Take My Hand

Today is Monday, the thirty-first of January, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of January.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,335

Today’s header photo is courtesy Paul Militaru. Please check out his fine photography at the link provided.

Yesterday was a day. It was, as it turns out, a pretty good day, but it was one of the more stressful days that I can remember, lately, and quite exhausting, at least mentally.

Right off the bat, let me say that no one was to blame for this. Circumstances arose that were out of anyone’s control, beginning, at least for our involvement, Saturday evening.

But what this is going to turn into, as the ongoing circumstance develops, is a praise report.

Look back a couple days ago, or so, and you will see an entry called “Disastrophe.” In it, I wrote about how the book of Ezekiel shows us that God works in and through catastrophe in our lives. We experienced the truth of this, yesterday.

The circumstance is that the plumbing in my mother’s house is clogged up, right now. Both toilets are backing up, and there are other issues, but the toilets are the primary, priority issue. We were already planning to go over there, yesterday, as S had an event at FBC that she wanted to attend, and we planned to have her there for that. So when Mama called Saturday evening to tell us about the problems, we decided to wait until Sunday morning to try to deal with them.

We dropped S off at the church and went over to the house. We chatted for a little while, serious talk about the eventuality that my mother wants to . . . okay, she doesn’t want to, but feels that the time is nigh for her to leave her home of almost sixty years. And, she expressed, to our surprise, her desire to come live with us for a while. Surprise because it had been previously expressed that she did not want to stay at our house, but might want an apartment or senior living space somewhere nearby.

After we talked a little while, and before we headed back up to the church for the worship service and lunch afterward, C took the short snake that we had brought and tackled one of the toilets. She actually got it to flush, and we went on to church.

As for plumbers, Mama had not been able to successfully contact any. She had called one that had been recommended, but had not been able to talk to them, as they had not returned her calls. While we were at church, I ran across a family friend, one of my high school teachers who is active in the visitation of elderly people who don’t get out much (we used to call them “shut-ins” when I was a kid), who gave me a name of a guy who does work like that, not an official “plumber,” but a handyman of sorts, who has actually done work for Mama before. But she was not aware that he was still doing work like that.

We got home from lunch, finally, and gave her the name. Of course, she remembered him, and still had his number. We talked some more, mostly about what kinds of things would need to happen in order for Mama to come live with us, and what kind of time line we were looking at. We are concerned with two things, at this point. One is getting the plumbing/toilets fixed asap, and the other is that there is an extreme cold front coming in mid-week, with snow and temps dropping to single digits. Doesn’t look anything like last year’s “Snovid” event, but still a bit unsettling. C really wanted to bring her home with us last night.

Shortly before we were getting ready to leave, Mama tried to call the guy, but he did not answer. She left him a message. We went to Braum’s to get her some milk and orange juice (and I needed to use the restroom). We got the milk and OJ, but someone was in the men’s room the entire time we were there! I waited close to fifteen minutes, too! One customer, as I was leaving opined that he would have just used the ladies’ room, as they are single occupancy. C even offered to stand watch while I did that, but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Silly, perhaps, but whatever.

So we went back to the house (I figured I could wait on the restroom until we hit up a convenience store on the way out of town in a few minutes) to deliver the milk and OJ. Just as we were saying our goodbyes, the phone rang. Mama figured it was a good friend who was supposed to call her back, but it was the handyman. We waited while she talked to him. He is supposed to be there, sometime this morning, with a super-duper snake machine, and feels that he can fix the problem.

So let’s lay out how we believe God worked through all of this. I realize that skeptics would call all of this coincidence. I, personally, do not believe in coincidence or “luck” (even though I do, sometimes, use the word “lucky”). I ran into my old teacher/family friend at church, who gave me the name of the handyman that my mother had used before and trusted. Now, here’s the thing that blows my mind. If I had not been delayed at Braum’s, trying to use the restroom, an inconvenience and annoyance to me, because whoever was in there wouldn’t come out, we likely would not still have been at Mama’s house when the guy called back, and would have left her with little peace about what was going to happen. As it turns out, we had great peace when we left, and were able to relax and get a good night’s sleep when we got home.

So, catastrophe, yes. Stressful, to the max, yes. But God worked. It is not finished yet, but we at least have something in the works that has good potential. And there is the beginning of a plan to move my mother into our house, soon. No idea how soon, but it’s at least in the works.

Well, that got long, and probably could have been its own entry, but I’ll carry on from here. Today is a typical Monday. C is back at the office again, and I’ll be doing some housework, during the day. It’s my “heavy” week at the library, working Tuesday evening, all day Wednesday, Friday (weather permitting), and Saturday.

I have also managed to get in my Wordle for the day.

Wordle 226 4/6*



"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
For you are my rock and my fortress; 
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; 
Make your face shine on your servant; 
save me in your steadfast love! 
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD! 
(Psalms 31:3, 16, 24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way God works through apparent catastrophes
2. that the Lord is my rock and my fortress and that He leads me and guides me
3. for the sovereignty of God over all creation
4. that You are holding me by the hand, leading me to live right and well
5. that You bind up that which was broken (Ezekiel 34:16)
“Hear My Prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee.”
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 
He lived among the tombs. 
And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 
for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. 
No one had the strength to subdue him. 
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 
And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
 I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 
For he was saying to him, 
"Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 
And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, 
"My name is Legion, for we are many." 
And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 
Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 
and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." 
So he gave them permission.
 And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; 
and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
(Mark 5:1-13 ESV)

Can you picture this scene in your imagination? What do you think this “wild man” looked like? Living in the tombs, according to Luke’s version, he was also naked, wearing no clothes. Night and day, he would cry out or howl and cut or bruise himself with stones. Sounds like the making of a good adventure movie, doesn’t it? Can you imagine what the howls sounded like?

Notice that the demons inside the man recognized Jesus immediately, running to Him, and throwing the man down at His feet. The “spokesdemon” even begged Jesus not to torment him. I wonder how Jesus looked at this man . . . what kind of expression did He have on His face?

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 
And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, 
the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 
And those who had seen it described to them 
what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 
And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 
And he did not permit him but said to him, 
"Go home to your friends and tell them
 how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 
And he went away and began to proclaim 
in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. 
(Mark 5:14-20 ESV)

Can you now imagine the man, clothed, and sitting in front of Jesus, “in his right mind?” Why do you think the people begged Jesus to leave? Was it because they were so selfish that all they could think about was their pigs? I suppose that is always possible, knowing humanity the way we do. But I think there is also a key in verse 15. “They were afraid.” Something, someone “Other” was in their midst. Someone who had the kind of power that could do this thing, someone who was more powerful than whatever it was that had plagued this man for a long time.

I can’t help but wonder what it felt like to be in His presence at that moment. I have to believe that the air must have been thick with the power and presence of God. I mean, I know what it feels like when I get a taste of His presence in my room, here. This had to have been multiplied exponentially!

Do we know someone who might be suffering in the way that this man was suffering? Perhaps not possessed by “legions” of demons, but suffering in some other way. How can we pray for these people? We can speak to God, through Jesus, the One who has this kind of power, and we can have confidence that He will answer.

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

(From Pray As You Go)

"I am GOD. 
I have called you to live right and well. 
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe." 
(Isaiah 42:6 MSG)
Of David.

 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. 
(Psalms 138:1-8 ESV)

In that Isaiah passage, there are several translations that have God saying, “I will hold your hand,” or, “I will take you by the hand.” Surely we are all familiar with the image of God holding us in His hand. Who doesn’t know the old gospel song, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands?” But how often do we think of God, whose “hand” is big enough to hold the world, taking our hand and holding us by the hand?

What a wonderful image. Just as God called Isaiah to “live right and well,” my God has called me to do the same, and He has pledged to take responsibility for me. There are many times in my life that I have experienced Him holding me in His hand or in His arms. But I have also known times when I believe that He is holding me by the hand and leading me.

Someday, that righteous right hand that gives me the confidence to “be not afraid,” will take my hand and lead me Home.

And today’s prayer word is “broken.” How’s that for “coincidence?” The verse given is short and sweet, from Ezekiel 34:16, where God says,

"I will . . . bind up the broken . . ."

Most translations render that “injured” rather than broken. However, the KJV says this:

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
(Ezekiel 34:16 KJV)

Father, in the spirit of Ezekiel 34:16, today, I ask You to bind up my mother’s “broken” plumbing. Bring healing to whatever needs to be fixed in her house, please. I call upon that same power that Jesus had when He cast the legions of demons out of that wild man in the tombs, restoring him to his right mind. I call upon You who take us by the hand, that same hand that holds the entire world, to lead us onward, to lead us Home, eventually. You have given us grace upon grace, and I pray that this continues, as You demonstrate how You work in and through disasters and catastrophes. You have given peace in the midst of the “storm,” Father, and I thank You for this.

I pray that as cold weather approaches our area, it will not be as severe as last February’s winter storm. I pray that it would not even be as severe as is being predicted, and that we would not have any travel/transportation issues in our area, and that no one’s electricity or other means of power/heating will stop working. Protect us, Father, those of us who follow You as well as the ones who do not. I do not wish calamity on anyone.

Thank You for Your absolute sovereignty over Creation, for it gives me confidence to trust in You and hope that all things will work out for our good. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

True Love

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,332

It’s already getting late, this morning, so I’d best get moving. It’s a work day for me, and I am due at the library by 9:15. I’ve also been informed that I will be alone in the computer center (no supervisor/manager on duty) for the first part of the morning, as the manager has an early appointment. That shouldn’t be a huge problem, though.

Anyway, I’m going ahead into the devotional part, this morning, as I have less than an hour to get done.

I did take time to play Wordle, this morning.

Wordle 223 5/6*



Blessed be the LORD! 
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; 
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; 
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 
The LORD is the strength of his people; 
he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! 
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
(Psalms 28:6-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my faith only has to be as big as a mustard seed
2. that God is my strength and shield, and that my heart trusts in Him
3. for the love of my wife; nothing on earth equals this
4. for the beauty of creation and eyes to see it
5. for the night sky, visible when there are no clouds - the heavens declare His glory
“How glorious is the kingdom, where all the saints rejoice with Christ”
And he said, 
"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 
He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 
The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, 
then the full grain in the ear. 
But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, 
because the harvest has come." 
And he said, 
"With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 
It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, 
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 
yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, 
as they were able to hear it. 
He did not speak to them without a parable,
 but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:26-34 ESV)

Jesus gives two examples of the kingdom, both from the perspective of the harvest, or the production of seeds. In the first, the farmer scatters the seeds, and the fruit seems to grow “by itself.” It’s as if it just magically appears. The second concerns the volume of growth from such a tiny seed as a mustard seed (I’ve seen one . . . they are almost invisible to the naked eye). It grows to be “larger than all the garden plants.”

Having never had much experience with gardening, planting, or growing things (I have killed many plants, though), I think that these illustrations might be perfect to help me understand how God’s kingdom works. It might also help to remember that many of the young men to whom Jesus was speaking were fishermen. One was a tax collector. I’m not sure what the vocation of the rest were, but I don’t think we are ever told that any of them were farmers.

But God’s kingdom is shown to be like the working of these seeds. The seeds are planted (Jesus uses a couple other illustrations like this) by the sower or the farmer. There might be some things he can do to prepare the soil, and he might have to tend the soil after planting and maybe do some weeding. But, for the most part, he scatters the seeds and waits. In the case of most plants, the “seeds” are much smaller than what is eventually produced.

Jesus spoke most of the stories in parables, as He spoke to crowds of people. He did explain them to His disciples when they were in private. What I am taking away from these two stories, this morning, is that God is the one who does the bulk of the work. Maybe I’m supposed to be scattering seeds. But in one of the other parables, I believe the explanation is given that God is the sower. In any case, what I do think I understand is that faith is the key. I need to understand that God’s kingdom is bigger than anything I can imagine, and grows from the smallest of seeds.

(From Pray As You Go)

I am my lover’s and my lover is mine.
(Song of Solomon 6:3 MSG)

House and land are handed down from parents, but a congenial spouse comes straight from GOD.
(Proverbs 19:14 MSG)

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.
(Proverbs 31:10 MSG)

Love never gives up.
 Love cares more for others than for self. 
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 
Love doesn't strut, 
Doesn't have a swelled head, 
Doesn't force itself on others, 
Isn't always "me first," 
Doesn't fly off the handle, 
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
 Doesn't revel when others grovel, 
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best, 
Never looks back, 
But keeps going to the end. 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG)

The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.
(1 Peter 3:7 MSG)

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.
(1 Peter 4:8 MSG)

I don’t have any comments to add to these passages, other than to say that I have experienced these things.

Father, I thank You for these apt illustrations of how Your Kingdom works. I thank You that You have given me faith, but is it strong enough? Does my faith even equal a mustard seed? Some days, I might say, confidently, that it does. Other days, I’m not so sure. But I do know that Your kingdom is larger than any of us realize, and I also know that I cannot do anything to either make it bigger or make it smaller. I know that Your Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven, which is why that is a safe prayer. So I pray, along with the disciples of Jesus, increase my faith, in the right directions.

Thank You for the love of my wife, that I have experienced for over thirty (closer to forty, now) years. You have blessed me wonderfully. I can only hope that she feels half as blessed as I do. True love has been shown me, and I am grateful for this. The love that I get from You is like unto the kind of love that we try to show one another. Help us to love each other, as that Message paraphrase says, “like our lives depend upon it.” Because, in some ways, they do.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Measure You Use

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the twenty-seventh of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,331

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. If there is every anything that we should “never forget,” the horrors of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews is certainly one of them.

Yesterday’s adventure with Maggie (cat) went almost perfectly. We got in and out of the TCAP facility in a flash. In fact, the doctor had administered the vaccine before I finished filling out the paperwork. We were not charged anything, as the voucher from the Watauga animal shelter covered it. We picked up Sonic drinks and some candy, along with a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, because C is totally stressed out with work, right now, on the way home, and dropped off the proof of vaccination at the Watauga facility, which is just down the road from our house, probably less than a mile away.

I need to make a quick trip to a grocery store, today, because I don’t have any buttermilk, and I’m planning to cook Pecan-Crusted Buttermilk Chicken for dinner tonight. One of these days, I’m going to get adventurous and try something new.


Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; 
be gracious to me and answer me! 
You have said, "Seek my face." 
My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." 
Hide not your face from me. 
Turn not your servant away in anger, 
O you who have been my help. 
Cast me not off; forsake me not, 
O God of my salvation! 
(Psalms 27:7-9 ESV)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; 
of whom shall I be afraid? 
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that the Lord is my light and my salvation
2. that, in Him, I have nothing to fear, for He is the stronghold of my life
3. for Jesus Christ, light of the world
4. that if we are generous with others, both in physical resources and with grace, our Father will be generous with us
5. that in some respects, our Father is generous with us even when we are not generous with others (that's mercy)
“O Christ, light of the world, whoever follows you will have the light of life.”
And he said to them, 
"Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, 
or under a bed, and not on a stand? 
For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; 
nor is anything secret except to come to light. 
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 
And he said to them, 
"Pay attention to what you hear: 
with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, 
and still more will be added to you.
 For to the one who has, more will be given, 
and from the one who has not, 
even what he has will be taken away." 
(Mark 4:21-25 ESV)

These are images that the people to whom Jesus was speaking could understand. Lamps were their source of light, and where a lamp was placed in a room made a big difference. Obviously, if you put it under a basket or a bed, it didn’t shed much light. But then, Jesus seems to be relating this to secrets and hidden things.

Likewise, these people would be familiar with measuring and weighing things, as in the marketplace. It’s how they sold and bought grain. Jesus seems to be indicating that the more generous you are, them ore generous the Father will be. And He’s not just talking about physical goods, here.

The light of Jesus Christ is not meant to be hidden. “This little light of mine . . . I’m gonna let it shine.” It’s not a secret. Doesn’t mean that’s all I’m going to talk about. But I’m not going to try to hide it. And I’ve been learning more and more, over the past decade or so, about the measuring out and the measure that I use. This has to do with grace.

I do believe that it relates to physical goods and generosity, and God has led me down a more generous path, the older I get. However, I believe that it also, and perhaps more accurately, defines the usage of grace in our lives. The measure I use to categorize and judge my neighbor or my brother in Christ is the same measure that will be used against me. That’s what Jesus said.

Now. Take that and apply it to yourself. Examine yourself, I challenge you. What measure do you use against your neighbor? Are you willing to have yourself judged by the same measure?

One of my favorite illustrations that my former pastor used to use is the illustration of imagining that we all had a voice recorder hanging around our neck for our whole lives. What would happen if, after our death, the Lord would play back the recording and ask us if we lived according to our own “rules?” “The measure you give will be the measure you get.”

“Pay attention to what you hear,” Jesus said. I could take this in several different ways, but I think that Jesus is telling us that we really need to take heed of what He is saying. This is serious stuff. We should not simply read over this without paying attention to it. This is one reason that I have, in recent years, tended to not do a reading plan that goes through the whole Bible in a year. I’ve done it many times, and I am, in fact doing it again, this year. But it definitely encourages reading (or listening, in my case, this time) without really comprehending what is being said. It becomes another thing to mark off the checklist.

I’m trying real hard not to do that, this time.

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

(From Pray As You Go)

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalms 25:5 ESV)

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:24 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “kiss.” And while we are not exactly in an environment that encourages 1 Peter 5:14, these days, we can still certainly “love one another.”

Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
(1 Peter 5:14 ESV)

Father, I pray for grace to be the measure I use; all the time, for all people, everywhere. We tend to show grace when it is convenient, when we have “time.” But it’s not really “grace” then, is it? Help me to be more gracious to all people. Help me to remember that the measure I use is the same measure that will be used for me. That’s a terrifying thought sometimes, and if anyone says otherwise, they are either lying or just plain ignorant. Or maybe delusional, thinking that they are much better people than they really are.

Help me to live my life as though every second was being recorded and would be broadcast for all to see at the end of it. How much that has already happened would I be utterly embarrassed by? (A lot, that’s for sure!) What if my thoughts would someday be broadcast for all to hear? I might have a lot fewer friends than I have. I’d probably live alone in a cave.

I’m not alone, I know this, Father. But we all need a shot of reality in this. And while we may not be able to safely kiss one another (and that isn’t welcomed quite as much in this culture as it is in other countries or the days of Jesus), but we can still practice love, and we can still follow Jesus’s command to do to others what we would like to have done to us.

Thank You for the Light of the world. Thank You for the words of Jesus, that we have, recorded, that we may read them and heed them. Help us to take them seriously, and read them carefully. Then help us to put them into practice in our own lives.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Panic

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.


"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

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

As Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Making Disciples v. Preaching at People

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,329

Today is my half-day, at the library, from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. The reason for the fifteen bit is that I’m working until we close, which is 8:00 PM. Then it takes a few minutes for everyone to get their stuff together and get out the back door, so, in order for it to be four hours, the schedule is bumped to the quarter-hour. That is why my eight-hour days begin at 9:15 instead of 9:00, as well. We close at 6:00, but work until 6:15. For some reason, on Saturdays, we start (officially) at 9:30 and only get forty-five minutes for lunch. I have not asked for the logic behind that decision, I just go with it.

Nothing of any interest happened yesterday. It was a pretty lazy day. I did some chores, my usual Monday stuff. I still have a little bit of laundry to finish today.

We have been notified that we need to get Magnolia (cat) vaccinated against rabies. We thought this had already been done, but C got a call from the Watauga animal shelter, yesterday, saying that we had until Friday to provide proof of that, or we would get a citation. I had several possible reactions to that, one of which was, we don’t live in Watauga, so let them go ahead and cite us. However, the probable more right thing to do, especially as one who is supposed to be a “peacemaker,” is to get the shot and provide the proof. We got a voucher with Maggie to get it done at a place called TCAP (that stands for Texas Coalition for Animal Protection), and I can take her pretty much any morning this week. So I plan to take her to the Hurst location tomorrow, sometime between nine and noon, which is when they do vaccinations.

I’ve been playing the latest game craze to hit social media, Wordle. Here is my score for today.

Wordle 220 5/6*


If you are interested in trying it, here is the link. Everyone gets the same word, each day, and the word changes every day. You get six guesses. The yellow blocks show that the guessed letter is in the word, but in the wrong position. The green blocks show that the correct letter is in the correct position. The empty blocks are just wrong. LOL. I have played ten times with a win percentage of 90%. I missed one a few days ago. The word was “prick.” I would never have guessed that. Modern culture assigns a not-so-nice meaning to that word. But it is a verb, though, meaning to “make a small hole in something with a sharp point.” You know . . . Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a spindle, right? Anyway.


Can Take You, by Daryl Madden

To listen so intently
The into flowing through
That takes you to the place
Only music can take you

To move the soul so deeply
Beyond what we construe
That takes to you the Grace
Only prayer can take you

To dwell within the scene
Of vision in the view
That takes you to the space
Only beauty can take you

To hope within the promise
To receive what we pursue
That blesses the embrace
Only God can take you

Oh, the places that music, prayer, beauty, and God can take me . . . please check out more of Daryl’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
 let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
and why are you in turmoil within me? 
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 
(Psalms 43:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music, prayer, and beauty, and the places that they can take me
2. that my soul is not "cast down," and that I am able to praise the Lord
3. that God is a friend to those who revere Him (Psalm 25:14)
4. that God has given me the faith to faithfully pray, and then watch to see what He will do (Psalm 5;3)
5. that I am content and protected beneath the wings of my God and Father
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
And he said to them, 
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, 
but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
And these signs will accompany those who believe: 
in my name they will cast out demons; 
they will speak in new tongues; 
they will pick up serpents with their hands; 
and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; 
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 
(Mark 16:15-18 ESV)

In this passage (allegedly not found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells His disciples, His followers to go and proclaim the good news to all of, or “the whole” creation. The KJV translated the word “kosmos” as “world,” where the more modern translations use the more-inclusive “creation.” What is our reaction to this command? The more popular version of it is found in Matthew 28, and is referred to as “The Great Commission.” Some people say that the Bible says that we are supposed to preach the Good News to everyone we meet.

No one I know does that, not even the people who claim to believe that this is what the Bible teaches. They would never get anything else accomplished, nor would they be able to hold down any kind of reasonable employment. I dare say that most employers would not tolerate someone who never did anything but preach at people while on the job.

And, sadly, that is what a lot of people do when they try to proclaim the Good News. They preach at people. And I can tell you from experience that this bothers people. Dallas Willard once opined that Jesus did not mean that we were supposed to go out and “bother” people.

I have also heard it said that, in the Great Commission, the Greek language implies that it should say “As you go . . . ,” indicating that we should be speaking the Good News in the context of our daily lives. This I find easier to believe. It is also worth noting that the Matthew version uses the phrase “make disciples” or “teach” (KJV) rather than “proclaim.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It takes a lot more investment in someone to make them a disciple than it does to just proclaim the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stand on a street corner and preach than it is to take the time to actually teach someone how to be a disciple of Jesus.

For me (and I am most certainly not saying that I have done a good job of obeying this command), the way to discern what is being asked of us is to look at what Jesus did. While He did do some preaching (there are several “discourses” recorded in the Gospels), the majority of His time was spent with those twelve guys, teaching them how to be disciples.

But going back to this passage in Mark. What is the “good news?” That question is answered in Mark, as well, back in chapter 1.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

I believe that the “gospel,” as proclaimed by Jesus, is that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” or, in other words, here. This is the message that we have to proclaim to the world. The kingdom is here; change the way you are thinking about life.

If Jesus really said the things recorded in this passage (again, not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), He made some rather bold statements about how His followers would be identified. My take on this requires me to contextualize it into our own culture, and I believe that it simply speaks to the kind of faith that we will see in disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t think we would find a lot of agreement about it, if we were to gather a dozen or so followers of Christ in the same room. Depending on where we got them, some would want to take this more literally than others. I mean, I suppose we still have “snake-handler” Christians around us somewhere. I seem to recall some news about some around Fort Worth, just a few years ago.

And some would, no doubt, use this passage as ammunition for their refusal to take part in any Covid-preventing measures. My faith, however, does not lead me down that path. Where it leads me is to walk on a path of love and faithfulness, of compassion and generosity and kindness. If you have read this forum very much, you have seen that I believe that I have, basically, two jobs: love God and love people. That is where my faith leads me, and it leads me to trust that God is looking out for me and has my best interest at heart (behind His own best interests, of course).

Part of the good news is this: God loves us. He loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to spend not only this life, but all eternity in His presence. And He has gifted us with His presence as we live and walk on this earth. What more could we ask for?

Pieces of this taken from today’s episode of Pray As You Go.

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

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13 ESV)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “feathers,” as in Psalm 91:4.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:4 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the protection that I feel, sheltered beneath Your “feathers” and “wings.” Your faithfulness is, indeed, my shield, and I find that I have nothing to fear in this world.

I thank You for the faith that You have given me, faith that enables me to pray in the face of insurmountable odds, and then wait to see what You will do. No, my prayers are not always answered the way I would like them to be. But that is part of my faith, that allows me to accept the answers You give as Your will. I know that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. There are times when I cannot comprehend Your ways and thoughts, and that is where faith comes into play, the faith of which Jesus spoke. I may not handle snakes or drink poison, but I trust in You, so I’m not afraid to walk out my front door and get in my car to drive somewhere.

I am also thankful that You have given me the faith to believe in the gospel, that Your kingdom is at hand, that it came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and that it remains on earth, with the presence of Your Holy Spirit, which You have given us, Your Church. May we walk in Your kingdom, and may we faithfully and adequately proclaim this kingdom while we walk here, and may we also faithfully teach others to walk in it, as we make more disciples. But, in doing this, may we not just preach at people. Help us to be more invested in the lives of others, because this is how we are going to reach them in Your name.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Lessons in Futility

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,328

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

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

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

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

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


Long Winding Way, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

I shall
not tire of

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Love (Again)

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,327

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

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

Today’s prayer word is “always.”

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

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

Father, help us to start a love revolution.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

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

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,326

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

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

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


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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sensing a firm direction in prayer today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us

Grace and peace, friends.

Called By Name

Today is Friday, the twenty-first of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,325

Only two more days until Hamilton!

Yesterday’s grocery order from Amazon Fresh was fine. Delivered on time and they had everything that I ordered. The young man even put them in the garage, which surprised me. Still, it won’t be my “go-to” source, as they don’t provide some of our favorite things, such as Nick’s Ice Cream. I noticed that they also do not have Halo Top Sea Salt Caramel, which is one of C’s favorites.

Not much else was accomplished, yesterday. C’s foot doctor appointment went well, and her broken toe has finally healed to a point where the doctor is not concerned about her re-breaking it. Still, she is supposed to wear the boot if she does any major walking or exercising. And she was advised to keep exercising to an elliptical or recumbent bike.

Being Friday, it is my day to work a full eight hour shift in the computer center at the library. I anticipate the computers to get busier as the year progresses, especially as it approaches tax season. But I haven’t been there through a tax season, yet, so I really don’t know.

In news, one of the first things that I saw this morning was that Michael Lee Aday, the singer known as Meatloaf, has passed away at the age of 75. While I wasn’t a huge fan, I do like some of his songs, probably my favorite being “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” His death is not really a surprise, as his health has not been good for a number of years.


Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, 
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. 
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for central heating and a roof over my head
2. for a hot cup of coffee
3. that we don't have any ice and snow on the roads
4. that God called me by name and chose me to be His child
5. for the message of love that I have to share

I’ve been beginning each morning’s devotional time with a reading plan from the YouVersion app on my phone. The one I’m reading is one that takes me through the whole Bible in a year. I haven’t done that in a while, so I thought I would try it this year. I noticed a couple things in the reading this morning.

First, in Luke 16, I caught this statement of Jesus.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
(Luke 16:15 ESV)

Specifically, the last sentence. I’m going to be spending some time meditating on and pondering that sentence. “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Consider that this could cover an awful lot of things.

The next thing I noticed was in Genesis 28. Jacob has had his “ladder” encounter with God, and God has promised him blessing. Here is part of Jacob’s response.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
(Genesis 28:20-22 ESV)

The italics were added by me. Jacob’s “vow” was conditional. It’s like he was making a “deal” with God. Seriously, God just appeared to him in this vision and made all these great promises to him, and his response is to say that, okay, if You’ll do all of these things, then You will be my God.

I’m not impressed by Jacob’s “devotion.” I prefer the attitude of Job, in this case. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) That is the attitude I try to maintain. God is my God, regardless.

“‘I have chosen you out of the world, so that you might go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

“As I listen to this chant, I remind myself that God calls me, calls me by my name. However unsuitable or unworthy I may think I am, God has chosen me.”

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 
and have authority to cast out demons. 
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 
James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 
Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 
and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 
Then he went home.
(Mark 3:13-20A ESV)

I am asked to look at the names and nicknames of these twelve whom Jesus called. I only notice “nicknames” of three of them. Four, counting Simon “the Zealot,” but I don’t think Jesus gave him that nickname. We know that Peter comes from a Greek word meaning “rock” or “stone,” and that Jesus said, at one point, “on this rock I will build my Church.” Of course, it is possible that the “rock” to which Jesus was referring was Peter’s declaration, not Peter, himself.

The other nickname is for James and John. “Sons of Thunder.” It’s easy to see why, too, if we read more about them in Scripture.

What were these twelve called to do? They were called to “preach” or share the message, proclaim the Word, the Good News of the Gospel, and to have authority to cast out demons.

Does Jesus have a name for me? Good question. He knows me by my name. Jeffrey. I believe that He only calls me positive names. He might call me “child,” He might call me “brother.” I am both of those. But He might also call me “overcomer,” even though I don’t feel like I overcome very often.

What has He called me to do? I believe Jesus has called me to love. He has given me a “message” to share. I am not an “evangelist,” per se. I have a treasure in this “jar of clay,” though, and that treasure is the love of God. It is my job to love Him and to love people, without judging.

I have run out of time, now, and must get ready for work.

Father, I pray for this message of love to be spread through me. I am Your child, I know this and believe it. I am honored and humbled by Your choosing of me, and while I may not (most definitely) have a place as important as those initial twelve, You have chosen me and called me by name. Thank You, Father, for this choosing. Help me to be faithful to do the loving that I am called to do, and may it be without judgment toward anyone.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Over and Over and Over Again

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

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,324

Only three more days until Hamilton!

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

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

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


Your Window, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People are generally shocked when they do what he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You for Your everlasting love.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Today I am grateful:

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

Grace and peace, friends.