these days.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 NLT emphasis mine)

This is truly good news. This is the BEST news. This verse may very well sum up the Gospels. But here is a question: Why is it that so many people, who claim to belong to Christ Jesus, are so full of condemnation?

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
(Romans 8:10-11 NLT)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

Nothing.

Not. Even. Sin.

If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins do not separate you from God. Any preacher who tells you that is lying (maybe not on purpose, mind you, because he might actually believe it) and doesn’t understand God’s Word.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
(Psalms 62:1-2 NLT)
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, 
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 
My victory and honor come from God alone. 
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 
O my people, trust in him at all times. 
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. 
(Psalms 62:5-8 NLT)
God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: 
Power, O God, belongs to you;
 unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. 
Surely you repay all people according to what they have done.
(Psalms 62:11-12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “teleios.” This is a Greek word that has a number of possible meanings. In today’s context, it means “mature” or “complete.”

“When we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

It’s kind of interesting to me, sussing out the real meaning of teleios. Bob, today’s writer, says it means “mature, . . . a state in which nothing is left out or lacking.” And, if I read the cited verse, Ephesians 4:13, in most versions, the word is, in fact, translated “mature.”

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NLT)

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:13 ESV)

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 NIV)

until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
(Ephesians 4:13 MSG)

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
(Ephesians 4:13 KJV)

Wait. What?

“Perfect??”

Regardless of whether we translate it “perfect” or “mature,” I think we can probably agree that the idea behind it is completeness, which is the word way up there in the Spurgeon quote. Complete, lacking nothing, which is, in my opinion, more along the lines of “perfect.”

But who am I to cast dispersions on Bible translators?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the LORD, 
"He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." 
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare 
and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge;
 his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only observe with your eyes 
and see the punishment of the wicked. 
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," 
and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
no harm will overtake you, 
no disaster will come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways; 
they will lift you up in their hands, 
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 
He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
(Psalms 91:1-16 NIV)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

I really like the way Eugene Peterson begins the reading for today.

“Can there be conversation between a God who speaks worlds into being and speaks our lives into being and those of us who use words to get a second helping of potatoes or to tell a checkout clerk that we were overcharged $3.50 on some broccoli? Are these words compatible? Aren’t we dealing with two completely different orders of magnitude?”

Do we, in our own minds, truly believe that our meager words are on the same level of validity as God’s words? Do we believe that our words are “worthy of being entered into a conversation with God? When we express our own unworthiness, even by not expressing it (does this make sense at all?), we initiate a conversation with God; we include ourselves in a dialogue, by answering Him.

“When our words and God’s words are joined, something new starts to happen. Our words are validated. They become authenticated. They function for the exact reason God’s words function: to reveal and create.”

Part of the meaning of being created in God’s image (remember that, back in Genesis?) is that we have language. This relates to yesterday’s reading. (Or maybe the day before . . . I can’t remember.) We have the ability “to speak and listen to words that link these mysterious interiors of our lives in love and understanding.”

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning is a resounding “Yes!” And another reason for that is that God condescends, or stoops down, as it were, to interact with us. That’s another way that He shows His great love for us. He could very well, as the Creator of the universe, He who spoke the word and brought worlds into being, sit up on His lofty throne, high and mighty, and pretty much ignore us. Which is how a lot of people already view Him, as an entity that created everything, set things in motion, and then just sat back to see what happens, without having a hand in anything else.

That is not the God we serve. The God we serve and worship interacts with us. He initiates conversation with us! And when we “respond” by not responding, because we think our words are unworthy, we have answered Him. But He answers back, continuously calling us into conversation with Him, validating our words, just as He validated Jeremiah.

GOD told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.”
(Jeremiah 1:7 MSG)

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

There is so much to be thankful for, here, today, Father. I am so thankful for the joy that comes from knowing You, but acknowledge that, as Henri Nouwen said, this joy cannot coexist with resentment. If I am complaining about anything, there is no joy present. I confess that this happened, yesterday evening. I complained a lot about the circumstances as we were delayed picking C up at the airport. I was not happy. I did not feel joy. But, all the while, You were there. I know that You never left me, nor will You ever. I pray that You can help me overcome situations like that and not resort to complaining. Remind me, quickly, when things like that happen, that You are there, in control, and that joy is still possible.

I praise Your name that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. This is such great news, and we are doing such a poor job of declaring this to the world. We are real good at declaring it to ourselves when we’ve messed up, I think. But then we turn around and refuse grace to a dying, lost world, offering up only condemnation and guilt. For far too long, Father, Your people have been trying to guilt and shame people into the kingdom. I don’t think that’s working any more (if it ever did). The “good news” is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Therefore, if there is no condemnation for me, who am I to dish out condemnation to anyone else?? God help us!

Father, You know how I love those verses and passages that talk about You being our strong tower and refuge. I love passages like Psalm 91 that tell us how You care for us and take care of us. I have long believed those verses that tell us that if we dwell in Your tent, no harm will come to us. This seems counterintuitive, especially when “harm” does come to us. But it all hinges on how we define “harm.” I believe with all my heart that there is nothing that anyone in this world can do to me that can truly, ultimately harm me. There is nothing that the universe can throw at me that can do me any ultimate harm. Because You are my God and You are with me. You will help me; You will strengthen me; You will hold me up with Your righteous right hand! And, when this life on earth is over, You will gather me up and take me Home, where I will be “teleios” for eternity.

Finally, Father (but this will not end my prayers today), I am very grateful that my words are reaching Your ears and eyes. I praise You for stooping down to interact with us. I thank You that You gave us language and that we can speak to You, respond to You, and You hear us, You understand us, and You make us able to understand You. May Your words fill me up today, Father, filling me with joy and peace, and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

“Our Ancestors Have Told Us”

Today is Saturday, the fourteenth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,165

Only five more days until S’s birthday!

Today appears to be Social Security Day. I’m still waiting on mine to be approved.

The word for today is fustian. There are several meanings, but the one highlighted for today is the adjective form, meaning, “pompous or bombastic, as language.”

Today’s quote, by Sydney J. Harris, is, “Happiness is a direction, not a place.”

And now for the birthdays, always obtained from On This Day

1479 Princess Catherine of York, 9th child and sixth daughter of King Edward IV by his wife Elizabeth Woodville, born in Eltham Palace, Greenwich, England (d. 1527)
1586 William Hutchinson, Rhode Island colonist, born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England (d. 1642)
1642 Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, monarch of Florence (1670-1723), born in Pitti Palace, Florence, Tuscany (d. 1723)
1742 Pius VII [Luigi Barnaba Gregorio Chiaramonti], Italian bishop of Imola and Pope (1800-23), born in Cesena, Italy (d. 1823)
1851 John "Doc" Holliday, American dentist, gambler, and gunfighter (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), born in Griffin, Georgia (d. 1887)
1863 Ernest Thayer, American poet who wrote the famous baseball poem "Casey", born in Lawrence, Massachusetts (d. 1940)
1903 John Ringling North, American circus director (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1937-43), born in Baraboo, Wisconsin (d. 1985)
1923 Alice Ghostley, American singer and actress (Bewitched, Designing Women), born in Eve, Vernon County, Missouri (d. 2007)
1930 Earl Weaver, American hall of fame MLB manager (Baltimore Orioles 1968-82, 1985-86), born in St Louis, Missouri (d. 2013)
1940 Darrell George "Dash" Crofts, American singer (Seals & Crofts - "Summer Breeze"), born in Cisco, Texas
1941 David Crosby, rocker (Crosby, Stills & Nash - "Guinnevere"), born in Los Angeles, California
1945 Steve Martin, American comedian, banjo player, author and actor (Parenthood; The Jerk; Roxanne), born in Waco, Texas
1946 Antonio Fargas, American actor (Huggy Bear-Starsky & Hutch), born in The Bronx, New York
1946 Larry Graham Jr., American bass guitar player (Graham Central Station, Sly and the Family Stone), born in Beaumont, Texas
1946 Susan Saint James, American actress (Kate & Allie), born in Los Angeles, California
1947 Danielle Steel, American author (Rememberance, Zoya, Star, Daddy), born in New York City, New York (according to Wikipedia, she is the bestselling author alive)
1947 Maddy Prior, English folk singer (Steeleye Span, Silly Sisters, Carnival Band), born in Blackpool, United Kingdom
1950 Gary Larson, American cartoonist (Far Side), born in Tacoma, Washington
1951 Carl Lumbly, American actor (Cagney & Lacey, Alias), born in Minneapolis, Minnesota
1953 James Horner, American film composer (Titanic; Apollo 13; Avatar), born in Los Angeles, California (d. 2015)
1954 Mark Fidrych, American baseball player (Detroit Tigers) nicknamed "The Bird", born in Worcester, Massachusetts (d. 2009)
1959 Earvin "Magic" Johnson, American Basketball Hall of Fame point guard, executive (5-time NBA champion, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, Olympic gold 1992), born in Lansing, Michigan
1959 Marcia Gay Harden, American actress, born in La Jolla, California
1960 Sarah Brightman, English actress and singer (Phantom of the Opera), born in Berkhamsted, United Kingdom
1961 Susan Olson, American actress (Cindy-Brady Bunch), born in Santa Monica, California
1966 Halle Berry, American actress (X-Men: The Last Stand: Monsters Ball), born in Cleveland, Ohio
1983 Mila Kunis, Ukrainian-American actress (Friends with Benefits), born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine
1984 Clay Buchholz, American baseball player, born in Nederland, Texas
Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday
Dash Crofts is playing the guitar
David Crosby wrote this one

That’s a lot of birthdays.

Last night, I had the best night of sleep I’ve had all week, which was nice. I actually slept until almost 8:00 this morning, which is very rare. The sleep study equipment was dropped off at a pack and mail store, yesterday morning, so I will be looking to hear from the doctor’s office, hopefully by the end of next week.

I got an email from the City of Hurst, yesterday, with forms to print and fill out. My orientation will be at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, so I will have the forms filled out prior to that. The forms consist of a W-4 for tax purposes, a direct deposit authorization, and an I-9, to prove I’m legally eligible to work in the U.S.

The grocery order was placed last night, and is scheduled to be picked up between 12:00 and 1:00 this afternoon, and the supplementary order from Albertson’s is scheduled for delivery between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.

I made Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken last night for dinner, and it was very delicious. It was the first time I did the entire process, from prep to cooking. C usually does the prep on it.

C and S are going to the blood center to give platelets, this afternoon. And that’s pretty much it for today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“When we have found our own uniqueness in the love of God and have been able to affirm that indeed we are lovable since it is God’s love that dwells in us, then we can reach out to others in whom we discover a new and unique manifestation of the same love and enter into an intimate communion with them.” ~ Henri Nouwen

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
(Psalms 46:1-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the affirmation of Your love for us;
2. that You are our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble;
3. that we do not win battles by our own strength, but by Your strength, and by the light of Your face;
4. that everything we do, even the utensils that we use, can be consecrated as holy to You;
5. for the ability to listen, to hear with my ears, to what You have done in our lives.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWELVE – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Praise Yahweh, my soul! All that is within me, praise his holy name!
(Psalms 103:1 WEB)

I pause, briefly, during this quiet moment, reading over the quote by Henri Nouwen again, thinking of the great love that the Father has lavished upon all of us, His children. I consider the truth that this great love, and the realization of it, enables us to reach to others, and display love to all people, without fear of risk.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.

We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.
With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
You are my King and my God, who decrees victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.
I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.
(Psalms 44:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ” . . . Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. . . . Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. . . . This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
(Exodus 12:1, 3, 6-7, 11-13 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I make myself aware of the presence of the Lord, while attempting to distance myself from available distractions, I read these passages again, looking for specific words or phrases or thoughts that speak to me, today.

The importance of story is emphasized, I believe, in the passage from Psalms. Although the word, itself, is not in the psalm, “story” is an important aspect of our lives. It’s one of the reasons that I love to hear my mother speak of her days growing up in east Texas, with her family. We need to hear from our ancestors, concerning the times before ours.

Sadly, it is often too late before we realize the value of this.

The psalmist, in this case the Sons of Korah, recognized this, in writing, “We have heard it with our ears . . . our ancestors told us.” And note the medium of transmission. We have heard it, they said. Not read, but heard.

Listening is a lost art in Western culture. We have forgotten how to listen. The political climate of the day proves this. No one listens to facts any more; no one listens to truth. One man proclaims something and millions of people just believe it to be true, and no amount of fact-checking can change their minds.

Unbeknownst to them, this is the definition of what makes up a cult.

But never mind that. That’s not what this is about. This is about the value of listening, of hearing. And it is one of the reasons that I enjoy listening to God’s Word being read on the You Version Bible app on my phone (or tablet). Hearing God’s Word is different than reading it. Many portions of it were intended to be read, out loud.

Take Paul’s letters, for example. Those were delivered to a “church” in a specific city, and then circulated around, to different homes and read out loud to the people in each house that made up the “church” in that particular city.

In his book, Reversed Thunder, Eugene Peterson has a whole section on the value of hearing God’s Word, as opposed to reading words on a page. It’s quite fascinating, actually.

What was it that the psalmist heard? It was the deeds of God Almighty, “in days long ago.” It was the fact that the people of God did not win battles with their swords, or by the strength of their arms. It was the “right hand” of God, His arm, “and the light of [His] face” that won the battles for them.

It was His love that drove it all. Now, go back up there and read that quote from Henri Nouwen again. When we see that we are lovable (and we truly are, according to God), we can, then, reach out to others with that love. And when the light of the face of God is shining upon us (remember that bit in the Aaronic blessing?), any alleged risk that is involved in reaching out to someone else in love, is dissipated . . . it completely dissolves.

The light of the Face of God is . . . I can’t even think of a good word to describe it, so it is indescribable.

So it is God, we see, who gives us victory over our enemy, not our own strength.

And it is God who is about to lead His people out of Egypt in the passage from Exodus. We see them making the preparations for what will forever be known as Passover. And the sign that they are prepared is blood, on the doorposts of their homes.

Father, I thank You for Your strength, for the power of Your right hand and Your arm, and for the light of Your holy face that shines upon us, each day. May we recognize these truths, and the fact that Your love shines down on us, showing us that we are, in fact, lovable, even though we may think we are not. Then help us to take that love and reach out to a shattered, hurting, world with it, knowing that we are secure in You, and that there is nothing that the world can do, ultimately, to harm us.

I pray that we, Your Church, would work for the common good and benefit of all mankind. I pray that “deep care, bold love, and rich community” would be experienced within the Church, by all who make their way into her. I pray for new local churches to be formed and planted by people who know You and Your love. May the light of Your face shine upon us all.

"Saving God,
by the blood of Christ the angel of death passes over us and you set us on the road to freedom.
May the bread and cup of communion always remind me that Christ offered himself so I might go free.
I am so grateful for the freedom from slavery to sin and death that comes through Jesus,
my spotless Passover Lamb.
Amen."

BLESSING

Yah is my strength and song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
(Exodus 15:2 WEB)

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:11 ESV)

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:11-12 ESV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV)

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
(Zechariah 14:20-21 ESV)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
(Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

Everything that we do can be considered holy to the Lord, no matter what. Every utensil we use in the process can be considered holy to Him.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Ordinary Vessels

Today is Thursday, the twelfth of August, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,163

Only seven more days until S’s birthday! We will be spending that weekend in Mineral Wells, visiting Grandma and FBC Mineral Wells for worship that Sunday.

Today is Vinyl Record Day. For my younger readers (if there are any), “records” are large disks, made of vinyl, out of which emanate the sounds of music, when rotated on a proper device called a turntable (or, more commonly, record player). I think I may actually play some records today.

The word for today is flump. As a verb, it means, “to plump down suddenly or heavily; flop.” We have a cat that does this, although more “suddenly,” than “heavily.” C says that Luna “flupes.” Or maybe that’s spelled “floop,” I’m not sure. I think I will start calling it “flump.”

Today’s quote is from Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

And now for the birthdays:

1762 George IV, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover (1820-30), born in St James's Palace, London (d. 1830)
1781 Robert Mills, American architect (Washington Monument)(d. 1855)
1856 "Diamond Jim" Brady, American financier (d. 1917)
1859 Katharine Lee Bates, American author (America the Beautiful), born in Falmouth, Massachusetts (d. 1929)
1867 Edith Hamilton, American writer (Mythology)
1876 Mary Roberts Rinehart, American mystery writer (The Circular Staircase), born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (d. 1958)
1881 Cecil B. DeMille, American filmmaker (The Ten Commandments), born in Ashfield, Massachusetts (d. 1959)
1887 Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate (wave mechanics), born in Vienna, Austria (d. 1961)
1889 Zerna Sharp, American writer and educator (Dick and Jane) (d. 1981)
1907 Joe Besser, American actor and comedian (The Three Stooges, Let's Make Love, Africa Screams), born in St. Louis, Missouri (d. 1988)
1910 Jane Wyatt, American actress (Father Knows Best, Star Trek), born in Mahwah, New Jersey (d. 2006)
1918 Sid Bernstein, music producer and concert promoter (Beatles; Rolling Stones), born in NYC, New York (d. 2013)
1925 Norris McWhirter, English author (founded Guinness Book of World Records), born in Winchmore Hill, England (d. 2004)
1925 Ross McWhirter, English author (founded Guinness Book of World Records), born in Winchmore Hill, England (d. 1975)
1926 John Derek, American actor, director and photographer (Knock on Any Door, All the King's Men, Rogues of Sherwood Forest), born in Los Angeles, California (d. 1998)
1927 Porter Wagoner, American country singer, discovered Dolly Parton ("Y'All Come"; "A Satisfied Mind"), born in West Plains, Missouri (d. 2007)
1929 Buck Owens [Alvis Edgar], American country singer-songwriter ("Act Naturally"), and TV personality (Hee Haw), born in Sherman, Texas (d. 2006)
1931 William Goldman, American screenwriter and author (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), born in Chicago, Illinois (d. 2018)
1932 Charlie O'Donnell, American game show announcer (Wheel of Fortune), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 2010)
1939 George Hamilton, American actor (Love at First Bite), born in Memphis, Tennessee
1941 Deborah Walley, actress (Mothers-in-Law, Beach Blanket, Gidget Goes Hawaiian), born in Bridgeport, Connecticut (d. 2001)
1941 Jennifer Warren, American actress (Slap Shot, Fatal Beauty, Mutant), born in NYC, New York
1949 Mark Knopfler, British singer-songwriter, guitarist (Dire Straits - "Walk Of Life"; "Sultans Of Swing"), and film score composer (Local Hero; Princess Bride), born in Glasgow, Scotland
1954 Pat Metheny, American jazz and fusion guitarist ("As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita"), born in Lee's Summit, Missouri
1956 Bruce Greenwood, actor (Spy, Another Chance, Malibu Bikini Shop)
1959 Lynette Woodard, (Olympic gold 1984, first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters), born in Wichita, Kansas
1963 Sir Mix A Lot [Anthony Ray], American rapper (Baby Got Back), born in Auburn, Washington
1965 Peter Krause, American actor (Six Feet Under)
1975 Casey Affleck, American actor (Manchester by the Sea, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), born in Falmouth, Massachusetts
1980 Matt Thiessen, Canadian-American musician (Relient K)
1992 Cara Delevingne, English fashion model, actress, and LGBT activist, born in London, England
Mark Knopfler, singer and lead guitar

The kitchen sink/faucet installation is finally complete. Our guy showed up a little after 10:00 yesterday morning, switched the garbage disposal to the right side and fixed the hot water valve. That turned out to be a little more complicated than we thought. There was some Teflon tape clogging the old valve, which was keeping any hot water at all from coming through. However, some of that debris managed to make its way into the tube connected to the new faucet, so he had to get a compressor and blow it out. But it’s all good, now, and everything works right. We love our “new kitchen.”

I got my sleep study kit yesterday, finally. I successfully got it hooked up and did the first night last night. I will finish it up tonight and then take the kit to a UPS shipping location sometime tomorrow to send it back. I do hope that it shows that I don’t need a CPAP machine any more, but if I do, the doctor will get me a new one that provides the updated data transmissions, and so on. I will say that it is tough to sleep without one, since I have been doing it so long.

The only thing that I need to get done today is go pick up some scripts at CVS, for C and S. Otherwise, the day is wide open. As previously stated, I might actually play some records in here. It’s been a while since I did that.

I haven’t talked about baseball, lately, and it’s not just because our Rangers are groveling around in the cellar, this year. The Red Sox have also managed to slip out of first place, into second, behind the Rays. They have been struggling, lately, but last night, they managed to beat the Rays. 20-8.

I swear I’m not making that up.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Prayer of Silent Union with God, by Daryl Madden

Just sit down and keep
Your back straight but free
Quieting your mind
And quiet your body

Taking some deep breaths
Awareness to begin
On the silent, infinite
Of God’s Presence within

Let the Spirit lead you
The silent realm of seeing
Where God dwells as the source
And grounds your inner being

Center your attention
On the hushed point to find
Within where the human
Touches the divine

Where the branch intersects
With Jesus, the vine
Where you and God are one
Our dwelling to align

Let yourself sink in
To Gods’ immensity
Simply let your prayer
Be a silent, be

No need for thought or word
Let quiet love flow
As long as you feel
Inspired to do so

Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes.
I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.
You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us.
O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.
(Psalms 44:5-8 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your presence, with me always;
2. that You have moved my heart to trust only in You;
3. that You are faithful to do what You say You will do, even when I am unfaithful;
4. that You give us victory over our enemy, which is not flesh and blood;
5. that You use ordinary vessels to do Your work.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWELVE – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

The LORD judges in favor of the oppressed and gives them their rights.
(Psalms 103:6 GNB)

During this quiet moment, I consider Your presence in this place, in every place; You are with me wherever I am, and I find great comfort in this. I center my attention on You and Your Word.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.
(Psalms 42:1-6a NIV)

BIBLE READING

Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
(Exodus 5:22-6:5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

The process of dwelling involves stopping to meditate. It involves reading the passages more than once, and asking/inviting the Holy Spirit to lead me to words, phrases, or thoughts that speak to me at this time in my life. The Word of God is living and active, and ever new in our lives. Anyone who is well-familiar with it knows that you can read the same passage over and over for years, and suddenly, it will become fresh and new, gushing forth with life. This is what I pray for each morning as I enter this time.

I can easily envision unbelievers, today, taunting us with the question, “Where is your God?” In some cases, it might not even be taunting, but a legitimate plea for help. Our world has been in the throes of pandemic for well over a year, now, and it is, recently, getting worse again. People are desperate for relief, for worldwide healing.

“Where is your God??” they may be asking. “Why hasn’t He stopped this??”

I know where my God is. He is right here, as He has always been. I cannot, however, answer the second question. Nevertheless, I can echo the psalmist, when he says, “Put your hope in God,” to his soul, “for I will yet praise him.”

I confess concern for the world, for my country. But my soul is not downcast, because it knows that, as Psalm 44 says, above, that He is the One who gives us victory over our enemies. But here’s the thing . . . we never know exactly what “victory” looks like. And, in addition, we often get confused as to who our enemy is.

Sometimes I feel as though I am kicking a dead horse, but I’ll reinforce what I have already said. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. My enemy is spiritual; my enemy is not human beings who think differently than me about political issues. My enemy is not Democrat or Republican (or Tea Party or Communist). My enemy is Satan and his forces, because that is who God’s enemy is.

And, in the grand scheme of things, my enemy has no power and is already defeated. Nevertheless, when he can get us bickering among ourselves, and fighting fellow human beings, he gains a brief win.

But I do not trust in bow or sword; I do not trust in princes, presidents, chariots, and horses. I trust in the Lord God Almighty and Him alone.

That does not mean that I never question what He is doing. Moses did that. Check out his question to the Lord in Exodus 5. “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

Moses asks questions like this, frequently. Moses, it seems, was a bit of a whiner.

Another thing I have frequently emphasized in this forum is the type of characters that God used in the Old and New Testaments. We do well to note that they are far from perfect. They are ordinary folk, who, if they wore pants, would put them on one leg at a time, just like I do. I don’t think they actually wore pants, though, but who knows?

And God did not chide Moses for his questioning. Instead, the Lord made a firm proclamation in Exodus 6. Several times, he starts with “I am the LORD.” That should be enough for us, right? But He goes on.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.'”
(Exodus 6:1-8 NIV)

Note that Moses’s speech to Pharaoh both begins and ends with “I am the LORD.”

And those of us who know the story know that God did exactly what He said He was going to do. And that is our God. He does that. He does what He says He will do. He is faithful. We are not. We are fickle. We make foolish deals with God, as if He believes our promises, anyway. Then, once we get what we are after (if we do), we go right back to our old ways.

I can say this, because I have done it. I am a fickle, sinful, human being, selfishly trying to get what I want out of the Lord. Or at least I used to be. I’m still sinful. That part won’t stop until I reach Home.

But I have stopped the foolishness of trying to make promises and deals with God. Instead I just pray. I pray for my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my family. I plead with God on their behalf. But I don’t try to bargain.

God is faithful, even when we are not. Which is good, because we are always not.

Father, I am so thankful that You are faithful to do what You say You will do. Help me, however, to be correct in what I think You said You will do. There are many people, Lord, who make proclamations in Your Name, stating that You say things that You never said. I do not want to be one of those. I want to speak only truth about You. And Jesus is the Truth. So help me to follow Him, and Him alone, as I trust in You and You alone. May Your Spirit guide us into truth, Lord, that we may faithfully follow You and walk in Your Kingdom.

I am also grateful that You show us that You used ordinary vessels for Your various ministries, throughout Scripture. There were no “superhumans” in Your “army,” Lord. Even people like Elijah had flaws, that are visibly displayed to us in Your Word. This gives us hope that You can use people like us, and that we can do Your work on the earth, even with our own flaws, that sometimes seem so huge to us.

Lord, please give us growth in holiness as we follow You. May You uncover any idols that we have in our hearts, those things that threaten our devotion to You. Thank You for Your forgiveness, and make us willing and ready to extend the same grace to others that You have extended to us. May we not be hypocrites in this, Lord!

"God of Abraham,
Isaac,
and Jacob,
today I pray for people across the globe who groan under unjust rulers and crooked governments.
Whether it's brutal dictators,
corrupt city officials,
or neighborhood bullies,
bring freedom through your mighty hand.
Amen."

BLESSING

The LORD is my strong defender; he is the one who has saved me. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will sing about his greatness.
(Exodus 15:2 GNB)

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
(Exodus 33:14 NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:18-20 NIV)

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“The greatest spiritual battle begins—and never ends—with the reclaiming of our chosenness. Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.” ~ Henri Nowen

Grace and peace, friends.

Receive the Blessing

Today is Sunday, November 24, 2019. Peace be with you.

Day 22,536

Only four more days until Thanksgiving!

Last night’s Thanksgiving feast was tremendous. Good food, great fellowship, good fun!

We finally got someone over to fix our pool equipment leak, yesterday, and it was NOT Leslie’s Pools. Their guy called at 8:11 to say he was on his way, but we never saw him. When I left the house to go to my church leader meeting, there was a door-hanger on our door that said, “Sorry we missed you,” with 8:40 written on it. We didn’t hear the doorbell, didn’t hear a knock, nothing. And he didn’t try to call again to let us know he was there. Then he wouldn’t answer his phone when I tried to call him back, twice. C wound up calling the guy she calls to do handiwork around our house. He has installed faucets and a garbage disposal for us and does a great job. He was able to come over and look at it, and fixed it pretty quickly in the afternoon. As he was walking out the door, I said, “Hey, invite them to our feast tonight!” So she did, and they came! We sat at the table with them and had a great time!

This morning, for our worship gathering, we are “gathered.” The Exchange Church will meet at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth, at 10:15.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 32.12

Today I am grateful:
1. For another opportunity to worship with my brother and sisters in Christ.
2. For the wonderful time of food and fellowship that we had last night.
3. For the blessing of the Lord.
4. For opportunities to pass that blessing along.
5. For the promise of a pretty day today.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67.1
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 50.2
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19.4
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 4.18-20
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2

“Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant the the people of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
(The Divine Hours)

(From Faith That Matters)

Receive Blessing and Pass It Along, by Henri J.M. Nouwen

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 
the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, 
and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

Deuteronomy 11.26-28

“To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly,” says Henri Nouwen. There are a lot of connotations around the word “bless,” but, in a nutshell, it really is that simple. To bless someone is to say good things about them, to them. Or, perhaps, even better, to wish good things upon them. “Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends.”

Our society is filled with curses. We need to fill each other’s lives with blessing. “We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts.” We need to remind ourselves constantly, and remind each other, that we are loved and blessed by God.

It is a temptation to believe that we are living under a curse. There are so many “bad” things that can happen to us, and do seem to. Our church, for example, has recently undergone a barrage of bad news. This can easily tempt us to believe that we have messed up and are being punished. “This temptation to think of our lives as full of curses is even greater when all the media present us day after day with stories about human misery.”

“Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. But we must choose to receive that blessing and hand it on to others.”

One of the things that our church does every Sunday is to close out our gathering time with a blessing. We say or sing the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6.24-26. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” We are instructed to think of someone in particular that really needs a blessing and direct that toward them. If we do it right, mindfully, it’s a really sweet time.

Father, thank you for blessing us. Help us to receive that blessing and not fall prey to the temptation to believe we are cursed. And then help us to pass that blessing along to someone else.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

Grace and peace (and blessing), friends.

The Grace to Forgive

Today is Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Day 22,314

Tuesday of Holy Week

Twenty-three days until our Vegas trip!!

Quote of the Day

“The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel’d to heaven is no artist.”
William Blake, English poet, 1757-1827
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Word of the Day

Bouquiniste ~ A dealer in old and used books. (Wordsmith Word A Day)

Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave or under a rock knows the big news yesterday was the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. The spire and most of the roof are gone, but officials say that the main structure was saved. The cathedral was undergoing renovations and the fire was likely a result of something accidental. Many people are immediately accusing Muslim terrorists. I’m holding out my opinion on more facts. I work hard to not be a bigot, so I’m not immediately blaming anyone. I do acknowledge that something of this magnitude happening on Monday of Holy Week seems more than coincidence. But I haven’t heard any reports of anyone claiming responsibility, and terrorist groups normally do that pretty quickly. At any rate, it’s a terrible event, on an architectural and historical scale. The cathedral is almost 900 years old, and has survived, among other things, two major world wars.

The Texas Rangers jumped all over the Angels last night. After falling behind 4-0, the Rangers battled back to tie and then go ahead, winning the game 12-7. Kyle Dowdy got the win in relief, and Jose Leclerc notched another save. They must have relaxed the save rules a bit, because I thought a save was in effect if the team was three or four runs ahead, not five. In my mind, if one batter can’t cause you to lose the game (for example, if the bases are loaded and the batter hits a home run), then it’s not a “save.” But MLB says it was a save. The Rangers are now 8-7, and with one win, they jumped to third place in the AL West. They play the Angels again tonight at 7:05.

The Red Sox didn’t fare so well. They lost their Patriots Day game to the Orioles, 8-1. Hector Velazquez took the loss for the Sox. The Sox are 6-11, tied for fourth place in the AL East. They play the Yankees in New York, this evening, at 5:35 CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:1-2

Today I am grateful:
1. For another day to walk in his kingdom, even though I seem to be developing a chest cold
2. For the power of the Gospel to change lives
3. For the impact of Holy Week
4. That I have been forgiven
5. That I have the grace and power to forgive others

“O God, who by the passion of thy blessed Son didst make an
instrument of shameful death to be unto us the means of live:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly
suffer shame and loss for the sake of they Son our Savior Jesus
Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
(The Book of Common Prayer, Tuesday in Holy Week)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Forgiving in the Name of God,” by Henri Nouwen.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

“We are all wounded people.” So simple, yet so profound. Yes, we are all wounded, in some way. We are all broken, in some way. And often, the people who have wounded us are the ones who are closest to us. In my experience, it is seldom a total stranger who wounds us. This is one of the great tragedies of life. I believe it is because you can most easily be wounded by someone you have trusted. When you trust or love someone, you let down your guard.

The typical human reaction is this: “You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?”

But Jesus calls us to something different. We are called to forgive. Not only by this simple verse in Ephesians, but by the very words of our Savior.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15

These are serious words, not to be trifled with.

“Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.” The God who resides within us gives us grace and power to “go beyond our wounded selves and say, ‘In the name of God you are forgiven.'”

If we still struggle with that, we should consider the “incomprehensible reality that the God of the universe has forgiven every unloving, hurtful, wounding act we have perpetuated against him.” We should be ready and willing to treat others in the same way.

I have been the recipient of forgiveness, both from God, and from people I have wounded. How could I not, then, forgive others who have wounded me? That would be the tragedy.

Father, may I always be forgiving, because you have forgiven me, and because you have given others the grace to forgive me, as well. Search my heart, and if there is anyone in there whom I have not forgiven, please show me, then effect that forgiveness within me, by your grace, and by your Spirit.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

A Perverse Pride

Today is Wednesday, January 24, 2018. Day 21,867.

64 days until Opening Day.

Henri Nouwen, born on this date in 1932 (died 1996), said, “To be a Christian who is willing to travel with Christ on his downward road requires being willing to detach oneself constantly from any need to be relevant, and to trust ever more deeply the Word of God.”
BrainyQuote

The word for today, from Dictionary.com, is quodlibet, a noun which means, “a subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological or scholastic subject.” I’m rarely subtle when I argue.

We had fun last night. We have decided to start working out again, and visited the YMCA where our church meets. We have questions for them regarding S’s disability (she has autism) and what plan we would have to pay for for all three of us, so, last night, we just got three guest passes good for three free visits. I have sent an email to their “Member Engagement” manager. Either way, we will probably go ahead and join. We just need to find out which plan works best for us. So, last night, C and S work on the treadmill and I worked on the elliptical. Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 
Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 
Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 
You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! 
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 
For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 
Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Psalm 22:19-31

(From The Business of Heaven, C.S. Lewis)
St Frrancois de Sales

“The crude picture of penitence as something like apology or even placation has, for me, the value of making penitence an act. The more high-minded views involve some danger of regarding it simply as a state of feeling. . . . The question is before my mind at present because I’ve been reading Alexander Whyte. . . . For him, one essential symptom of the regenerate life is a permanent, and permanently horrified, perception of one’s natural and (it seems) unalterable corruption. The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool. . . . Another author, quoted in Haller’s Rise of Puritanism, says that when he looked into his heart, it was ‘as if I had in the heat of summer lookt down into the Filth of a Dungeon, where I discerned Millions of crawling living things in the midst of that Sink and liquid Corruption.’

“I won’t listen to those who describe that vision as merely pathological. I have seen the ‘slimy things that crawled with legs’ in my own dungeon. I thought the glimpse taught me sense. But Whyte seems to think it should not be a glimpse but a daily, lifelong scrutiny. Can he be right? It sounds so very unlike the New Testament fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace. And very unlike the Pauline programme: ‘forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things that are before.’ And very unlike St. Francois de Sales’ green, dewy chapter on la douceur towards one’s self. Anyway, what’s the use of laying down a programme of permanent emotions? They can be permanent only by being factitious. . . . I know that a spiritual emetic at the right moment may be needed. But not a regular diet of emetics! If one survived, one would develop a ‘tolerance’ of them. This poring over the ‘sink’ might breed its own perverse pride.” (Letters to Malcolm)

I had to look up “emetic.” I wish I had not. It means, “a medicine or other substance that causes vomiting.” Then I looked up “douceur.” It means “softness,” or “smoothness.” So I think the point of this rather graphic reading (I confess it reminds me of a video game I’ve been playing) is that it is not, in fact, a good thing to constantly be looking at our “inner cesspool.” I think Lewis is right. If we spend too much time examining our depravity, we may wind up with a “perverse pride.”

Father, while it may be good to know whence I came, in my relationship with you, and it may be good to always be aware of my sinfulness before you, let me not dwell on those things which are wicked within me. Let me know your forgiveness and grant me repentance from those things that trouble me. Let me not dwell on the “inner cesspool,” but, rather on that “inner light” that is the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus, His righteousness imputed into my life and spirit.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Made For the Valleys

Today is Saturday, October 1, 2016. Thirteen more days until Galveston!!

Quote of the Day

“If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend.” – Henri Nouwen

Word of the Day

Amphiboly – ambiguity of speech, especially from uncertainty of the grammatical construction rather than of the meaning of the words.

Today is International Coffee Day. What more do I need to say? Drink up!

As this Saturday dawns, it finds the Texas Rangers having clinched the best record in the AL for this season! They beat the Rays 3-1 last night, to clinch home field advantage in the ALCS. Some people say that this clinched home field advantage “throughout the playoffs,” but that’s not exactly accurate. If they get to the World Series, they will have home field advantage because the AL won the otherwise meaningless All Star Game. So, in reality, this simply insures that they will have home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. It also insures that they will play the winner of the Wild Card playoff game, which may not be decided until a Monday makeup game between Detroit and Cleveland.

To further muddy the waters, Boston beat the Boo Jays on a seventh inning two-run homer by none other than Big Papi, himself, who wrapped a line shot around the famous Pesky Pole in right field. Needless to say, Fenway Park went absolutely bonkers when that happened. This put the Jays behind the Orioles, and only a half game ahead of the Tigers, who beat the horrible Braves last night. I’m sure the Boo Jays are giving glares to the PTBs who put the schedule together, thinking it’s not fair that they are having to play the AL East champs while the Tigers get to play the worst team in the NL. Detroit and Cleveland had a rain-out on Thursday (I think), so the way things are going that will have to be made up on Monday. I also keep forgetting that the Mariners are still in this race, only one game behind the Boo Jays. It’s a very exciting weekend for the Wild Card contenders. Even in the NL, there are still three teams in the race. It’s always fun when it all comes down to the last weekend.

We will be arriving in Galveston on the day that the ALCS begins, and will be there for the whole next week. There will probably be some baseball watched during this trip. Unless of course . . . no. I won’t even say it.

It’s a busy weekend, as we have our monthly-ish Night of Worship tonight, at the home of one our church families. I’ll be playing keys for it, and possibly leading some prayer times. We’re still working through the details, but we have decided to merge our bi-weekly Anchor prayer gathering and the Night of Worship, to create a prayer and worship gathering. I’m excited about the potential for this.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

“O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.” – The Divine Hours

(From Praying With the Psalms)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:9-16

As I read this, this morning, I am stunned by the wealth of truth in each of these verses. Especially in light of the book I have been reading, Hearing God, by Dallas Willard. Each verse declares something fresh about the Word of God.

“The heart well-stocked with God’s word is like a well-armed arsenal. Confident in the strength of its weaponry, it is fearless in the face of attacks from without or insurrection from within.”

“‘Thy word is like an armory, where soldiers may repair, and find for life’s long battle day all needful weapons there. O may I find my armor there: Thy Word my trusty sword, I’ll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord’ (Edwin Hodder, ‘Thy Word Is Like a Garden, Lord’). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them. Mark 9:2

Who doesn’t love the mountaintop? Hopefully, we have all had what we refer to as “mountaintop experiences,” where the glory of God resonated and everything felt perfect for a little while. But we aren’t made to stay there. God will not allow us to stay there. “The test of our spiritual life is the power to descend.” The mountains, the dawns, those beautiful moments . . . they are all meant for inspiration. “We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in.”

This is not a popular teaching. We don’t want to hear this. But even the writings of Dallas Willard agree with it. In the above referenced book, Hearing God, Willard talks about how to accomplish transformation in our world. “Those who receive the grace of God’s saving companionship in his word are by that fact also fitted to show humankind how to live. They, and they alone, are at home in the universe as it really is. In that sense they are the light of the world.” (p. 190, italics mine) We cannot possibly “show humankind how to live” if we insist on staying on the mountain.

“The moments on the mountain tops are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.” That “something” is for character; not so much to teach us something, as to make us something.

Father, I desperately want to be one who is “at home in the universe as it really is.” I don’t see very many who fit this, not even in the community of the Church. We all seem to be too busy trying to change things on our own, rather than simply living the life and showing others how to do the same. Make me one of these, Lord. Let me take the rare “mountaintop moments” and let them build character. Always keep me willing to descend so that I can live in the world, being comfortable doing so. I believe it is time that the Church dispense with the “only passing through” mentality and begin to live comfortably in the world so that we can show others how to do the same. Help me to step into the easy yoke of Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.