I Tell You Three Times

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

Today is Tuesday, the third of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,427

So there really isn’t a lot to write about, this morning. Not a lot happened yesterday, and there was no baseball. Okay, there was baseball, sure. But the Rangers and the Red Sox didn’t play, which means, for me, effectively, there was no baseball.

The Rangers play the Phillies today at 5:45 CDT (that seems really early), and the Red Sox play the Angels at 7:10 EDT (a much more normal time).

I work, this evening, at the Hurst Public Library, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. This is probably my favorite activity at the library, because I get to interact with books more than people. Heh. I have a sticker on one of my metal cups that says, “Books are better than people.” I realize God doesn’t agree with that sentiment, and, in reality, I don’t either. However, I would still rather interact with a book than another human.

C is working from home today, which is always nice, and I will venture out into the wild suburbs, in a little while, and get lunch/dinner for us from Subway and Sonic.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Vine Life,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

Keep on
abiding
in Me…

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

Please check out more of this inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. 
Remain in my love. 
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, 
just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. 
Yes, your joy will overflow! 
This is my commandment: 
Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 
You are my friends if you do what I command."
(John 15:9-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for coffee and breakfast; and chocolate
2. for water to take showers
3. for the peace that comes from keeping one's minds fixed on God
4. that our God is always near
5. that in His presence, there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)
6. that everything that I have (for I truly "own" nothing) belongs to and was given to me by my Father in heaven
7. for the spirit of generosity and sharing that He has placed in our hearts, that we do not hoard any of the aforementioned gifts for ourselves

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
(Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 NLT)

For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
(Job 33:4 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “near.”

Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time.
(Jeremiah 23:23 NLT).

One of the most comforting things about this journey in Christ is the constant nearness of God. There’s a fifty-dollar word we use to describe our belief about God’s presence. It is “omnipresent.” It means pretty much the same thing as “ubiquitous.” He is everywhere, and all at the same time.

At least a decade ago, I started calling God “omnichronological,” as well. The reason being that God also exists outside of time. So not only is God everywhere at once, He is also everywhen at once.

So, considering the truth that God is always near, then I might also consider that God is near me, now and here; God is near me at my birth; God is near me on my deathbed (or wherever I am when that time comes).

Psalm 139 is another Scripture that states this very well.

You go before me and follow me. 
You place your hand of blessing on my head. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 
I can never escape from your Spirit! 
I can never get away from your presence! 
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
 if I go down to the grave, you are there. 
If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
(Psalms 139:5-10 NLT)

“To know He is near–to practice His nearness–is to be filled with the pleasure of God.”

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)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I abide in Your nearness; I relish and embrace the truth that You are always with me. It brings me great comfort to know that, no matter where I go, I cannot get away from Your presence. And, while it is difficult to grasp or comprehend, I am grateful that You are already with me in my future, whatever it may hold. I am also grateful that You are present in my past, and have been watching over me my whole life. May I always know Your nearness, Father, even when I am not looking for it.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

You are not imagining things. That verse has already occurred in this blog once, up above. And when it showed up in my Daily Guideposts 2022 reading for today, I figured that means it’s important.

To illustrate that verse, Erin MacPherson uses a personal experience with her dog, who, when afraid of something, would keep his eyes on hers, constantly, until the “danger” was past. Her conclusion: “When things are frightening, scary, or just new, I want to keep my eyes trained on the One I can trust.”

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Oh, Father, if we would only learn the truth of these things; if we would only learn that, if we keep our spiritual eyes fixed on You, that we would have unbreakable peace, even in the most unstable circumstances. I have know this peace, but I confess that I have also been nearly shattered by similar circumstances, because I failed to keep my eyes on You. Your Word tells us that You will give us “perfect” peace, if we keep our eyes fixed on You. There is very little in this world that I would consider perfect. Okay, there is nothing perfect in this world. We use the word to describe a lot of things, but, in truth, only You are worthy of that word of description. Only You are perfect, and Your peace is perfect because it comes from You.

James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from” You, and that You never change. Keeping my eyes fixed on You also means that I will never lean on my own understanding of things, but, rather, acknowledge You in all my ways. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use my brain. Heaven forbid! You gave me a brain, and I intend to use it. But when I rely more on my own thinking than on what You and Your Word tell me, then I create trouble for myself. So, help me to keep my eyes fixed You at all times, and to remember that, no matter what happens in my life, You are going to work it out for my good, because You are good and You only do good.

Eugene Peterson continues talking about money in today’s reading. Yesterday’s referred to the stewardship of all things that God has given us, and today singles out the resource of money, which Peterson describes as “holy.” He points out that not everyone believes that money is holy, but states that this is a “Christian and biblical conviction.”

He then begins to discuss the ancient concept of “tithing.” This is a practice that puts the aforementioned conviction into practice. “it is an offering of the firstfruits of our labor to the God who made this world of soil and rock, barley and grapes, silver and gold and tin–up to and including embossed plastic credit cards.”

Traditionally, the tithe was the first ten percent of any moneys received through our labor. “It is based on the conviction that we would have gotten nothing from all our sweat and exertion if God had not first given us ground to use, muscles to work, brains to think, and communities to live in and be employed in.”

Remember–yesterday’s reading asserted that everything that we see (and even things we can’t see) was created by God and given to us to use. And remember James 1:17, quoted in my last prayer, tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. So whatever we accomplish in our work is accomplished using things and resources that we got from our Father. Therefore, we give back to Him a portion of what we receive from that labor.

Peterson maintains that, “if we do not being with giving . . . we inevitably become dominated by the spirit of acquisition: getting and getting and getting. We become obsessed with keeping control of what we have. We scheme and covet. And in so doing, we profane our money. We violate the holiness of our money.” Does this sound or look familiar to us?

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

We must be careful, though, and remember these words of Jesus:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
(Matthew 23:23 NLT)

Tithing can feed pride. “It can create snobbish elitism. . . . It can develop into self-righteousness that assumes that God is now obligated to take special notice.”

And we all out to rest assured that God is never, NEVER “obligated” to us for ANYTHING!!

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV)

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

A lot of this all boils down to another thought from Jesus, found in Matthew 16.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
(Matthew 16:24-25 NLT)

If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be focused on “things,” and our “right” to possess them. This, after all, is one of our biggest problem areas in today’s culture (I speak only for Western culture). We are all about our rights and what is “mine.” Tragically, even modern “Christians” (for so they believe themselves to be, even though their actions and words contradict that belief) have been loudly proclaiming their rights and ownership of possessions, recently.

But, as A.W. Tozer insists, in The Pursuit of God, this “self-life” is actually my enemy. And if I allow this enemy to live, I will lose everything. This is why I must keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. And this mindset, this way of life, produces a kind of generosity that can change the world, if not the entire world (for what can one man do to change the world?), at least for one or two souls.

Father, I praise You for the spirit of generosity that You have placed within my family. You have created in us a mindset of sharing, of not holding on to possessions, of not hoarding money. Certainly, we do save some, and even that might be an indication of a small lack of faith, but we do believe in being prepared. But we are not hoarding, thinking that it is “never enough,” to the harm of our fellow travelers on this earth. We do ask for discernment, that we might know when a person’s need is truly worthy of our support, if it is legitimate, lest we fall for scammers. But even then, it is the thought in our heart that is most important, and if someone is scamming, they must, in the end, answer to You for misusing resources provided by You.

All that I have is Yours. I have nothing, I “own” nothing that You did not give me. Once again, in the words of Horatius Bonar, my sin is the only thing that I have that can call my own. Everything else comes from You. All praise and glory belongs to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.
(Isaiah 26:3 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. Maundy Thursday.

May the peace of Christ be with you and within you.

Day 23,408

According to a couple of sources, “Maundy” comes from the latin word for “command,” and Maundy Thursday commemorates the command that Jesus gave His disciples, at the Last Supper, to love and serve each other. I did not know this until today. Or at least if I did, I had forgotten, which is entirely possible.

I’m pretty sure my brain is full, so that now, whenever I learn something new, I forget something old. I wonder what I just forgot?

Today will be my second Thursday in the computer center at the library. If it is anything like last Thursday, it will go by fairly quickly, as it was pretty busy, at least busier than my normal Fridays were.

I’ve started another chicken soup (not Italian, but that one was very delicious) in the crock pot for tonight’s dinner. I will have my bowl after I get home, around 8:30.

The library is closed tomorrow, for Good Friday, which, from what I hear, is normal. So I suppose it is a good thing that I switched to Thursdays, so I won’t miss any hours. C is also off tomorrow, but it will be somewhat busy. We are attending a funeral tomorrow afternoon, of the father of one of her coworkers. And then, tomorrow evening, I plan on attending a Good Friday service at the Lutheran church that we went to a few weeks ago. As for Sunday, I’m still not sure what is happening with our house church.

The Texas Rangers had yesterday off. The Boston Red Sox evened up their record, beating the Detroit Tigers 9-7. At 3-3 for the season, they are in third place in the AL East, tied with the Yankees. Today, the Rangers will face Ohtani and the Angels. Dunning will start for the Rangers.

While most of us haven’t been paying attention, the Cleveland Guardians have scored 45 runs, 44 of those in the last four games. In one game, they beat the KC Royals 17-3. They play the Giants tomorrow, so we’ll find out, then, if they are “for real.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, both really good.

Going Before You,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I AM
levelling
mountains

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

This is so true. God goes before us, sometimes levelling mountains we can’t even see before we get to them.

Where God Lives,” by Daryl Madden

And where God lives
We find beauty
His Word of peace
Flows joyfully

And where God dwells
A binding be
So intimate
Of unity

And where God grows
So peacefully
In nourishing
Community

And where God shares
His grace for free
His gift of love
Abundantly

We enter through
Humility
My prayer this day
Come live in me

Yes, Lord, please come live and dwell in me, today. Please show your support to both of these artists by visiting their websites at the links provided.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the prospect of a beautiful day, based on the weather forecast
2. that wherever God lives, I find beauty
3. that God shares His grace with us, freely and abundantly
4. for God's grace and forgiveness that completely erase our past sins
5. for the ability to repent (say goodbye) and follow in the steps of Jesus (say hello)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
(Acts 4:31 ESV)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “goodbye.” At first glance, I thought it was speaking of saying “goodbye” to a person. But this is not the case.

I won’t share the opening quote for multiple reasons, but it says something about the difficulty of saying “goodbye,” especially succinctly.

There are times in our lives when we need to say “goodbye,” not to people, but to either circumstances or parts of our lives, from which we have moved on, or need to move on. And I think therein lies the crux. There are times when we truly need to move on, but we hesitate, not unlike Lot’s wife, as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. We look back longingly at something, and, oddly, sometimes that something might even be an illness or condition we have suffered from for a long time. It’s like we get attached to that, even though it may have caused us much pain.

For myself, it’s usually more the need to move on and say goodbye to attitudes or ways of responding to certain life situations. My biggest struggle, which I have, I believe, been fairly open about, here, is moving on from being judgmental toward people. And I think more people struggle with that than are willing to admit.

So, perhaps I will spend some time, today, thinking about what I need to say “goodbye” to.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

There is another word for this concept. It is “repent.” I used to think that “repent” meant to turn away from sin with great sorrow. That’s not what it means (even though the dictionary indicates that). The word literally means, in Hebrew, to turn back or turn around; retreat. In the New Testament Greek, it means to think differently or reconsider. So, essentially, “repent” means to change the way one thinks about something. Sorrow and regret may or may not be involved.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
(John 13:9 NLT)

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
(Psalms 51:7 NLT)

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

When we “repent,” or say “goodbye” to certain things in our lives, and truly let them go, as previously stated, it is like turning around and changing direction. And then, if we were to turn back and look at where we had been, by the grace of God, we can no longer see those tracks.

It’s like walking through a patch of snow and then turning around to see your tracks erased by newly fallen snow. That’s what the grace of God and His forgiveness are like. When we repent, when we change our way of thinking, our past sins are erased. They are not just covered, but it is as though they never happened. And in some, almost “magical” way, it is absolutely true that they never happened. I believe that, while consequences for some actions may always be with us, God can change our past. That is what the blood of Christ does for us, as it washes us “whiter than snow.”

(Gratitude to Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022)

In a reading called “On Religion and Faith,” Eugene H. Peterson addresses the difference between religion and faith. And I find this to be relevant to the discussion on repentance and saying “goodbye.”

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
(Luke 18:8 NLT)

“Surely he will find religion (institutions, creeds, documents, artifacts, and the like), but he may not find faith. Faith is deeply personal, dynamic, and ultimate. Religion, however, is faith’s expression. For example, religion is concerned about institutions (churches), documents, statements of belief (Bible and theology), and our convictions and moral codes. Religion is important but not ultimately important.

“Religion is a means, not an end. Faith is the only end.”

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

And repentance happens by faith, not by religion. You can quote creeds and attend institutions and proclaim moral codes all day long, but until you follow Jesus Christ by faith, you accomplish nothing at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. You make life more difficult and miserable for people around you.

Father, we need a fresh revelation on the difference between religion and faith. There is a lot of religion in our world, right now, and many people are running away from the “church” (institution) because of it, in an attempt to actually find faith. Help us to focus more on deeply personal and dynamic faith, and follow in the steps of Jesus. Help us to say “goodbye” to bigotry and prejudice and judgment, and to turn around, repent, and say “hello” to grace and forgiveness.

Thank You for the grace and forgiveness that washes us clean, like freshly fallen snow, and makes it appear that our past sins have been erased. Truly it is said that You cast our sins as far as the east is from the west, which, if considered in a straight line, is infinity. Perhaps we do not consider that enough. Perhaps Resurrection Sunday is a good time for that.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Jesus

Today is Monday, the eleventh of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today!

Day 23,405

We had another wonderful day, yesterday. The trip to Mineral Wells and back went very well, with no delays or incidents on the road. We made it to FBC just in time to get seated for the worship service, which was a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus, and looking forward to Resurrection Sunday. The music included several choir soloists, as well as the handbell choir which played during the Lord’s Supper. I was also glad to get to take the Supper with the saints at FBC.

We picked up burgers and sundaes at Braum’s and took them to Mama’s house for lunch. Then we grabbed as much as we could squeeze into the car and headed back home, listening to the Texas Rangers trounce all over the Blue Jays, 12-6. That was good fun.

The Red Sox also managed to get their first win, beating the Yankees 4-3. In other scores, the Cleveland Guardians (now that’s going to take some getting used to . . . doesn’t sound like a baseball team name at all) jumped all over the KC Royals, 17-3.

After one weekend of play, one team remains undefeated, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers are in third place in the AL West, and the Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East. Houston leads the West, Tampa the East, and the Other Sox lead the Central. Mets, Cubs, and Padres lead the NL divisions. Chicago has two first place teams.

Today will mostly be a resting day as I get ready for one of my alternating “heavier” weeks at the library (working 3.5 shifts, this week). Couple loads of laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. Later, this afternoon, there will be groceries to put away. And I will probably do some practicing, as we are getting ready to have another Night of Worship on April 23. Oh, and I almost forgot, we have the Texas Rangers’ home opener this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Days of Wonder,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I Am
remaking
all things

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

The hope of this promise is one of the things that keeps me going through this life. Please check out the beautiful poetry and lovely images that accompany it, at the link provided above.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
(Psalms 149:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the most wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for the truth that the Lord takes pleasure in His people
3. for the knowledge of God's presence
4. that God works in the "ordinary"
5. that God expects us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in His presence (Micah 6:8)

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20 ESV)

“The most extraordinary feature of the gospel is its ordinariness. The fact that the Word that created the heavens and arranges the seasons enters ordinary lives and fashions eternal life in them is truly extraordinary.”

There is so much truth to this proclamation. Even when the miracle of new birth occurs in someone, to all external appearances, they are the same, ordinary people as they were the day before. Yet Scriptures says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

What does all this mean? Is there a “secret ingredient?”

“One of the extraordinary things about Jesus was that he unassumingly took his place among the ordinary men and women around him.” Consider this scene after the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" 
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 
Jesus said to her, "Mary." 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 ESV)

The resurrected Christ appeared so ordinary that Mary thought He was a gardener.

Then we have the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:28-32 ESV)

These two travelers just thought Jesus was another pilgrim on the road.

Even the disciples, having gone fishing after the resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus when He called out to them from the shore.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
(John 21:1-4 ESV)

Until, of course, He did that thing where He told them where to cast their nets and they couldn’t pull the net in, as it was so heavy with fish.

Is Jesus trying to hide Himself from us? “He didn’t make it easy for us to see God in him.” Except, of course, when He was baptized, and then, again, at the Transfiguration.

I have to confess that this puzzles me a little bit. Because I don’t see it as Jesus intentionally making it difficult for us to see God in Him. Rather, I think He tries to make us feel comfortable in His presence.

There is something about the Transfiguration which I had not considered until a few weeks ago, when I heard what was probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject. The pastor who was preaching that morning, at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine, TX, wondered if maybe what the three disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured, that which caused them to be “terrified” (Mark 9:6), was the same vision of Christ that John the Revelator saw.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:12-16 ESV)

Here were these three ordinary fishermen, who had been walking with this “ordinary” guy for a little while, and suddenly, they see this?

Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Jesus appeared to Mary as looking like an ordinary gardener, and He appeared to those two travelers as just another person on a journey. If we saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way John the Revelator did, we, too, I’m sure, would fall “at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

So, in between the appearances of Jesus in the New Testament, and His appearance that “every eye will see,” at the end of days (I’m not including the “Rapture” because I do not believe in that as a separate event from the Second Coming), we see Jesus walking in around in you and me. Ordinary people carrying around a miracle in our “jars of clay,” so that, hopefully, other ordinary people will see Him and take note of this great salvation that we have.

But there’s a catch. It’s that pesky bit about “love.” Unfortunately, people aren’t seeing a lot of Jesus in those who are supposed to be carrying Him around, because the hate that they are spewing is louder than the Gospel.

That just needs to stop. Period.

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

Father, I thank You for all of the “ordinary” that we see in Scripture, especially surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly, He did many extraordinary things, things that drew attention to Him and showed Your might power in this world. But He also appeared so very ordinary, as evidenced by the Scripture passages above. So ordinary that people didn’t realize who He was until He spoke or acted.

I pray for Your children today. We are walking around in our world, supposedly carrying the truth of the Gospel in our “jars of clay,” so that it is evident that we are nothing special, but the message we are carrying is so very special. But that message is getting obscured by a lack of love and compassion in those who are making the most noise.

I pray for them to be either silenced or have a severe, drastic change of heart. And, lest I be misunderstood, by “silenced” I am not praying for You to smite anyone. I’m simply praying for their voices to be drowned out by the prevalent voice of Your love and compassion and mercy coming from the rest of us.

I pray for Your truth to be known. I don’t claim to understand all of Your ways, and know that I will not understand them until the day that I stand in Your presence (or fall on my face, which is more likely). So, in that case, I choose to err on the side of love and mercy, rather than on the side of legalism and judgment. Hopefully, I am not erring at all.

May Your grace and mercy be known in all the world, and may the earth be filled with the knowledge of You as the waters fill the seas. I think that’s a hymn somewhere.

Give us glimpses of extraordinary Jesus, our Savior, as we walk through this ordinary world in our ordinary mortal coils.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

One Thing

Today is Thursday, the tenth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,373

There is a lot more than “one thing” in this post . . . that should make sense by the time it’s all over.

Our home has a complete new heating and cooling system. The good people of Air King arrived yesterday morning around 10:00 AM, and finished up somewhere around 7:00 PM. If they had any problems or issues, I don’t know about them. All of our old equipment was hauled off and we basically can’t tell they were ever here.

And so far, the new system works great. The new “smart” thermostat actually has a setting (I had only dreamed that this could be possible) that automatically switches between heat and cool. And it connects to Wi-Fi, so we can control the temps from our phones, as well. How cool is that?? Allegedly, this new system will save us up to 35% on our electricity, this summer. We shall see, right? We’re due for a new billing contract soon, so we’ll see what kind of rate we can get.

The day is wide open for me, so I don’t have any real agenda. I hope to finish the book I am currently reading, an ARC version of The Lights of Prague, by Nicole Jarvis. I have about fifty pages left. After that, I will likely work on finishing This Wicked Darkness, a selection of short stories, also an ARC version that I got in exchange for a review. I also have two library books checked out. And a stack sitting on the floor next to me. Not to mention shelves and shelves of books in the house. I should be caught up in about eight hundred years.

I have just discovered, this morning, that the time change to DST occurs this Saturday night. Since I am attempting to fast from being critical, that is all I’m going to say about that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Meanderings,” by LightWriters

Slabs of river ice
play water music
symphonies of Spring

©2022 S. Michaels
Another Springtime
(Haiku 5-5-5)

You can see more of her wonderful poems at the link provided. Also, there is always a lovely picture that accompanies the short poem, which enhances it that much more, so it’s worth clicking the link.

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?
(Psalm 27:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the heart of gratitude that God has formed within me; it makes life so much easier to bear
2. for celebrations of birth, both into physical life and spiritual life; there  are beautiful similarities between them
3. for the fact that my security in Christ gives me strength against evil spirits in this world
4. for the reminder, today, that I need to clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience
5. for the encouragement I've received today to practice my focus

As I conclude John Henry Newman’s selection on fasting, today, he gets into the territory of “spiritual warfare,” to a degree. He speaks of the security of being in Christ, and its effect on our spiritual life. Says Newman, ” . . . evil spirits, instead of having power over us, tremble and are affrighted at every true Christian. They know he has that in him which makes him their master, that he may, if he will, laugh them to scorn, and put them to flight.” Note the word “true” before the word “Christian.” And then consider this passage from the New Testament:

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
(Acts 19:13-16 NIV)

But, if we are “true Christians,” the evil spirits, or demons, will attempt to frighten us and gain power over us. “Therefore, let us be, my brethren, ‘not ignorant of their devices’; and as knowing them, let us watch, fast, and pray, let us keep close under the wings of the Almighty, that He may be our shield and buckler.”

We get a bit too frivolous with the concept of spiritual warfare, in my opinion, almost as if it is a game, or a box to check off on their Sunday School envelope. The whole purpose of fasting is to bring us closer in fellowship to the Lord. It does not get Him to love us more. That is impossible. But it calls to mind that we need to pray more. The point is, whenever I find myself tempted to partake or participate in that from which I am fasting, I am supposed to, at that very moment, stop and pray. The prayer might be about the thing I’m fasting from, or it might be for someone or something else, about which I have knowledge. Or, it might be, as Newman suggests, that He might “make known to us His will – to teach us our faults – to take from us whatever may offend Him – and to lead us in the way everlasting.”

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

In a short essay called “On Birth,” Eugene Peterson compares physical birth and physical birth. The comparison, to me, is fascinating. “Our first birth thrusts us kicking and squalling into the light of day. Our second birth places us singing and believing in the light of God. By acts of love previous to us, we are launched into ways of seeing and being that become truly ours. We are launched into life.”

In both circumstances, new life is involved. And the thing that really caught my attention was that bit about “acts of love previous to us.” In the physical realm, it is the physical love of two people that results in a birth into new life. And in the spiritual realm, it is the love of God in Jesus Christ that results in a birth into new life.

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

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NIV)

This verse has been on my radar since the mid-eighties, during a particularly spiritually volatile time in my life. I enjoy being brought back to it, from time to time. I don’t always enjoy the way it makes me feel, because I’m usually not living by it when it comes back around.

Going back to that bit about spiritual warfare up there . . . too many folks are all too willing to talk about putting on that spiritual armor, the “armor of God” that Paul talks about in Ephesians. They’re all about that “belt of truth” and “breastplate of righteousness.” They’ve got that “shield of faith,” ready to extinguish those “flaming arrows of the evil one.” They’re ready to spread the gospel, although I’m not so sure they’re into that bit about “peace.”

But you will not find those same people being all that excited about putting on these elements that Paul mentions in Colossians. I truly believe that, in their minds, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience = weakness. But they are wrong. What those elements do equal is meekness, which is an entirely different thing.

I believe I find myself with more “fuel” for prayer, today.

Peter gives us a similar list:

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

And, of course, it can all be summed up in love.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.
(1 John 3:18-19 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “focus.” I think it can go quite well with yesterday’s word, which was “ponder,” for to “ponder” something, or meditate on it, is to focus on said topic for a period of time.

I believe our culture has lost, or at least is in the process of losing, the ability to focus. The average, or standard, length of a TV commercial, these days, is fifteen seconds. I remember when they used to be a full minute. Then thirty seconds. Now fifteen. One source claims that some Internet ads are even down to only one second.

This is a reflection on the attention span of our culture. I confess that I have fallen into it, myself, as it is a struggle for me to maintain enough focus to sit and read a book for very long. We are always doing something else when we watch a TV program. We might be eating, we might be playing a game on a phone or tablet or laptop. Or we might just be scrolling through Facebook. I lose count of how many times I have to rewind a program on Prime Video or Netflix, saying, “Wait, what just happened?”

A Zen proverb is quoted at the beginning of today’s reading. It says, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” That’s all it says, but it can be applied to everything we do. There is a lot of stress put on “multitasking,” these days. Personally, I believe multitasking to be a myth. Oh, sure, I can do five things at a time. But am I doing any of them well? And, am I fully focused on any of them?

The answer, of course, is “no.” And, of course, these bad habits cannot help but effect our prayer lives. If I can’t focus enough to read for a length of time, or watch a TV program with my full concentration, I also am unable to pray for any serious amount of time.

A perfect example is what happens to me when I try to do this blog with Facebook and email tabs open in my browser. It is currently 10:47 AM. I started this blog well over two hours ago, and I’m not finished yet. Granted, I look at four different resources (not counting my Bible reading plan), but I still get much too easily distracted.

So there’s what I need to work on. Focus. One thing.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, there is much to pray over today. I give You praise for being my Father in heaven, and for the grace and mercy that You have lavished on me. I pray for Your name to be glorified in all the earth, for You to be lifted high and worshiped.

I thank You for the discipline of fasting, to help me to remember to pray more effectively. Help me to be more adept at both practices, as well as knowing my strengths that You have placed within me. Gratitude is one of those strengths, and showing this, constantly, helps keep me humble (not that I am all that humble, mind you).

Thank You for the miracle of birth, both physical and spiritual. I cannot stress one over the other, for if it were not for physical birth, there would be no spiritual birth. They are too closely tied together. May we all be better at recognizing the beauty in both events.

Please help me to keep myself clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I need all of those in equal measure, for none is more important than any other. I pray that it all be tied together in love within my heart and soul.

And in all of these things, please help me focus better. Keep me mindful of the need for “one thing.” One thing at a time.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
    the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
    and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
(Isaiah 63:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Rejoice in Your Strength

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-first of July, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,141

29 days until S’s birthday

Yesterday was, to put it mildly, an exciting and surreal day. I’ll start with the best part.

I can finally clear up the mystery that has hovered over us for the past few days. Last Wednesday evening, I applied for a job with the Grapevine/Colleyville ISD, as a bus driver trainee. It starts as “trainee” because I currently do not possess a CDL license, nor have I ever driven a school bus.

The next morning, around 10:00, they called me to schedule an interview, which was the reason I took PTO Monday. The interview went well, I though, as I felt that they interviewers were pleased with my answers to their questions, and the atmosphere in the room simply felt pleasant, over all.

Yesterday morning, I received a call from the HR department, offering me the position, which I accepted. I immediately typed out a resignation letter for my current job, stating that my last day is July 30 (next Friday).

There are steps that must be fulfilled along the way. First, I have to get a DOT physical and a drug screen, both of which will be attempted this morning on my way to work. They send me to a Grapevine CareNow location, which happens to be right on my way. I have already been cleared to be late, this morning, in order to accomplish that.

I will also have to get fingerprinted at some point, and they will run a background check on me, as well. I see no reason for any of those things to be an issue.

In conjunction with this, I went to the Social Security website, last night, and applied for “retirement,” to begin receiving my SS benefits, hopefully beginning next month. Since I have not yet reached full retirement age (67, now), I will only receive about 90% of my benefits, and even working part time as a bus driver, I will make more than the allowed amount to receive all of that.

There will be about a week of classroom training, after which I will take the written test to get my permit. Then there will be approximately four weeks of behind-the-wheel training, after which I will take the driving test and, hopefully, get my CDL license. Then I will be a bona fide bus driver.

Now for the not so good part.

Yesterday morning, our son-in-law (referred to in this blog as “J”) began experiencing what was called “stroke-like” symptoms. He was taken to the hospital. Our daughter (R) got in her car to drive to the hospital to meet up with him, and was almost immediately involved in a rather serious accident (someone turned left right in front of her). She was also taken to the hospital in an ambulance (it turns out that she didn’t really need to go, but the ambulance drivers were actually doing her a great favor, as she was trying to get to the hospital to see her husband, anyway!), where she was looked at and cleared.

R is bruised up and scraped a little, perhaps more from the airbag and seatbelt than anything else, and the car is probably totaled. C spent the bulk of the day in Denton with them. I was prepared to head that way, if needed, but it seemed that everyone was, for the most part, okay. This, of course, in the middle of their plans to close on a house and move to Indiana. And it is a terrible time to be trying to buy a car.

So that was our day yesterday. How was yours?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Open Roads, by S. Michaels

Some roads draw me back
others seem to say
time for moving on

©2021 S. Michaels
Are We There Yet?
(High 5 Haiku/5-5-5)

I thought this poem was appropriate for this current time in my life. Thank you, Ms. Michaels.

Trust in the LORD and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
(Psalms 37:3-4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for new opportunities in life;
2. for the trust that You have placed in my heart, even as terrible things were happening, yesterday;
3. that my heart's desires are slowly, but surely, lining up with Your heart's desires;
4. that I am glad with the joy of Your presence;
5. that You have granted me unending blessings;
6. that because of Your unfailing love, I will not be shaken.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK NINE – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalms 24:1 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to reflect on a new path for my life. I am nervous, of course, but excited. I give thanks to the Lord for this new opportunity, and look forward to new opportunities for prayer, as well.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The king rejoices in your strength, LORD.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!

You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken.

Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might.
(Psalms 21:1-7, 13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(Genesis 3:1-7 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages several times over, reminding myself that I sit in the presence of the Almighty, I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me in my thoughts and meditations and prayers. What is standing out to me, in these passages? What can I glean from them?

At first, the passage from Psalm 21 does not appear to apply to me. I am not, after all, “the king.” David appears to be writing about himself in the third person, in this one.

But then I started reading it, thinking about myself. Truly, why could I not insert my own name in places where it says, “the king?”

Jeff rejoices in your strength, LORD.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him— length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For Jeff trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.

Try it yourself! I may not have a literal crown of pure gold on my head, but I have a figurative crown of the life of Christ; the splendor and majesty that I have been granted are those of Christ, as well. I do feel that I have unending blessings and I am glad with the joy of the presence of the Lord.

This psalm has been turned from a somewhat distant song about a king to an extremely meaningful praise hymn about me and my relationship with the real King!

Father, I praise You for the way that You have blessed my life. Even during the turmoil of uncertainty that occurred yesterday, there was still a sense of overwhelming peace, that things were going to be okay. I admit that there was a moment of panic, of indecision, but You also helped me with the calming advice and counsel of friends that can be trusted. Thank You for the “crown” of righteousness that You have placed upon me. Thank You for making me glad with the joy of Your presence. I think I love that one the most, because words cannot adequately express that feeling. And I do believe that, because of Your unfailing love, I truly will not be shaken.

May You bring Your blessings down on all of our communities, Father, both local and national. May You bring blessing on the continent of Asia, today, making them to know the peacefulness of Your sweet presence. And may You bring prosperity to all who suffer from being unemployed, today.

"Betrayed God,
forgive me for willingly rebelling against your commands of life.
My sin has turned light to dark and twisted what is good;
all feels lost,
and I am in deeper than I know.
But I thank you that even in my sin and shame,
you continue to call my name.
Amen."

(The above prayer is quoted from the devotional book, and, no doubt, springs from the passage in Genesis, which I elected not to discuss, this morning. While I will never claim to be without sin, it does not echo my feelings, this morning.)

BLESSING

“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.'”
(Isaiah 51:16 NIV)

He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
(Deuteronomy 10:21 ESV)

I praise you,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(Psalms 139:14-15 ESV)

“Great and terrifying;” “fearfully and wonderfully;” that is our God!

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

Grace and peace, friends.