Today is Thursday, the 23rd of March, 2023, in the fourth week of Lent.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always!
My Wordle score for today:
Wordle 642 3/6*
Yesterday was an interesting day, with some pretty weird ups and downs. S’s therapist appointment went well, and choir practice last night was fun. There were some moment during the rest of the day that had a pretty drastic effect on my state of mind. I’m better, this morning, though, after a decent night’s sleep. I have been struggling with motivation to do some things that need to be done. For example, I really need to unpack the trombone and play some, today, to start looking at Easter music that I will be playing. We have rehearsal this Sunday, and next Sunday (Palm Sunday), as well. On Easter Sunday, I will be playing in both services and not singing with the choir, as there is a brass quartet part to go along with the Easter anthem.
I also really need to start getting some exercise in. It doesn’t need to be a lot, and it doesn’t need to be strenuous. I just need to do it.
The one thing I don’t need more motivation for is reading. I’m doing okay with that. I’ve read 26 books, so far this year, and will definitely make 27 or 28 before the end of March. I’m on a pace to read over 100 books this year, and I have never done that before! At least not since I have been keeping my reading log. Retirement and working part time at a library have had a definite positive impact on my reading habits. That and being friends with a bunch of librarians. Hah!
Today, I have a doctor appointment at 11:15, to follow up on my blood pressure, which has been elevated the last couple times I have been there. I’ve checked it at home every day this week, and the seven-day average is 138/90, which is a tad high. It’s not as high as it was last time in the office. I’m also supposed to take my meter with me, to compare it with the reading they get in the office.
Over all, my health is fine. I just have some minor issues that could become major issues if I don’t get them under control. Hence the need for some exercise.
We should be able to get S to her Club Metro event tonight. The pending thunderstorms seem to have shifted to after midnight tonight, so that shouldn’t affect this week’s plan. They are going to play kickball tonight, which S loves. They were supposed to go to the video arcade for the rescheduled even from last week, but they can’t get the bus that they need to take them tonight.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. (Psalms 119:158 NRSV)
This is one of those verses that I struggle with, because I don’t believe we should look upon anyone “with disgust.” It is interesting to see the different translations of this verse. The ESV is exactly the same as the NRSV. But the KJV translates the word “grieved,” instead of “with disgust.”
I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. (Psalms 119:158 KJV)
I am frequently sad when I see people ignoring God’s Word, or showing disdain for it. But I try very hard to not view anyone with disgust or contempt. I admit that I do not always succeed.
Lord our God, protect us in your Spirit. Strengthen our hearts especially when we often have to bear suffering, that we may be steadfast in hope and may again and again experience a day of salvation. Protect us in every way. Accept our praise and thanks, and let our hearts rejoice in what you have already done for us. We want to discern your ways more and more so that we may please you as your servants. Amen.
Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; (Isaiah 49:8 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for my health; may I have the motivation to improve and maintain it
- for my love of reading, and for parents who nurtured that
- for cinnamon-flavored coffee; and all other things cinnamon
- that, with God in our lives, we are never alone; we never have to face any struggle on our own
- for hope; never give up hope
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31 NRSV)
It is central in the biblical tradition that God’s love for his people should not be forgotten. It should remain with us in the present. When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing voices, when we do not see any exits, then we can find salvation in a remembered love, a love that is not simply a wistful recollection of a bygone past, but a living force that sustains us in the present. Through memory, love transcends the limits of time and offers hope at any moment of our lives. (Henri Nouwen Daily Meditation)
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23 NRSV)
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. (Psalms 25:21 NRSV)
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday. Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. (Psalms 37:1-7 NRSV)
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.
(2 Chronicles 16:12 NRSV)
“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
(2 Chronicles 20:17 NRSV)
From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul.
(Deuteronomy 4:29 NRSV)
Hope. What is hope? It has several definitions.
The first definition provided by Webster is, “to cherish a desire with anticipation : to want something to happen or be true.” But that sounds more like “wishful thinking,” does it not? And that is not the kind of hope I am referring to, here.
A little further down the list, it says, “to expect with confidence.” And archaic definition is said to be “trust.”
I rather like Wikipedia’s take on it. “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”
Biblical hope is never really defined, as such, but we can glean its meaning from its context. For example, in the Lamentations passage up there, probably the most well-known passage from that book, the thing that gives the author hope is that he has called to mind the steadfast love (“chesed“) of the Lord and that it never ceases. Contemplating the mercies of God, that they never cease, and are “new every morning,” gives the author “hope.” He is able “to expect with confidence.” He has “an optimistic state of mind.”
And if you look at the verses preceding the quoted passage, you will see that this man is in the midst of some pretty depressing circumstances.
my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, "Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD." The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. (Lamentations 3:17-20 NRSV)
In spite of all of this, when he remembers the steadfast love and mercy of God, he has hope.
Similar in nature to hope, we see this idea of “waiting” for the Lord. The word for “hope” in Lamentations is “yachal,” which can also be translated “to wait.” However, the word for “wait upon” in that famous passage from Isaiah 40, is “qavah,” which has several possible translations, one of which is, “to expect.” One of the definitions of “hope” was “to expect with confidence.”
So you can see the interrelatedness of “hope” and “wait upon.”
We have so many promised outcomes if we wait upon the Lord, or hope in Him.
We will have our strength renewed We will "mount up with wings like eagles" We will run and not be weary We will walk and not faint We will enjoy security We will take delight in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart He will act on our behalf He will be with us and fight for us; we do not have to fight our own battles We will seek Him and find Him
In a tragic turn of events, King Asa turned from the Lord. You can read about it in II Chronicles, but in chapter 16, we are told that, even in his diseased state, Asa did not seek the Lord. Asa gave up hope, and he suffered for that.
I might add that some could take II Chronicles 16:12 as an admonition against seeking the help of doctors. It is my opinion that such folks are missing the point, entirely. The issue was not that he sought the help of doctors. It is that he did not seek the help of God.
But I digress.
Today’s lesson is this. Never give up hope. As long as we have hope, we have possibility; we have potential. For what? For life! For healing! For blessing! For whatever we desire (assuming that those desires are colored by our delight of the Lord and not simply selfish)!
Yesterday, we received the shocking news that Texas Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel will not be in the broadcast booth at the beginning of this season. In a brave move, he let us all know that he is struggling with anxiety, insomnia, and depression. He is seeking treatment, and he has hope. The implication is that he fully expects to return to his duties, at some point.
I do not know Eric Nadel’s spiritual condition. But the point is that he is not giving up. He is not quitting. He is seeking what he needs to seek to get better.
We all need the help of the Lord “to get better,” regardless of our condition. I need it. I struggled, yesterday. I have struggled much worse, in the past. There was this one time when I did, in fact, come very close to giving up hope. But my God would not allow me to do that. He fought that battle for me, while I stood and watched.
We get into this bad way of thinking where we believe we have to fight our battles. “God helps those who help themselves,” we think.
I’m going to risk offending someone, here, and simply say that is one of the stupidest statements I have ever heard. It is not in the Bible, anywhere. It is not even implied in Scripture. God helps us who cannot help themselves. One of my favorite definitions of “grace” is “God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
Don’t give up hope, and don’t try to fight that battle alone. Hope in the Lord; wait upon Him, and you will mount up with wings like eagles. He will not abandon you.
Our Father, in heaven, we thank You for hope. I praise You for the truth that You are there, always; that You will fight our battles for us, if we only hope in You, wait upon You, and allow You to help us.
Thank You for helping me. Thank You for getting me through my difficult times, yesterday. Thank You that You are always there, and that You have promised to never leave or forsake us. I will continue to hope in You, to wait upon You. Hopefully, by the power of Your Spirit, I will also not try to fight these battles alone. Keep that in front of me, Father. Help me to contemplate this, always. Help me to seek You with my whole heart, that I might find You. Help me to delight in You, that I might be given the desires of my heart.
Help me to be still before You, and wait patiently. Patiently is the key word in that sentence.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.