Balancing Inner and Outer

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 4, 2015. Independence Day in the U.S.

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is more of a phrase than a word, and it is Latin. It is e pluribus unum. It seems that there are a great many people who have forgotten what this motto of the United States of America means. It means, “out of many, one.”

Today is Hop A Park Day. And I have a feeling that a lot of people will be doing exactly that, since there will be many outdoor events celebrating Independence Day today.

Last night was tremendous, in so many ways. We had a great trip, picking up my mother, in the afternoon, and stopped at Pastafina, in Mineral Wells, for lunch, before heading back to Fort Worth. We had a few minutes to sit and relax, before heading to the Southlake Town Square for the event. We got to the Town Square at around 5:30, and the traffic and parking were already pretty bad. However, we were blessed (I don’t believe in “luck,” you know) to find a woman walking from a store toward the parking lot we were in. Miraculously, we were the only car following her. She went to a car, got in, and the car left, leaving a perfect parking space for us! We unloaded everything (three canvas chairs, a folding chair, a music stand, a trombone, and my bag of mutes and music), and headed for the pavilion.

When we first got there, we found a place that looked good for Christi, Mama, and Stephanie to sit. It was in the parking area, on the asphalt, but looked like a good vantage point for the concert. I went on up to the stage, where the Swing Band was preparing for their performance, which started at 6:00. I set my gear down, and went back for the stand. When I got there, Stephanie was the only one there, with one chair. She said that Christi had found a place close by, that we under a tree! And under a tree it was, as we had to kind of duck to get in there, but it was a beautiful spot to watch the concert from one side of the pavilion! For the next hour and a half, we listened to the Swing Band, walked around the area, and just had a nice time.

Just after 7:30, the Swing Band finished, and the Southlake Community Band took the stage. Around 8:00, we played “The Stars and Stripes Forever” to kick off the evening’s celebrations. The mayor talked for a little bit, a plane flew over, a lovely young lady with a magnificent voice sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” the plane flew over again, Tony Lopez from KLTY talked a little, and then we got to play the rest of our concert. It was great fun, and, a few times, quite emotional for me. The most emotional moments came when I remembered that my mother was out there listening to this concert. We wound up having to cut three numbers, due to time (we were fully prepared for that), and finished up with a wonderful fireworks display.

The exit from the event was not bad, either. The Police Department did a magnificent job of traffic management, and people were NICE, stopping to let others in, when there were lines waiting! Sure, it took a while to get out of the parking lot and to an area where traffic flowed smoothly, but it could have been so much worse!! I have been at events where it took an hour just to get out of the parking lot (coughcoughDALLAScoughcough).

On the way home, we went through a Jack In the Box drive-thru and got a very late dinner (it was, I believe, after 11:00 before we got home). We had some nice conversation (albeit, very sleepy) as we ate our dinner, after which we promptly went to bed. I slept very well last night!

Today, we have our church picnic, which I believe we are calling a “Family Feast,” at 5:00. After that, we will take my mother back to Mineral Wells. I believe Rachel and Justin might be coming over tomorrow for some game time.

On this date in 1776, the U.S. declared independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was not signed, however, until August 2. In 1863, the Confederates surrendered Vicksburg. On this date in 1826, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. And in 1885, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published.

Today’s birthdays include Nathaniel Hawthorne (American writer), Stephen Foster (American songwriter), Calvin Coolidge (30th President), Rube Goldberg (American cartoonist), Mitch Miller (American entertainer), Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers (American advice columnists), Leona Helmsley (American hotel operator), Eva Marie Saint (American actress), Neil Simon (American playwright), Gina Lollobrigida (Italian actress), George Steinbrenner (American businessman/Yankees owner), Bill Withers (American singer/songwriter), Geraldo Rivera (American reporter), John Waite (English singer), Pam Shriver (American tennis player), and Becki Newton (American actress).

John Waite was born on this date in 1952. He has been lead singer for The Babys and Bad English, as well as having a solo career. Here is one of the songs by Bad English, “When I See You Smile.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:16-19

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

“If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary.” Thus begins a section called “The Integrity of Prayer.” I love that sentence, too. It is so full of truth. And so many of us make the mistake of giving priority to the outer life, even those of us who call the name of Jesus! We are so uncomfortable with solitude and silence. I rather like both of them, myself, but not for very long. But when we prioritize the outer life, we are also extremely uncomfortable with self-examination and have a short attention span when it comes to reflection. We try to project this sense of confidence (even spiritual confidence), while being full of “self-doubts, anxieties, self-pity, and old grudges.” Ouch.

“In short, unless we put a priority on the inner life, we turn ourselves into hypocrites.” Ouch, again. Keller quotes John Owen:

A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

“To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular.” I don’t know if I can finish this section. We want to be seen as humble; do we spend time confessing our sins before God? We want to be seen as positive and cheerful; do we spend time thanking God for all we have? We talk about being blessed, and about how our faith is true and how much we love the Lord, but if we are prayerless . . . can it really be true? What we profess in public needs to match up with how we are in private.

Jesus told us, via his instructions to the disciples in Matthew 6, that the “infallible test of spiritual integrity . . . is your private prayer life.” Lots of people pray when called upon in cultural or social settings. Some even pray when they are filled with anxiety over circumstances. “Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so.”

Let us not make the mistake, however, of thinking that having an inner prayer life means that we can do it alone. “Knowing the God of the Bible better can’t be achieved all by yourself.” We must have the community of the church alongside us, the act of corporate worship to go along with private devotion, and public Bible instruction to go along with silent meditation. It is possible to ascertain someone’s private prayer life by listening to their public prayers. Do they pray as though they are trying to impress people around them with their theological prowess? Or do they pray as someone who is used to having conversations with God?

“The depths of private prayer and public prayer grow together.”

Father, I pray that you would help me with prioritizing my inner life properly, and balancing the inner devotion with the public worship life. At times, I feel like I have this down fairly well, but then I read statements like the one above that shine the light on where my mind goes when no one else is around, or when I am not being compelled to think about anything in particular. I am also reminded of how my mind and spirit react in certain circumstances, primarily revolving around work situations. Father, I need humility, and I know how dangerous it is to pray for such things. Yet, I know I need it. May your Spirit move me to humility, to a more sanctified inner life, and to better knowledge of you through prayer.

I pray for this day, that we will be safe in everything we do. May the rest of our time with Mama be blessed and simply a good time. Thank you so much for the great time and blessings we experienced last night! I praise you for music and for bringing me back to it.

Your grace is sufficient.

We simply must balance our inner and outer lives. I don’t believe that we truly desire to be hypocritical.

Grace and peace, friends.

As the Ruin Falls

“Only when we will to live in Christ do our actions become his. I am not speaking here of human willpower but of radical reliance on the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to transcend egoism, moodiness, and laziness.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 5, 2014.

Today is Hop A Park Day. Not to be misconstrued as “Hop Over A Park Day,” this day is simply intended to encourage people to get out and visit a local park.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day. After I finished blogging, we went to the Main Street Cafe in Keller for a late breakfast. After breakfast, we went on up to far north Keller to take Stephanie to Megan’s dad’s house, where she would spend the rest of the day and last night. Then, for an unexpected treat, Christi and I decided to go to Grapevine, to Nails Spa, to get a pedicure. Let me tell you, if you’ve never had a pedicure, at least one like these people give, you don’t know what you’re missing. Hot oils, massages, hot stones, different fragrances (mine was the “Thai Coconut deluxe pedicure), and oh, so relaxing. Except for those few times when they hit a ticklish spot. They even scrape all that dead skin off your heels. Oh, and somewhere, during all of that, they clip your toenails. They’ll paint them, too, if you want. I’m not quite bold enough to try that, yet.

After we got home from Grapevine, Christi went back to her mom’s apartment and finished the last of the unpacking and hung stuff up on the walls. I played baseball on the X-Box. Then we had pizza from PapaJohn’s, watched some TV, pausing every time big booms of fireworks went off, because Tessie went nuts. Poor thing. She hates July 4th. 🙂 Over all, it was a very nice day, pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.

Today, it’s grocery shopping, and then church this evening. That will be a bit on the different side, as a lot of key people are out of town today. We are going to have a time of worship and prayer, with no preaching (because the pastor is one of those aforementioned “key people”), and I’ll be leading the prayer times. I’m also leading the Lord’s Supper, and have to make the coffee as well. Going to be a busy afternoon. However, I may not make a full pot of coffee, because I don’t think there are going to be very many people there. We know of quite a few that will not be there.

Tomorrow, as previously mentioned, we will be going to Mineral Wells to visit my parents, since we never got to see them around Father’s Day.

The Texas Rangers lost their sixth consecutive game last night. The Red Sox got postponed by a hurricane. Or tropical storm. Some guy named “Arthur.” They will play a double-header today, beginning at 13:05 Eastern time. This has been a dreadful season, so far. Unless you’re an Oakland fan. I don’t know any Oakland fans. I don’t think there are even any in Oakland. Their fans rank just above Tampa’s.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1921 that the a trial began, with jury selection, against eight Major League Baseball players who were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. These players were on the Chicago White Sox, who had played the Cincinnati Reds during the 1919 World Series. Among those charged was one of the most famous baseball players of that era, Shoeless Joe Jackson. It was the discontent of the players, due to being underpaid by White Sox owner Charles Comisky, that fueled the scandal. Gamblers offered money (although not a huge amount) to individual players, asking them to lose games intentionally. However, the gamblers did not pay the players, which resulted in open complaints by the players, which, in turn, led to the publicizing of the whole scandal.

Owners eventually hired Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as their commissioner, who, subsequently, barred all eight players from every playing again. This decision was unfair to Buck Weaver, who refused to take any of the money, and was banned because he didn’t turn in the rest of the players. And even though he did take some money, there is no evidence that Shoeless Joe ever played less than he was capable of. In fact, he had the highest batting average of either team during that World Series.

A book and movie have been released about this scandal, called Eight Men Out.

As for the “Say it ain’t so, Joe” quote, it probably never happened. Here are the words of Joe, himself: “I guess the biggest joke of all was that story that got out about “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Charley Owens of the Chicago Daily News was responsible for that, but there wasn’t a bit of truth in it. It was supposed to have happened the day I was arrested in September of 1920, when I came out of the courtroom. There weren’t any words passed between anybody except me and a deputy sheriff. When I came out of the building this deputy asked me where I was going, and I told him to the Southside. He asked me for a ride and we got in the car together and left. There was a big crowd hanging around the front of the building, but nobody else said anything to me. It just didn’t happen, that’s all. Charley Owens just made up a good story and wrote it. Oh, I would have said it ain’t so, all right, just like I’m saying it now.” (Source: Wikiquote)

Today’s birthdays include Huey Lewis, Judge Joe Brown, Bill Watterson, Marc Cohn, Mary Walcott, Phineas Taylor Barnum, Richard “Goose” Gossage, Jimmy Crespo, and Jason Wade.

There are several worthy of note. Bill Watterson is the creator of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. He is 56 today, same age as me!
Calvin and Hobbes

Marc Cohn is a singer songwriter who wrote this great song, “Walking in Memphis,” released way back in 1991. He is 55 today.

Finally, Jason Wade is the lead singer of the group Lifehouse. Here is their video of the hit song “You and Me.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Psalm 96:7-10
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Psalm 80:1-3
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Psalm 31:5
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:1b-2
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Psalm 84:2-3

“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and
sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that I, putting away all
earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and
grant as well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest
promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Contact Through Faith.”

Do you remember the story from Mark 5 of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years? By touching merely the hem of the robe of Jesus, she was healed. Instantly, Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” (Mark 5:30) Peter, in essence, said, “You’re kidding, right? There are hundreds of people around you, and you want to know who touched you??” (My paraphrase) But then Jesus explained: “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” (Only Luke recorded this part, 8:46) “Among all those in physical contact with Jesus at that moment, this woman’s touch was accompanied by faith–faith sufficient to unleash the divine power in the Master.”

We, in the current age, have been made one with Christ in baptism. Our contact is much closer, more intimate. We have the ability to “transform even our most mundane experiences into those of Christ.” But we, like the woman in the Gospels, must “activate that contact through faith.” As this gets a little deeper, we see that we must will this faith; we must will this transformation. “Only when we will to live in Christ do our actions become his. I am not speaking here of human willpower but of radical reliance on the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to transcend egoism, moodiness, and laziness.” Ouch?

I love how the writings of Brennan Manning alternate between loving and encouraging, and challenging and admonishing. One day, I will be enjoying the loving grace of Jesus, and the next, writhing in agony as if I were just punched in the gut. Yes, I’m moody, lazy, and egotistical. I’m so much like the C.S. Lewis poem. You know the one, right? “As the Ruin Falls.”

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

I wish I could communicate the emotion that I feel when I read and listen to this beautiful poem/song. But I cannot. I can only hope that you can get a sense of it yourself. I must will the transformation, but even that will comes from that “radical reliance” on the Spirit. Lately, I haven’t been doing real great at that. I pray that it will be better.

The aim of our charge is love
that issues from a pure heart and
a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

Father, I pray for more will. I pray for more of that radical reliance on your Spirit, that I might will to live in Christ. Again, I pray for the ability to see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his heart. Let that be a reality in my life. Most days, I do pretty good, for a few minutes. Then I get in traffic, or I get to work, or someone aggravates me on Facebook. In truth, I’m too predictable. Father, make me unpredictable!

I pray for the remainder of this day. Christi is out, again, doing things for her mother. I pray that is going smoothly. I pray for our worship time, which will happen in a few hours. I pray that, for those who attend, it will be a time of intimate communion with you through songs and prayer, as well as the participation in The Supper.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all have the grace to will ourselves out of our egoism, laziness, and moodiness, that we might live in Christ.
As the ruin falls
Grace and peace, friends.