A Witness

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

Today is Thursday, the sixteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,471

I’ll be working my usual eight-hour shift in the computer center today, from 11:15 to 8:15 tonight. That reminds me, I need to start tonight’s soup in the crock pot. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

Oh. That also reminds me. Last night’s dinner was delicious! Here is the recipe for what I made last night.

Spaghetti Pie

It’s a great dish, but one that I should only try on days when I don’t work, as it is a little involved and takes close to an hour, total time. But it was well worth it.

Tonight will be our standard Chicken-Ranch Crock Pot Soup.

The Texas Rangers lost pretty badly, yesterday afternoon, 9-2, to the Astros. It was dismal. Unfortunately, they put a rookie in for his first MLB start. Against the Astros. So much for his ego. Anyway, the Rangers are now 29-33, in second place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Angels, and 9.5 behind the Astros. They are also 4.5 behind in the Wild Card race. They begin a four-game series in Detroit tonight.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox discombobulated the Athletics, last night, 10-1. Egad. Of course, any time the Athletics lose, it benefits the Rangers. The Sox are now 34-29, but still in third place in the AL East, 1.5 behind the Rays, and 12.5 out of first place. Barring a complete disaster (which most of us are hoping for), there won’t be any catching the Evil Empire. Best we can hope for is a wild card, and the Sox are currently in the third wild card spot. I didn’t find out until two days ago that there will be three wild card in each league.

I’m tired of telling you who has the best MLB record. You know. 46-16. The worst record, though, seems to fluctuate, daily, lately. Today, the Athletics are the proud owners of the worst record, at 21-43. The Braves won again! They now have a fourteen game win streak! That sounds like a lot, but they have a ways to go to catch the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row. The poor Chicago Cubs have now lost nine games in a row. You-know-who also still has the best run differential, at +130. The Washington Nationals have taken over the worst, for today, at -102. The Rangers dropped back into the red, yesterday, and are now at -2. The Red Sox now have a +54 run differential, still the sixth best, but only one behind the Cardinals.

Tune in tomorrow for more meaningless but fun (at least to me) statistics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let Me Give,” by Daryl Madden

Let me give my eyes to You
Your vision of seeing
Let me give my ears to You
Your Spirit of hearing

Let me give my feet to You
To Your way of walking
Let me give my hands to You
To souls of suffering

Let me give my heart to You
To Your grace of cleaning
Let me place my trust in You
For Lord you are my king

Let me give my praise to You
My song is what I’ll sing
Let me pray a prayer to You
A humble offering

Let me give me will to You
For I can do nothing
Let me receive Your grace oh Lord
For You bless everything

Let me give my soul to You
Faithfully trusting
Let me give my life to You
In Your love of sharing

What a beautiful prayer to being the day! You can read more of Daryl’s inspirational poetry at the link above.

Lord God, we thank you that you have upheld us and brought us to the Savior. Help us to remember this truth through your Holy Spirit, and constantly remind us while still on earth to live in heaven with all your angels. We are helpless without you. Your Spirit alone can overcome our sinful nature so that we never forget to be in heaven with the Savior now and in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
(John 14:2-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father's home
2. that we are able to walk in God's Kingdom while still on earth
3. that God is control, not me
4. that I can pray with confidence, knowing that You hear, and will answer according to Your will
5. for the witness we give when we attend a house of worship together; the witness that "God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift." (Eugene Peterson)

But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
(Daniel 3:24-25 NLT)

Today’s prayer word, from Pray a Word a Day, is acceptance. The quote is from the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

There are some very wise words in today’s reading. Words that seem even more wise in the midst of today’s struggles.

“I have to learn to accept things as they are and not how I want them to be. I have to let go of the frustration that rises when I can’t make things go the way I want or need them to. Let it go. There’s no use dwelling on something you have no chance of changing.”

This applies to more than the rampant complaining and whining that is going on in social media circles, right now. It also applies to how upset I get when things don’t go the way I think they should, like when I was trying to switch mobile carriers Tuesday afternoon. It was a terrible and complicated process that looked, on the surface, like it shouldn’t take very long.

I got quite upset. And it didn’t help anything. I also got frustrated as I tried to cancel the one remaining line on our ATT plan, yesterday evening, so that account would be closed out. The issues were most definitely caused by ATT, but there was nothing I could do to change those. So my frustration only served to raise my blood pressure and make everyone around me uncomfortable.

So today’s word is good for me. And while the word acceptance can apply to a wide range of things (accepting people for who they are, for example), the focus today is on accepting things as they are, if I have no means of changing them. If I can do something to change it, then my responsibility lies in doing that thing, but my emotions still need to remain in check.

Father, I confess my failure to keep emotions reigned in when things are outside my control. Things happen the way they happen, and I can do nothing about that. I can’t control the complexity of processes when it comes to certain things in life. I can’t control which TV channels are provided by which carriers. I can’t control whether other people will answer their phones or respond to voice mails. I can’t control whether technology will work properly. What I can control is the way I react to these things. I pray that Your Spirit will fill me with His fruit, each day, and that I might dwell completely within Your Kingdom as I walk through each day. But also, let me take this life one step at a time, and not get ahead of myself.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”
(Matthew 6:7 NLT)

While this verse refers to how we pray, audibly, using words, I think there might be something here that we can apply to the concept of silence. And that’s not all. I think it also has some wisdom in the subject of anxiety.

Of course, Jesus spoke a good bit about anxiety, as well, didn’t He?

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? 
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Luke 12:22-34 NLT)

Another reason to not pile on the needless words or “vain repetitions” is found in the verse immediately following the one that heads up this section.

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
(Matthew 6:8 NLT)

I’ll admit that I’m on the fence about something when it comes to prayer. And that is the matter of whether I need to ask God more than once. I have a prayer book where I keep requests that are sent to me. And I do go through the requests on a semi-regular basis. But I also stop and whisper a prayer immediately, in most cases, when I see a prayer request.

I really don’t think it is an issue to be concerned about. The important thing is where our heart is when we are praying. Am I repeating prayers because I’m anxious about something? When I pray for something once and let it go, do I find myself being doubtful or anxious, or am I confident that God hears and will answer according to His will?

He knows what we need before we ask. Therefore, I believe, it is pointless to blather on about things. Jesus’s model prayer that follows these instructions is short and to the point. It takes five short verses (six if you add the benediction that was added in later manuscripts).

Have you ever heard someone pray out loud, in church, for ten or fifteen minutes? I really believe that that is what Jesus is addressing, here.

Don’t babble on, don’t be anxious, don’t pray for show. And, honestly, I have found, sometimes, that prayers in silence do a lot more for my state of mind than praying out loud.

(Inspired by Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help us to pray better. Help me to pray better and more faithfully. I also pray for a better mindset when it comes to prayer. Help me to have consistent faith and practice, believing that You will answer my prayers, but not always, necessarily, the way I think they should be answered. After all, You are God, not me. I don’t need to explain the situation to you; I don’t need to tell you what kind of disease a person has. I don’t need to be frantic or anxious. There are no “emergencies” in Your Kingdom. Help us/me to live in this world with that same point of view. You are in control. Help me to remember that at all times, and to pray with that truth in mind.

As for praying without ceasing, that means not praying out loud for a long time, but, rather, walking through my day with my mind and soul focused on You, remaining, as much as possible in constant contact with You and being aware of Your presence throughout the day.

Why do we go to church?

This is a question that a former pastor (and still good friend) used to ask us. To our frustration, he never answered it. Hah!

I believe I have found an answer (at least partial) from Eugene H. Peterson, this morning, in his book, On Living Well.

First of all, he points out that worship is not voluntary. It is a requirement for anyone who calls the name of Jesus. But it is also not coerced. In generations past, the “church” official attempted to coerce people into going to church, even to the point of being punished when they were not in attendance. “But coercion is no attribute of God.”

One answer to the above-mentioned question, of course, is that we go to church to worship. But, some may object, we can “worship” anywhere, and this is, to a degree, true.

I believe that Peterson nails down a major reason for going to church, for meeting together with the saints on Sunday morning (or whatever day your group meets). That reason is for a witness; “a witness that God speaks to us and that we are ready to listen, a witness that God changes people and that we are changed by his action, a witness that God gives himself to us so that we may live and gladly receive his gift.”

You see, there are people in this world who are not aware that God is present and speaking and saving and giving Himself. They believe that, if He exists at all, He is remote and silent. Oh, sure, He’s a nice idea when crisis comes, but “they don’t know that God is right now speaking and changing lives and pouring out abundant life.” They need to know these things, and one way we show them is by the witness of “going to church.”

“When you walk into a house of worship and take your place – singing, praying, listening, receiving – you are a witness to this action of God, the greatest of all actions in the world. You are irreplaceable in this witness. No one has your particular slant on it.”

Each of us is unique. If one hundred people gather to worship and you are missing, the other hundred cannot replace you. Evangelism, says Peterson, “begins in the act of worship.”

Father, I pray that we would do better at being that witness for You. I am grateful that You are speaking to us and changing people and lives and giving Yourself to us that we may live. May we gladly and joyfully receive Your gifts, and spread them around our little “kingdoms” with great joy. Let us not become affected by the distress in the world, right now. Let the circumstances of life not steal our joy in You. These things, You have told us, will always be around. They were around when You walked the earth, they were around when Your disciples started Your Church, and they are around now. You are still in control, and You are still acting in people and circumstances. And it is our duty and responsibility, our requirement, to worship together, that You might be glorified.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! 
Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet.

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

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.

Speak. Listen. Understand.

Today is Wednesday, the first of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,456. Hah! I don’t imagine I will live long enough for that to happen again!! And, believe it or not, I did not see that coming.

C comes home today!! C comes home today!!! And we will do the dance of joy!

She is currently en route to the Chicago airport, to turn in her rental car and catch her flight home, which is due in at DFW at 3:28 PM. S and I will be there to joyfully pick her up.

I had a busy but good evening at the library, last night. There was plenty of work to do (and still was when I left). I shelved a full cart of DVDs and audio books, a few magazines, and some CDs, as well. And I had time to sort a full cart for the new book display, and then re-shelve a number of books that had been looked at, but not checked out.

The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays again, behind another stellar outing from pitcher Martin Perez. All of the runs in the game were scored in the bottom of the fourth inning, on two Rangers home runs. Perez only gave up three hits in seven innings, and the Rangers won 3-0. John King and Joe Barlow were perfect in relief, and Barlow is nine for nine in save attempts.

The Rangers are finally at .500, 24-24 for the season. They remain in third place in the AL West, seven games out of first and only two out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, tonight, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox lost to the Reds. Seriously. I mean, what gives, here??? 2-1. The Sox are now 23-27 for the season, somehow still in fourth place in the AL East, 11.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Reds again, today, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees (34-15) took back the best MLB record spot. And, after beating the Red Sox, the Reds are no longer at the bottom of the pile. That now belongs to the KC Royals, 16-32. The Reds are actually third from the bottom, now. The Blue Jays continue to hold the longest win streak, at six games, now. And the LA Angels (more dance of joy) continue losing, now having reached a six-game losing streak. The Dodgers now have a run differential of +116, almost 40 better than the next team (Yankees), and the Pirates now have a run differential of -81. That seems slightly improved. They are only eight runs worse than the Royals, who seem determined to have last place in all categories. The Rangers are now at +13 (woohoo!!!), and the Red Sox have drifted to +16.

The only thing on our agenda today is getting C home. Nothing else matters today. I’ll probably get a load of laundry folded, but it’s not urgent.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, in your Word we trust, in your Word of eternal life, given us in Jesus Christ our Savior. We build on this Word of life in these days when it seems that everything is losing strength and value, and yet there is so much longing in people’s hearts. You will not let our hope be disappointed. What you have spoken must be fulfilled. What is promised in Jesus Christ must come into being, not only for a few but for the whole world, for which he died and was raised from the dead. Be with us. Keep us so fully alive that our lives reflect all the goodness we are allowed to experience and we overcome all the evil which tries to attack us. We thank you for calling us to life and for renewing us again and again. May your name be praised among us forever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
(John 6:33 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that true bread of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ
2. that God will not allow our hope to be disappointed; what He has spoken will be fulfilled
3. that God never changes; Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever
4. for the awesome ways that God loves us
5. for words and language, may we do better at using them

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. 
Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 
for you are my safe refuge, 
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 
Let me live forever in your sanctuary, 
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! 
For you have heard my vows, O God. 
You have given me an inheritance 
reserved for those who fear your name.
(Psalms 61:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “forever.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8 NLT)

Things change. People change. Places change. Change can be good; change can be bad. I’ve never liked change simply for the sake of change. For example, when the grocery store rearranges everything for no apparent reason.

I’ve changed. Physically, I’ve changed quite a bit over the years. I get heavier, I get lighter, then I get heavier again. I don’t have as much hair as I used to have, and it isn’t the vibrant auburn-red that it once was. Philosophically and politically, I have changed quite a bit, over the past few decades. Hopefully, I am leaning more toward Jesus, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. And I’ve changed theologically, multiple times in my life, as I reflect on God’s Word, what it says, and what it means.

But God doesn’t change. Jesus never changes. The Holy Trinity is constant. We can depend on God, especially when other people, places, and things disappoint us.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1 NLT)

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
(John 1:9-13 NLT)

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
(1 John 4:9-10 NLT)

Do you ever stop to consider what a miracle words and language is? The very fact that we have “capacity to speak words and make ourselves understood and capacity to listen to words and understand” each other is astonishing. I’ve seen the movie “Quest for Fire.” Nothing but grunts and moans and gestures. Who knows if that was really what it was like, but I still think language is a miracle.

The problem is that just because we can speak words and sentences doesn’t mean we will do it well. Or that we will speak truth. “We can, and do, speak nonsense. We can, and do, tell lies.”

Words delight us because “they bring us into understanding relations with the world and into intimate relations with people.” But words also dismay us, “even destroy us, as they misrepresent or falsify or manipulate.”

It is sad, tragic, to me, that sometimes “pastors” fall prey to the temptation to do the latter.

The church entrusts certain people to be preachers and teachers and sort of puts them “in charge of the words.” Not, of course, to the extent that the Catholic Church was in charge of them before Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation.

“Your task,” says the church to these people, “is to make sure we hear and listen to these words. If we forget or devalue these words, we are going to miss the point of everything. We are going to miss God. There is a lot going on. There are things to do and places to go and people to meet. There are babies to change and payrolls to meet, meals to prepare and cars to repair, wounds to heal and problems to solve. In the crises and the challenges, the noise and the frenzy of all this, we need someone who will faithfully and accurately say the Word, proclaim the Word, teach the Word – and stay with us as we listen and pray and believe it.”

May God have mercy on the “pastor” who strays from this path and begins teaching his own opinions as gospel.

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

Father, I am grateful that You are constant, that You never change or waver in Your ways. I praise You that You are always here, always challenging me to be better, and always drawing me back to the path when I stray from it. I praise You that You hear my cries and lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

I am also so very grateful for Your great love, love which is unimaginable, yet easy to know. Your great love for us is that which allows us, nay, calls us to be Your children, and then has procured for us a place in Your kingdom and an inheritance that can never diminish or be corrupted. What a great love!

And I thank You for words and language. Sometimes, I will speak a word and then speak it over and over, listening to it and thinking about what it means. Sometimes there are visual images that go along with those words, but sometimes there are not. When I say the word, love, though, I am filled with both visual and non-visual feelings. Some people say that “love’s not a feeling,” but I vehemently disagree. It is “more than a feeling,” yes. But it is definitely something that is felt. It becomes reality when actions accompany that feeling. Until we act upon it, it is nothing more than platitude.

And, Father, You acted on that love in the most supreme and magnificent way. You sacrificed Your Son to enable us to become Your children.

Help us to get our words better, Lord. The world is messed up, right now, especially parts of Your church in America, where “pastors” are preaching opinions, trying to manipulate people, and, in some cases, downright lying. I pray for Your intervention, that Your Church might be seen as whole and unified. I know in my heart that Your Church is alive and well, but it seems that we are having to look a little harder to see it in the midst of the mess. And maybe, just maybe, that’s Your Holy Spirit, doing some pruning. There seems to be a lot of pruning going on, right now.

But I cannot thank You enough . . . there aren’t enough words, as it turns out . . . for Your great love. And I pray for strength to continue walking that love and displaying that love to a hurting and suffering world.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

How often do we miss the fainter note
Or fail to see the more exquisite hue,
Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet,
Eyes fixed upon some other, further view.
What chimes of harmonies escape our ears,
How many rainbows must elude our sight,
We see a field but do not see the grass,
Each blade a miracle of shade and light.
How then to keep the greater end in eye
And watch the sunlight on the distant peak,
And yet not tread on any leaf of love,
Nor miss a word the eager children speak?
Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart,
To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.
(Sonnet I, Philip Britts, 1947, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

A Kingdom of Masterpieces

Today is Tuesday, the thirty-first of May, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,455

Later, this morning, it will be time to take Mama to her follow-up visit to the podiatrist after having her toenail removed. It has been two weeks, and the appointment is for 11:00, this morning. We’ve been taking diligent care of the toe, each day, and it looks pretty good, at least as far as we know.

It is Tuesday, so I will be heading in to the library at 4:15 today, to work my four-hour shelving shift. I’m not planning to come home with another book, but who knows? Last week, I found a Dave Barry book and checked it out. I finished it last night, and it was hilarious. You can find my review of Best. State. Ever. at my other blog or at Goodreads.com. It’s exactly the same review, copied and pasted from Goodreads to my blog.

The Texas Rangers tunned the Tampa Bay Rays, last night, beating them 9-5. In the first inning, Eli White robbed the Rays of a three-run home run, and then hit a two-run homer in the bottom half. Rookie Josh Smith went 3 for 4 in his MLB debut, while his wife watched from the stands. That was very exciting, as well. Glen Otto got the win for the game. The Rangers are, once again, one game under .500 at 23-24, seven games out of first place and three games out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, today, at 7:05 CDT. Martin Perez will get the mound for Texas.

The Boston Red Sox had the kind of day you don’t want to talk about, yesterday, losing to the Orioles 10-0. I can’t even wrap my head around how that happened. The Sox are 23-26, in fourth place in the AL East, 10.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Cincinnati Red tonight. I’m afraid to look.

The New York Yankees and LA Dodgers are in a literal tie for the best record in MLB. Both of them are 33-15. The Cincinnati Reds and KC Royals are in a literal tie for the worst record. Both of them are 16-31. This is weird. The Toronto Blue Jays have the longest current win streak, at five games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at five games. The Dodgers are still way ahead of the pack in run differential, at +118. The Pirates are still at the bottom of the heap, with -83. The Rangers are at +10, and Boston is at +17.

I didn’t get to recap the PWBA Twin Cities Open, yesterday, as I ran out of time. Shannon O’Keefe climbed the ladder, winning four games in Sunday’s final show to take home the trophy. She beat Dasha Kovalova 227-159 (Dasha had a horrible game, missing non-split spares). O’Keefe then defeated Bryanna Cote (pronounced “coat-tay”) 228-163. The third game was a little closer, but not really, as Shannon beat Danielle McEwan 247-204. In the final round, O’Keefe beat the top seed Missy Parkin 213-192.

The St. Petersbury-Clearwater Open begins Thursday, June 2, at Seminole Lanes, in Seminole, Florida. The format will be identical to that of the Twin Cities Open, with practice on Thursday, two six-game qualifying rounds on Friday (cutting to top cashers), a six-game round Saturday morning to cut to top twelve, who will then bowl a six-game round Saturday evening to determine the top five for Sunday’s final ladder elimination. There will be 94 bowlers competing in this event, including all of my favorites.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we want to find our joy in you and in all your promises to us. For you have promised that in the midst of all the pain and sorrow, you are preparing what pleases you and serves your honor in every heart. May we experience in our lives the fulfillment of many of your promises, so that again and again we can go forward joyfully, rising above difficult times and situations. Have mercy on us and protect us in your strength. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
(1 John 2:24-25 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, through all circumstances, whether pleasant or painful, the Lord is preparing within me that which pleases Him and glorifies Him
2. for all the teaching I've had in my life, even that which was wrong, because it makes me think about things
3. that I am God's "masterpiece," created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared in advance for me
4. that, in Jesus Christ, God has ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation
5. that prayer pulls me toward the center; in praying, I become "most human" (Eugene Peterson)

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
(1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “masterpiece.”

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

“Masterpiece” is defined as “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.” Many of are more familiar with a translation such as the ESV that uses the word “workmanship” (the KJV also uses that word) to translate the Greek word “poiema,” which, as I have discussed in this blog before, related to our word “poem.” In fact, I believe I once quoted the Passion translation, which says, “We have become his poetry.”

A masterpiece is also that which is created by one’s own hands. We don’t get “cookie cutter” masterpieces. Masterpieces don’t get created by mass production, or by a bunch of monkeys jumping around on typewriters. Masterpieces are works of artistry, labors of love.

And you and I, if we are followers of Christ, are God’s labors of love, truly His masterpieces. I’ve seen it said (can’t remember where), “God don’t make no junk.” Ecclesiastes 3, a quite famous and popular chapter, thanks to Pete Seeger, says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”

I believe this is important for us to grasp, during these challenging days. Humanity is in the midst of a time when we are being made to feel inadequate. Everywhere we look, there are advertisements that threaten to make us feel like we are less than adequate if we don’t drive this car (it parks itself! “That’s so you!”), drink this beer, wear this brand of shoes or clothes, or use this brand of makeup. I mean, honestly, what was the intent of makeup to begin with, if not to convince someone that they weren’t “pretty” enough without it?

True story. I once worked with a pastor who said, when it was suggested that his wife didn’t have to put on makeup, “Well, she was wearing makeup when I married her!” I have no respect for that person, whatsoever, and he has no business shepherding God’s people. And that’s a rabbit trail I don’t intend to pursue, this morning.

The point is, we are God’s masterpieces, the works of His hands. Psalm 100 says this:

Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
(Psalms 100:3 NLT)

We are not all the same. God did not use cookie cutters when He created us. We are all unique in some way. And while some of us are not as “beautiful” as others (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?), we are each beautiful in our own way, as well, because we are His masteripieces!

And that means that, no matter what some bully or marketing scheme or abusive spouse or parent is trying to tell you . . .

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NLT)

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.
(1 Corinthians 12:13-14 NLT)

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NLT)

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
(Revelation 5:9 NLT)

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
of the world."

I remember growing up, singing that song in Sunday School. (Later, someone decided we needed to add “brown” in between “red” and “yellow.”) The beautiful scene in the book of Revelation, where the multitude of people proclaim the worthiness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is a wonderful depiction of the reality of that love that Jesus has for “all the children of the world.” In recent years, that passage in Revelation has become one of my favorite Bible passages. The diversity depicted is beautiful.

And God truly has ransomed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” And, even though we may all look different, we are also all the same, because we are equal in standing with Jesus Christ. Once again, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

I also believe that these verses, quoted above, further illustrate the idea that we are all God’s masterpieces. Especially that verse in Galatians that tells us that the differences that once separated us by race or sex or economic status have been eradicated.

It is simply beautiful, in my opinion. It is also my opinion that, if we are true followers of Christ, we will see and acknowledge that same beauty in all tribes, languages, people, and nations.

"Prayer is the act that pulls us into the center of what it means to be ourselves.
"In praying, we are becoming most human."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am grateful for prayer, even though I must confess that I do not engage in it enough, not nearly enough. I don’t come close to praying “without ceasing.” While I can acknowledge that I do pray many times, during any given day, there are also long periods where it is the furthest thing from my mind. I pray that I might remember more often, and when I tell someone I am praying for them or will pray for them, I ask that Your Spirit would remind me so that I do not forget and, thereby, let that someone down.

I thank You and praise You for the diversity within Your kingdom. The beautiful color palette of humanity is represented completely and perfectly withing Your kingdom, and we who would give preference to a particular race or color are simply wrong. I pray that that same sense of equality and diversity would work its way into our society, as well, although I fear that this will never happen. I know it will happen in eternity, as represented by John’s Revelation. I long to take part in that worship service that is described. I have no idea what “heaven” is going to look like, but I know I want to be there (wherever “there” is) and I know I want to participate in that multitude.

In the meantime, please continue to give us new songs to sing that praise Your holy name and lead us in that direction.

I praise You that You have made us masterpieces and You make everything beautiful in its time. Help us to see things with Your eyes; help us to see people with Your eyes, that we might see how beautiful they are to You. Help us to set aside our judgments, that are based on whatever they are based on. For some it is skin color; for some it is economic status; for some it is social status; for some it is language; and for some it is sexual orientation. There are, I’m sure, many other considerations. I guess I probably left out the biggest one in this country, right now, which is political affiliation.

So I pray, most desperately, that You would cause Your people to stop putting so much emphasis on political affiliation and simply be affiliated with You and Christ. Let the power of the Holy Trinity dwell within us, overcoming all obstacles and overcoming all of the tricks that our enemy is using to divide us. A house divided cannot stand. Father, please unite Your House. Make us like that multitude in Revelation.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Peace and war start within one’s own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our families. Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another. It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband. In order for love to be genuine, it has to be above all, a love for our neighbor. We must love those who are nearest to us, in our own family. From there, love spreads toward whoever may need us. It is easy to love those who live far away. It is not always easy to love those who live right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a needy person than to comfort the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.
(Mother Teresa, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of May, 2022, the seventh Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

I had a really great day at work, yesterday. It was fairly busy, which is nice, because it makes the day go by faster. As is usually the case (not always, though), it got a little busier, closer to closing time, and we wound up having a family checking out books right at 6:00 PM. We don’t mind, though . . . that’s why we are there, right?

C finished her bowling and arrived safely in Indianapolis, at R’s house, yesterday evening. Today, they are planning to visit the cat cafe that we went to last year. Good times. C is aware that we don’t need any more cats. I hope.

The Texas Rangers won big, yesterday, behind a grand salami by Marcus Simien, which happened to be his first home run as a Ranger! Finally! Final score was 11-4, over the struggling Athletics. Taylor Hearn, the starter, gained his third win of the season. The Rangers remain in third place in the AL West, but gained another game on the Astros, who have lost two in a row. They are still 3.5 out in the Wild Card race, though. They play the Athletics again today, to close out the series, at 3:05 CDT. They are 22-23, only one game below .500.

The Boston Red Sox split a double header with the Orioles, winning the first game 5-3 and losing the second 4-2. The Red Sox are now 22-25, still in fourth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They will play Baltimore again today.

The Yankees (33-14) lost a game, but continue to have the best MLB record. The Reds (16-30) and Nationals (17-31) are in a virtual tie for the worst record, with only .006 percentage points between them. The Blue Jays, Rangers, and Reds all have four-game winning streaks. The Rangers are on the verge of a sweep, if they can win today. The LA Angels have a four-game losing streak, the current longest. I am not unhappy about that at all. The Dodgers continue to be way ahead of everyone in run differential at +117. The Pirates continue to be way below everyone, at -82. The Rangers are green!! They have a +7 run differential. The Red Sox, after splitting that double header by the exact same number of runs, remain at +17.

The PWBA Twin Cities Open tournament has finished all qualifying rounds, and the finals will be at 4:00 PM, this afternoon, on CBS Sports Network. The top five bowlers are 1. Missy Parkin (San Clemente, CA) 2. Danielle McEwan (Stony Point, NY) 3. Bryanna Cote (Tucson, AZ) 4. Shannon O’Keefe (Belleville, IL) 5. Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine) Dasha is the reigning champion for this tournament, so I’m glad she made the finals. Kelly Kulick bowled the only 300, so far, but just missed the cut for qualifying round 4. She still made cash, though, as did Diana Zavjalova, from Latvia, and Daria Payak, from Poland. Stefanie Johnson, from McKinney, TX, was in the top 12, but didn’t make the finals. Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, who was last week’s top seed, placed sixth. Jen Higgins and Verity Crawley, two of my other favorites, did not cash in this tournament.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(Collect for Seventh Sunday of Easter, The Book of Common Prayer)
Lord our God, we thank you for allowing us to experience your power. We thank you that we need not be occupied with material things only. We thank you that your Spirit comes to our aid again and again. Grant that we may continue to have your help, and let many hearts find what a grace it is that in spirit we may walk in heaven even during this transitory life with all its foolish ways. We may say with complete assurance that everything tormenting and burdening will pass by. It passes by, and we go joyfully and confidently toward your kingdom, which continually gains in power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the abundant riches of God's mercy and grace
2. for the constant help and power of God that enables me to not be concerned about material things
3. that God, through my practice of spiritual disciplines, prepares me for whatever may come in my life
4. for my journey of faith, and the fact that, at 64 years old, my faith in God is stronger than ever
5. for "eternal intersections" where God's grace connects with our groping faith
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, 
whose sin is put out of sight! 
Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, 
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
(Romans 4:20-21 NLT)

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

That “Anonymous” person sure said a lot of wise things.

Any time we have an important undertaking ahead of us, whether it be a vacation trip, or some kind of work project, we prepare. We bring suitcases into the house the night before and start packing (our cats promptly position themselves on the suitcases, thereby making packing much more challenging). My wife makes lists of things to make sure we don’t forget. If I’m cooking a recipe, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients measured out before I start.

We prepare. And, as the quote above says, that is not wasted time. It ensures that there are no hitches as the event gets under way. Or at least increases that probability. I suppose there is no way to completely ensure that nothing will interrupt the process.

But there is another thought around the word “prepare.” Consider Psalm 23:5.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
(Psalms 23:5 NLT)

The word “prepare” generally means “make ready.” That can mean a number of things depending on the context. We’ve covered the idea of preparing things ahead of time, but it can also mean the act of, say, cooking. When we prepare a meal, we are actually cooking it, making it ready for consumption.

God prepares a banquet for us, right in front of our enemies. But guess what . . . I love Dallas Willard’s perspective on this. We do not hoard this banquet. We share it. Yes, with our enemies! We invite them to share in our blessings.

God also prepares me for whatever is coming next. As I practice disciplines (and I’m still not very good at that, mind you), He prepares me for the events of the day, of the week. If I am walking in His kingdom, I am prepared for anything that might happen, and nothing takes me by surprise. It is certain that nothing takes Him by surprised, because He is all-knowing, and already knows what is coming.

God prepares me, defends me, and will make straight paths for me.

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)

One other thought I just had. Jesus is clear that I’m not supposed to worry over what may happen tomorrow. If I am to succeed in that (and I frequently do not), I have to trust in His preparations for me. I have to not lean on my own understanding (or lack thereof, more likely) and trust that He is making my paths straight.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
(2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

I really like today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2022. Penney Schwab is the writer. She speaks of her heritage of faith, but makes the statement that she cannot point to the exact day or hour when she first began trusting in Christ. I can identify with this statement.

It is popular to be able to declare the exact hour that one “became a Christian.” For many people it is the repetition of a quite unbiblical phenomenon known as “the sinner’s prayer.” Believe me when I say that no such thing exists in God’s Word.

I can’t say when my journey of faith began, because I have loved Jesus for longer than I can remember. I do know that, at the age of nine, I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church, in Mineral Wells, Texas, and professed to be a believer in Christ (that was how one “joined the church,” also). But was that when I was “saved?” I don’t know. I had been going to Sunday School and memorizing Scripture and singing hymns and songs of praise for years before that event.

Later in my life, some well-meaning “evangelist” convinced me that, because I couldn’t remember saying the “right words” (again, I am confident that Scripture knows of no such “right words”), that I wasn’t really saved. So I got baptized again. I told people that I had really gotten “saved” that time.

I look back on those days with a small amount of embarrassment, but “it is what it is,” as “they” say. When we are in college, we tend to be somewhat gullible. Some folks never stop being gullible.

But I can share the kind of heritage that Ms. Schwab shares in this reading. I come from a long line of Christian people. I don’t know much about my great-grandparents, but I know that my grandparents were followers of Christ. Every time we went to visit them (both sides of the family) we went to church on Sunday mornings. On my mother’s side, it was always Crim’s Chapel Baptist Church, out in the country, near Henderson, TX. I always felt loved when I was there.

I remember on those Sunday mornings, after the service was over, it seemed like people gathered outside and talked for at least an hour, before finally dispersing to their homes and Sunday lunches. It probably wasn’t as long as it seemed to a young boy.

On my father’s side, it was either Pirtle Methodist Church, in Pirtle, TX (look it up), or whatever small Texas town that my step-grandfather happened to be ministering in at the time. Buffalo, Lovelady, Grapeland, Clute (that one was tough . . . down on the Gulf of Mexico, a looooong way from Minerals Wells), Edgewood, and maybe some I’ve forgotten.

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

There has never (and I say that in all seriousity) NEVER been a time in my life when I questioned my faith in God. There have been a few times when I questioned my salvation, but God always came through with a resounding “yes!” at those times.

The most memorable came in 1984. I had recently become divorced (several days before Christmas in 1983), and was taking some time in the summer to get away from things. I spent a week (maybe two, I can’t remember) at my grandmother’s house, outside of Henderson, and my grandmama’s house in Pirtle. One day, I was walking around in front of my grandmother’s house, where there used to be a swing set. Me and my cousins spent a lot of time out there. I was struggling, dealing with the emotions of what had been happening in my life.

In desperation, I cried out, “God, am I really Your child?”

Almost forty years later, and I’m getting chill bumps just remembering what happened next.

I swear to you, God reached down and HUGGED ME! I have never felt anything quite like it. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had in my entire life.

For anyone who foolishly declares that God does not exist . . . I can’t prove it. But I know you are wrong.

Today, I am 64 years old, just like in that Beatles song. My faith is stronger than ever. There are always questions, and, these days, I’m questioning more things than ever. But my salvation and faith in God are not part of those questions. I know that God loves me, and I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to either decrease OR increase that love.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14 NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

“God comes to us; we come to God; the meeting is salvation.”

It’s because of statements like this that I believe that salvation, rather than something that has a definitive moment, is more of a lifelong process. One popular writer (I can’t remember who, so this isn’t exactly a quote) said that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

This “meeting” of which Eugene Peterson speaks is not a single event. “We celebrate this meeting in our acts of worship.” In these times of worship, we find that “God’s coming and our coming result in real meeting, not simply an appearance of it.”

I’m quoting more because I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s exquisite wordsmithing.

“Worship heightens our awareness so that we can become conscious of the eternal intersections that take place in our hearts when God’s grace connects with our groping faith.

“Worship intensifies joy as the Word of God is spoken clearly and the voices of praise are harmonized in being and coordinated in affirmation.”

I had a meeting with God, that day in 1984. God came, I came, and we met together. And make no mistake. Even though I’m the one who asked the question, I in no way believe that I initiated that meeting. That was one of many “eternal intersections” where God’s grace connected with my groping faith in a powerful way.

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

Where do I even begin, Father? I am moved, this morning, beyond words. Yet I have somehow managed to type a plethora of them. I am still grateful for that “meeting” we had, back in 1984. It was truly a life-altering event, that I still remember quite vividly. In fact, I still have the Blue Jay feather that I found on the ground immediately following that meeting. It is a marker, a reminder of that time, as if I needed one.

These “eternal intersections” of which Peterson speaks are incredible, Father. If we were to truly examine our lives, we would find that there have been countless numbers of those intersections where Your grace connected with our groping faith. And if anyone says that their faith is never groping, I’m calling them liars. Or maybe their faith is in the wrong place. My faith, while strong in You, is week in me. I have little faith in my ability to stay connected. But that’s why it is faith, in the first place, right? My faith isn’t supposed to be in me, it is in You. The questions come from within me, and are about me and my place, not about You.

I mean, there will always be questions about You, because, until I get to meet You “in person,” there will be things that I do not comprehend about You.

I am grateful for the heritage of faith that I share in my family. I pray that I have done an adequate job of passing it along. I fear, at times, that I have failed, but that is not in my hands, is it? I do know that I am fully convinced, as Abraham was, that You are completely and utterly faithful to do that which You have promised. You will do what You say You will do. I praise You for that.

I also praise You for preparing me, daily, for life. I don’t always walk in that preparation, I confess. You make my paths straight, but it’s I who walk crookedly. Sometimes I must appear spiritually “drunk,” I must stumble around so badly. But praise to You for always bringing me back to that straight path. You show me the way, Father, and I know that in Your presence there is joy forevermore, and pleasures everlasting. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Faith cannot be acquired by a decision of the will: it is a gift from God. Yet it can be given to everyone who seeks it. As Jesus says, “Seek, and ye shall find.” What counts here is trust. Faith is not dependent on reason – on theories, theological systems, or other intellectual explanations. It is belief, precisely in the absence of these things. Mary had reason enough to doubt the angel who came to her from God, but instead she believed – “Here am I, a handmaiden of the Lord” – and received the Word in her heart. It can be that simple!
(J. Heinrich Arnold, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

From Messy to Magic

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fourth of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,448

It’s Tuesday, so I’ll be working my four-hour shift at the library, tonight, re-shelving books (or magazines and DVDs). There is, of course, a strong likelihood that more books will be added to my “TBR” list. At this point, there is not much likelihood that I will check out anything new. But you never know.

There was no baseball last night. Well, none that mattered to me, anyway. Both the Rangers and Red Sox had the day off. Just for kicks, though, the NY Yankees (29-13) still have the best MLB record, even though they have lost three in a row. They are still chasing win number thirty. The Cincinnati Reds (12-29) still have the worst record. They are also still one game behind the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox now share the longest win streak (five games) with two other teams, the San Diego Padres and the Minnesota Twins. The SF Giants and KC Royals still share the longest losing streak, also five games. The LA Dodgers continue to beat up on their opponents, having the highest run differential, at +97! That is 32 runs higher than the second place Yankees. Wow. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the lowest run differential, at -87.

In the PWBA USBC Queens tournament, I was disappointed that none of my favorites made the final show, which happens tonight. The five ladies who will be bowling tonight, in order of seed are Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, Birgit Noreiks, from Germany, Laura Plazas, from Bogota, Danielle McEwan, from Stony Point, NY, and Hope Gramly, from Aubrey, TX.

Here are some interesting facts. The top seed for the finals, Clara Guerrero, finished 37th of 64 in the qualifying rounds. Birgit Noreiks, second seed, finished 50th in qualifying. Laura Plazas, third seed, finished 63rd out of 64 in qualifying! Danielle McEwan finished third in qualifying, and Hope Gramly finished 22nd. D-Mac was the only top ten qualifier to make the show. One of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, finished sixth, over-all, not quite making the show. If I heard correctly, she still gets a payout of $10,000, which isn’t bad for a week’s work. I wish best of luck to all five finalists, tonight. I’ll be recording the show while I’m at work, so I can watch it. I don’t really have a preference as to who wins. But I will say that I really enjoyed watching Ms. Plazas bowl, yesterday, during the last match to determine the final three spots on the ladder. I’m also glad to see someone from Texas, my home state, in the running.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We thank you, dear Father in heaven, for the many times you let us experience that we do not need to despair because of darkness, weakness, or sickness. You hear the desires of our hearts. You love us for all that we love when we love the Savior and when we praise his name. Let us remain in this spirit. Come to us with many proofs of your power, to the glory of your name. Come in the inner quiet of heart through which we are able to grasp what it means for us that you are our Father in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
(Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the time of the Lord's favor, when the captives will be released, the blind will see, and the oppressed will be set free; Good News to the poor!
2. that life can get messy, because that forces me to sit still and wait on God, knowing with great confidence that He is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming
3. that we, the people of God, are also supposed to be in the business of the things in number 2
4. for the Light of the world that overcomes the darkness
5. for the desire to seek after the wisdom that comes from above

Today’s prayer word is “messy.” As I suspected, I can’t find that word anywhere in the Bible. Here’s a quote, though, from the inimitable Audrey Hepburn:

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

There seems to be enough evidence to support that she actually said that. And it’s a remarkable statement, I think. I find that I agree with it. Yet, we, as human beings, are terrible at throwing out people. We give up on people. I see comments on social media almost every day to which I react, “I am certainly glad our Father in heaven doesn’t think that way.”

Life is messy. But that isn’t the final prognosis. Because, you see, we have a God who is in the business of restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming. All of these things is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ, via the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Trinity is involved in all of these things in our lives.

All we have to do is be still and know . . . seriously, we just need to sit still for a moment and consider the work of God, His kingdom that is available right now, for us to walk in. It is at that point that the messy either gets straightened up, or maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter any more.

The writer of today’s reading, named Roberta (I suspect it is Roberta Messner), writes of something her sister once said to her. “Don’t fret, Pet. It has to bet better. You gotta have the messy before the magic.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I am reminded of the opening line’s of M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Father, I thank You for the messes. It is in those messes where we realize the reality of life, and what Paul meant when he told us to give thanks in all circumstances. I also praise You that You are, truly, restoring us, renewing us, reviving us, reclaiming us, and redeeming us, all the time. All the time, because I keep wandering off the path, which causes You to have to restore me or reclaim me. I ask forgiveness for this, and ask for Your help in keeping me on the path so things don’t get quite so messy.

Sometimes the messes are my fault, and sometimes they are just natural happenings, outside of my control. Help me to be repentant when they are my fault, to change my way of thinking, so that I don’t find myself in those messes. I love when You turn the messes into “magic” or into “marvelous.”

“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
(Luke 11:33-36 NLT)

“Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.”

What a sobering statement by our Savior.

Father, I pray desperately that the “light” that I think I have is really “light,” and not darkness. I struggle with various “truths,” these days, because there seems to be a dearth of truth in this world. So many people out there are talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” as if to imply that there are multiple truths. I believe, with all my heart, that there is only one truth. I’m just not sure that we have found it quite yet. Sure, I know that there are pieces of it that are firmly intact. Jesus is Lord; He has lived, died, and was resurrected, paying the cost for all my sin and paving the way for me to have access to You.

But there are many what I call “peripheral” things that even people within Your Church are arguing over. We are grappling with so many things. If I’m going to be wrong about something, I prefer to err on the side of love, on the side of mercy, especially on subjects that do not, in fact, determine the eternal destination of one’s soul. And contrary to the popular belief of some, most of those issues do not, none of those issues, in fact, determine whether one is a Christian.

Please, Father, give us wisdom, sensibility, and sensitivity when it comes to these things. Help us to love more than we hate. In fact, help us to not hate at all. Have mercy on us, and then show us how to extend that same mercy and grace to everyone else.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Say “Yes!”

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,444

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

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

Today’s prayer word is “yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

I love The Message version of the Luke passage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a brief word from Eugene Peterson.

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

(From On Living Well)

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

But here’s the thing.

He

Is

Closer!

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

Just say “Yes!” to worship!

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

This song wrecks me, every time.

Grace and peace, friends.

Promises, Promises

Today is Thursday, the nineteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,443

We stayed up (well Mama, S, and I) to watch the end of last night’s Texas Rangers game, and I’m glad we did. It went into extra innings after Matt Bush blew the save in the top of the ninth. They were ahead 4-2, and for reasons that only God Himself knows, Chris Woodward elected to not use the closer. Bush blew the save, and the game was tied 4-4. The Rangers got bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but were unable to plate a run. My new favorite Texas Ranger, Jonah Heim struck out.

The Angels scored in the top of the tenth, because of the loathsome “zombie runner” lunacy that was instituted in the shortened pandemic season. That was all well and fine for that weird year. But it should not be continued. It’s a little league thing, in my opinion, and has no place in “grown-up” professional baseball. So the Rangers were behind 5-4 going into the bottom of the tenth. Zombie runner on second base, Nathaniel Lowe plonks the first pitch into the right-field stands to win the game. Walk-off home run.

You might say, “But the zombie runner helped them win.” My response to that is that the zombie runner also put them behind. With no zombie runner, the score still would have been 4-4 in the bottom of the tenth, and Lowe’s home run still wins the game.

I’m also glad Bush didn’t wind up getting the win. One of the things that MLB desperately needs to change is allowing a pitcher to blow a save and then come away with a win if the team wins in the bottom of that inning. No pitcher who blows a save should ever get credit for a win.

Anyway, the most important thing is that the Rangers won, and that they swept the Angels! Final score, 6-5. Dennis (I think I called him Danny, yesterday) Santana got the win again. The Rangers are now 17-19, only two games below .500. They are in third place in the AL West, five games behind the Angels, who were tied for first until last night. The Rangers begin a four game weekend series against the first place Astros tonight, in Houston. Bring ’em on! Game time is 7:10 CDT.

Speaking of the Astros, the Red Sox beat them soundly, yesterday, 5-1, behind a very strong outing by starter Rick Pivetta. The Sox are now 15-22, in fourth place in the AL East, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore, and 4.5 behind the Blue Jays. The Sox play the Mariners tonight, in Boston, at 7:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees (28-9) keep winning. They still have the best MLB record, and still haven’t lost that tenth game. Somebody please beat them!! The Reds (10-26) still have the worst MLB record, by a game and a half. The LA Dodgers continue to have the best run differential, at +83, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the worst, at -71. The Rangers have reduced theirs to -4. The Dodgers also have the best win streak, currently at five. (The Rangers have a four-game win streak.) The Orioles and Diamondbacks are still tied with the “best” losing streak, at six consecutive losses.

Today being Thursday, I will be heading to the library for my eight-hour shift at 11:15 today, working until the library closes at 8:00. My shift goes until 8:15, because it takes a few minutes to do our closing process, which involves several of us walking through the stacks to make sure no one is still in there, and also checking the restrooms. I will be starting a crockpot soup as soon as I finish my blog, this morning. Today it will be Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken, which we have tweaked a bit (not much) to make it more of a soup. We just add more cream of chicken soup and a little more chicken.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you that we have often felt you close to us. We thank you that you are near us and that you strengthen the weak. Remember us and give each one the help he needs to be true to his calling. Remember all humankind and grant that we may go forward in spirit and in truth. Give new light to the peoples who are still in great darkness. Let your kingdom and your reign be revealed and your name at last be honored by all. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I love you, LORD, my strength. 
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
(Psalms 18:1-2 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the nearness of God and His help to be true to that which He has called me
2. that God is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer
3. that God has called me to spread the message of love for one another
4. for the great and precious promises of God that enable me to partake in His divine nature
5. for the community of saints and how they have encouraged and loved me, through the years; may I be as loving and encouraging in response
6. for language; that You speak to us, and that we can speak to You in response

The prayer word for today is “promise.”

Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.
(2 Samuel 7:28 NIV)

It is almost ludicrous to compare the promises that God has made to His people to promises that we make one another. Every time I’m watching a TV show and one person says to another, “I promise I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” I feel like shouting back at the TV. Because no one has that ability. There is not a human being on earth that can keep that promise.

And guess what. God never promised that, either. God has not promised that He will keep anything “bad” from happening to us. God didn’t even keep anything bad from happening to Himself! Have you considered that?

The idea of “promise” is tricky. There are many things in the Bible that people say are promises that are not promises. The biggest one is the thing that fuels that “prosperity gospel,” which is, of course, no “gospel” at all. One of their main verses is the second verse of 3 John.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 NLT)

Looking at it in KJV makes it a little clearer as to why the prosperity people like it so much.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
(3 John 1:2 KJV)

You see, KJV actually uses the word. “Prosper.” Oddly, the Greek word there literally means, “to help on the road,” or “succeed in reaching.” But here’s the thing. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) That is not a promise. It’s not even God speaking. This is a greeting from John, the author of the epistle, to his “dear friend,” Gaius. Basically, it is John saying, “Hey, there, I hope all is well with you!”

That’s all it is.

But there are some promises that God has made to us. One of my favorites is in Isaiah 41:10.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

And while the word “promise” is not used there, I believe that any time God says the words, “I will,” He is making a promise, because God will do what He says He will do.

Here’s another statement that Jesus made, that I believe is also a promise.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:27-30 NLT)

I read this as a promise that my eternal salvation is secure.

Finally, I will mention a verse in 2 Peter. Several verses, actually.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
(2 Peter 1:3-7 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for Your “great and precious promises,” through which I can share in Your divine nature. I pray that You help me to respond properly to these promises, that I might escape the corruption in the world that is caused by human desires. May I supplement my faith with moral excellence, and with knowledge, and with self control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly affection and love for everyone! And because of Your great and precious promises, help me to be faithful to keep promises that I make here on earth. And remind me, before I open my mouth and make some promises, that there are some “promises” that simply cannot be kept. Give me the wisdom to know when to not make those promises.

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. . . . And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
(Philippians 1:3, 6 NLT)
In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry. 
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. 
May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. 
May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. 
Interlude 
May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. 
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
 May the LORD answer all your prayers.
(Psalms 20:1-5 NLT)

Side note: Is Philippians 1:6 a promise? We have certainly looked at it as one, historically. I am not 100% sure that it a promise. I believe it is true, mind you. I do believe that God will complete the work that He has begun in me. But this verse is, not unlike the verse in 3 John, part of Paul’s opening greeting to the Philippians, and is more of an encouragement than a promise. Just my nickel’s worth.

The idea behind these readings, though, is community. Paul opens Philippians by thanking God for them. He is grateful to God for the people he has encountered in his journeys. Do we feel the same way about the people we have encountered, the people with whom we worship on a regular basis? Do we encourage them? Do they encourage us?

Paul’s certainty that God will complete the work He has started is directed toward the Church in Philippi, not any individual within that group. This is another thing to consider when we are considering “promises.” Are they made to us as individuals, or to us as the Church?

Then I look at Psalm 20 in that same light. What a wonderful blessing/prayer is the first five verses of that Psalm! I may start alternating that with the traditional Aaronic blessing from Numbers. I challenge anyone who reads this to pray Psalm 20:1-5 over someone today.

Father, I am grateful for the people You have placed in my life, through the years. Most assuredly, I am grateful for the community of saints, the believers with whom I have worshiped in my life, in all the various places. Many of them encouraged me; some of them taught me; some of them challenged me, and not always in a good way. Most of the, though, loved me, and that is the most important thing. Help us to remember that most important part, Father. When someone in the Body of Christ challenges us or annoys us, help us to remember the command from Jesus that we are to love each other in the same way that He has loved us. This is a difficult challenge, at least for me. So I pray for the help of the Holy Spirit in times when I am challenged by another believer.

Father, You work all things together for our good. I believe that is a promise. When we love You and are called according to Your purpose, You are actively working for our good (we have to remember that “good” is according to Your definition, though, not ours). Since You are actively working for our good, then we should also be actively working for each other’s good, as best as we are capable of understanding that.

“God speaks to us. This is the great foundational fact of our faith.” In His speaking, God has brought us both into existence, as well as into salvation.

Regardless of what we believe about the length of time that creation took, I think we can agree that God spoke things into existence. He created everything, ex nihilo, by speaking. In his song, “AlrightOKuhhuhAmen,” Rich Mullins said, “Well the Lord said let there be and there was.” He initiated language, and with that language, he brought things into existence.

Side note: I believe it is worth noting that God created “light” on the first day, but didn’t create the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day. Ponder that, eh?

“Language is the means by which what is unknown becomes known and what is hidden becomes accessible.” God brings His will into existence through language.

“In return, we speak to God. This is the great foundational consequence of our faith.” We do not bring anything into existence with our language, at least nothing that is “new,” or was not already in existence. Let me clarify this. Certainly, being created in God’s image, we are able to create, to a degree. But we do not create ex nihilo. While God can, according to Romans 4:17, create new things out of nothing, we cannot.

But what can and does happen when we speak is that “our speaking brings into the open his glory, our assent to his creating and saving Word, and our sheer and exultant joy in him.”

“Language–this wonderful gift, this mysterious capacity that we have to say who we are, to bring out into the open the secrets of our hearts, the nuances of our emotions, and the thoughts whether confused or clear in our minds–is our basic means for working out who we are by answering god, responding to his invitations and commands.”

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

But there is a warning about language, as well, seen in the little book of James, perhaps one of the most difficult books of the Bible to digest.

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. 
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
(James 3:1-12 NLT)

Father, when I consider Your works of Your “fingers,” the moon and stars, like the psalmist, I am amazed and think, “what is man that You are mindful of him?” I consider that You, in Your wondrous majesty, simply spoke language and things came into existence. I believe, perhaps, that we should beg forgiveness for even entertaining the notion that we could also call things that are not as though they are.

I praise You for Your creation. I praise You for speaking those words and bringing the universe into being, because that universe includes me and all of those whom I love. It also includes beauty; things that I can see with my eyes (another miracle); mountains, oceans, trees, flowers, deserts, colors, the myriad of stars that I can see in the night sky, which You know by name.

I pray that You, by Your Spirit, which resides within my soul, would help me to respond correctly to Your language, using language that You have also created. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. And may my words not be like James warned against. I pray that blessings and cursings would not both come out of my mouth; that I would not be hypocritical. That is so difficult, sometimes, as I’m sure many would agree with me. But it is how we should be as people of Christ. So, as I call myself by the name of Christ, may my tongue represent that Name well on this earth. And when I am tempted to say things that would be unbecoming to a child of Yours, please stop me and make me reconsider.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Little Is Much When God Is In It

Today is Wednesday, the eighteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,442

I had a pretty average evening at the library, last night. I had plenty of work, and shelved a pretty full cart of youth books, along with a partial cart of DVDs. That kept me busy for a little over three hours, and then I did my walk through the library, picking up stray books and marking them “used” in our system. We do that simply to indicate that someone at least showed some interest in the item, even if they didn’t wind up checking it out.

The Texas Rangers surprised the Angels in an eighth inning similar to what the Boston Red Sox are kind of famous for. The Rangers scored first in the bottom of the first. But the Angels answered with three in the top of the third. The Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, right after I got home. It was tied until the top of the seventh when the Angels scored on a Mike Trout solo homer. But then, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Rangers erupted for seven runs! They held on and wound up winning 10-5. Danny Santana got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 16-19 for the season, all alone in third place in the AL West. They are one game ahead of Seattle, two games ahead of Oakland, and seven games behind the first place Astros. The Rangers and Angels will play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, facing the fearsome Shohei Ohtani. Dane Dunning will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Red Sox lost to the aforementioned Astros, 13-4. Egad. They are 14-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Orioles. They have another game against the ‘stros, tonight at 6:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees still have the best MLB record, 27-9, and still have not lost that tenth game. The Cincinatti Reds still have the worst record, 10-26, but finally won their tenth game. They are only one game below the Washington Nationals, though. The longest win streak is now a tie between the LA Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, both with a four-game win streak. The Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks are tied for the longest losing streak, both at five games. The Dodgers are back on top of the run differential chart, with +81. The Pittsburgh Pirates overtook the Reds for the worst differential, now with -72. The Rangers’ run differential, after last night, is down to -5.

I’m off work today, as this is my “light week.” I’m about to head to the store to grab a few things. The lawn guy is coming around noon, and I’m planning to cook Pecan-Crusted Chicken for dinner tonight. I’ll be at work tomorrow, 11-8, so we will likely have some crock pot soup for tomorrow’s dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Father of us all, grant that we may know something of you in our hearts. Each one of us is different, with his own particular needs, but we are all your children and should all become children of your Spirit. Then even in the difficulties of life, in the many struggles, temptations, and sorrows, we can keep up our courage and remain in the Spirit, who is victorious in every aspect of life. Protect and strengthen us on all our ways. We praise you for all you have done and for all the help you have given us. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:15b-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my coffee
2. to be an heir of God and co-heir with Christ
3. that all I really need to be willing to do is small acts of daily kindness
4. that all of our small acts of daily kindness can add up in the community of saints
5. for the priesthood of all believers
6. for the availability of God's Word in my language (something many of us take for granted)
Sing praises to God, sing praises; 
sing praises to our King, sing praises! 
For God is the King over all the earth. 
Praise him with a psalm. 
God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne.
(Psalms 47:6-8 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “morsel.”

Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
(Proverbs 17:1 ESV)

I can attest to the truth of this Proverb. Not that I have ever been reduced to only being able to eat a “dry morsel.” But I have certainly feasted in a house full of strife, and the meal leaves much to be desired.

But, truthfully, that is not really the thrust of this word, today. The idea in today’s reading coincides with a song I have heard that says, “Little is much when God is in it.”

We all have this desire to do “big things” for God, right? I used to want to be a rock star, then I wanted to be a “Christian rock star.” I wanted to do great things for God. There is also a possibility that I really just wanted to be noticed and famous.

At this point in my life, having never been famous or a rock star, I simply want to be willing to do small things for God. “Little acts . . . in the Lord’s faith hands become precious morsels that go down sweet.” Simple acts of kindness are sometimes all that is needed in this world, today. Other people can handle the big stuff. I just want to be one who shows love and kindness in my own little corner of this world.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You would allow me to be a “precious morsel” in Your kingdom, showing small acts of kindness to people with whom I come in contact. Let me be willing to provide the simplest of acts, maybe nothing more than a friendly smile, a cup of water, or a generous tip to a server. You have given me this desire, so I pray for opportunities to live it out.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.
(Romans 16:1-4 NLT)

But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:17-18 NLT)

What happens when you have a bunch of morsels all together? You get a meal! Even Paul, that “giant” of faith, didn’t do things by himself. His work could hardly be called a “morsel,” but he collaborated with others, and he always was sure to give them credit in his greetings.

What was the first thing in creation about which God said it was “not good?”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
(Genesis 2:18 NLT)

As much as I enjoy being alone, we are not expected to be alone in our work for God. We need each other. We need community. There are some things that I can do alone, sure. Some of those “morsels” I mentioned above can be done by myself. But I could never have donated 1700 pairs of socks to a homeless ministry by myself.

Just something to ponder, this morning.

Father, I thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ; the ones I know personally, and gather with regularly, as well as all the ones that I have never met and will never meet until the day we all stand in glory together. Together, we can do great things. May we spread Your love, mercy, and grace around the world!

One of the beautiful things about this community of saints is this thing that we call “the priesthood of all believers.” I have heard that phrase for most of my life, having grown up Southern Baptist. One of the things that this means, and probably the most important in Baptist life, is that we don’t need a priest (as in Catholic) to read and interpret Scripture for us. This was one of the big tenets of the Reformation, because, before Martin Luther came on the scene, the average parishioner did not have their own copy of the Bible. And it wasn’t available in their language, anyway, as all the copies were in Latin. So only the priest could read it.

One thing this does not mean, however, is that everyone’s interpretation is valid. That would be pure chaos. We still need people who are educated in biblical history and context. But, more importantly, we need the Holy Spirit. And it is my contention that no one can truly understand the Bible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. And no one who is not in Christ has the Holy Spirit.

The other piece of the priesthood of all believers is that we have the ability, in this community of saints, to be priests to one another, ‘with each of us mediating grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and with each of us capable of connecting with another in a way that brings God’s love home with personal force.” Eugene Peterson even goes so far as to word it “the leadership of all believers.”

“Leadership is that capacity everyone has for taking the first step, making it possible for others to follow–the capacity to connect with another so that others can get in on what we are in on. What we are ‘in on’ is Christ.”

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

My desire and hope in this is that I am taking those “first steps” by promoting the love of God through any forum I can access. If I can get just one or two people to follow in that, then maybe they can also be leaders in their own community, as well, and maybe we can have this “love revolution” that I’m praying for.

Father, I thank You for this idea of the priesthood of all believers. I thank You that, first of all, I have the access to read and understand Scripture in my own language. I also thank You that, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to be priests and leaders to one another, showing Your love, mercy, and grace to not only all other believers, but the rest of the world, as well. I pray that there would be more of a spirit of unity in Your Church, and that we would focus on the things that really matter, like walking in Your kingdom, and displaying the love of Christ in our world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.