Who Am I?

“How difficult it is to be honest–to accept that I am unacceptable, to renounce self-justification, to give up my preposterous pretending that my paltry prayers, spiritual insights, knowledge of Scripture, and blustering successes in ministry have made me pleasing to God.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Wednesday, September 3, 2014.

Yesterday afternoon, our SAP program went down, which caused us to not be able to do any goods receipts during the last 90 minutes of work. As a result of that, I need to go in early this morning, so I’ve got to hurry to get whatever devotional I can get done in the next fifteen minutes or so. Therefore, there will be none of my normal introductory stuff.

I will, however, take a few seconds to let you know that today is Welsh Rarebit Day.


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

(From The Divine Hours)

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Psalm 145:21
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.
Agnus Dei
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalm 36:5
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.

Psalm 145:1

Today’s Gospel reading

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Matthew 5:31-32

In this passage, Jesus tackles the Jewish law that allowed divorce for just about any reason imaginable. Basically, if a Hebrew man of that time decided he was tired of his wife, he could make up something to divorce her over. Jesus reinstated the sanctity of marriage in this passage, allowing only the sin of “sexual immorality” as an acceptable reason for divorce. There is a lot more that could be discussed in this passage, but I simply don’t have time this morning. Let it just be said that the sanctity of marriage is important to God.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Knowing Who We Are.”

Brennan quotes one of the Beatitudes from the NEB: “Blessed are those who know that they are poor.” It is important that we know who we are. “How difficult it is to be honest–to accept that I am unacceptable, to renounce self-justification, to give up my preposterous pretending that my paltry prayers, spiritual insights, knowledge of Scripture, and blustering successes in ministry have made me pleasing to God.” I have no beauty that “enamors me in his eyes. I am lovable because he loves me. Period.” It is a very liberating experience to move from this “darkness of self-delusion” to the light of the truth of God. The only thing that makes me beautiful in the eyes of God is the fact that he chose me and covered me with the blood of Christ.

Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God
and knows God.

1 John 4:7

Father, I thank you for the truth stated above. Help me to know this on a daily basis. There are times when I do pretty good with this, yet there are other times when I get all puffed up with Biblical knowledge and piety and all that stuff. Yes, I pray every day. Yes, I read my Bible and “devote” ever day. But nothing of those things makes you love me more! There is nothing I can do to make you love me more! You love me because you love me, not because I have done anything “love-worthy.” Keep that right in front of my eyes and heart, Father, and make me appreciate your grace!

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi’s job keep going as well as it has started. I pray that our drive to work and home will be safe. I pray that our SAP system will be working when I get there. I also ask that Stephanie will experience your great and overwhelming love today. Let her know how much you love her.

I pray for Robert’s friend Carl, who is in a medically induced coma after a motorcycle accident. I pray that you would heal and spare his life, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.

Who are you? Who am I? These are things we need to understand as we relate to our Father.

Grace and peace, friends.

A Tribute to Loyalty

Good morning. It’s Friday, May 25, 2012. One day closer to whatever’s next. (Only one person mentioned to me that I got the date wrong yesterday.) There are, according to my Hallmark app, no holidays today. It was on this date in 1977 that this hit the movie screens for the first time.

It was also on this date in 1935 that Babe Ruth hit home run number 714, his last, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. This record would not be broken until 1974.

And it was on this date in 1957 that Bonnie Jean Vinson and Kenneth Ray Bickley got married. 🙂 That’s right…fifty-five years ago today, my parents got married. Today is their anniversary. And I’m departing from my usual format today to write a sort of tribute to them.
(This is a photo of them sitting on their back deck, in the table and chairs that we got them for my mother’s birthday this year.)
It’s rare that marriages last that long these days (Christi and I are working on year 27). There are many qualities that can make a marriage be as successful as that of my parents. But the one that I want to focus on today, the one that has impressed me the most in the 54 years that I have known them (I really only remember about 49 of those…anything before that is really vague), is loyalty.
Fifty-five years is a long time to spend with someone. But I’ll bet, if you asked them, they would say that it hasn’t seemed that long. I know that the 26.5 that Christi and I have been married has gone by quickly. (I’ve been thinking about this all week, and now my thoughts are all jumbled up, so forgive me if it gets a little scattered.) They didn’t have a lot of time alone together, either. I was born in March of the next year (that’s ten months…I’ll save you the counting). They didn’t waste any time starting this family. Unfortunately, I would be the only child, as my mother would lose a baby a few years later. (I didn’t find that out until I was in high school.) During the 18 years that I lived at home, I got first-hand experience with the loyalty that both my mother and father displayed.

First and foremost, they were loyal to each other. During all of my years, I have never once heard any kind of serious fight or argument between them. There was never any yelling or raised voices (except maybe at me…) in our house. If there has ever been any thought at all of them giving up on their marriage for any reason, I never knew about it (and don’t want to, thank you very much…). They displayed a “unified front” to me at all times. We did things together. Almost every meal was eaten at the dining room table. The exceptions were sometimes Sunday night dinners, which were eaten in the den on TV trays, and Saturday breakfasts, which were eaten at the Crazy Drug Store in downtown Mineral Wells. Cokes and peanut butter crackers. I lived for Saturday mornings! During those years, and still to this day, my parents depended on each other. Some would say it’s a bad thing for people to depend on each other that much. I disagree. I think it’s a beautiful thing. It has definitely had an impact on my marriage with Christi, because I feel that we depend on each other in the same way.

My parents were also loyal to God and to their church. During the entire time that I lived at home, we went to the same church. Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells. We went every Sunday, morning and night. We went every Wednesday, even to business meetings. Ugh. We sang in the choir (after I was old enough, I joined it, too), so we were there for choir practice on Wednesday nights. We went to fellowships after church on Sunday nights. I think my mother worked in Vacation Bible School each year, because she did not work outside the home until I was older. And back in those days, VBS was during the daytime, and I seem to remember it going on for two weeks! These days, you’re lucky if you get three days. When my mother did finally begin to work outside the home (I say it that way, because she most definitely worked), she became the secretary of our church. Those were good times. Before that time, the lady who was the secretary happened to be my mother’s best friend. i have great memories of spending days up at the church while my mother helped her friend do secretary stuff. One of my favorite memories is helping fold the newsletters. But this isn’t about me… After I left home to go to college, things got pretty bad at Calvary Baptist Church. So bad that it split. (For the second time.) So bad that my parents thought it best to leave. They went to First Baptist Church (I’m sure they will correct me if I’m wrong, but I certainly don’t recall any others between), and they have been members there ever since. They aren’t the type to go “church-hopping.”

As for their loyalty to God, it is unmatched. They displayed God’s grace to me from the day I was born, taking me to church for as long as I can remember. I remember first having Bible readings at night before I would go to bed. One memory, in particular has stayed with me. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember my father reading from the Psalms one night. He stated the Scripture reference, read the Psalm, after which I asked, “Where’s the song?” You see, I thought he said “songs,” rather than “Psalms.” But it wasn’t too far off, because, as we know, the Psalms are, in fact, songs. Later on, we had Bible readings every morning at the breakfast table. Not long ones…just a few verses. But we did it every day. After the Bible reading, the old radio in the corner would come on, always tuned to KFJZ 1270AM, just in time to hear the Texas State Network news broadcast by Porter Randall. There was never a time when we didn’t give thanks to God or sing hymns to him. They taught me to love God, and they brought me to Christ as a child. I was baptized when I was nine at Calvary Baptist Church. My parents made sure that I was in Sunday School every Sunday, learning about the Bible from some of the most awesome Bible teachers I can remember.

My father was also loyal to his job. From the time I was born until the day he retired, he worked for AT&T.

Just kidding…although I’ve always loved that particular “Bloom County” cartoon. Sometimes, as a child, it seemed that my father was showing more loyalty to his work than to his family. But that’s just the perspective of a child who is disappointed when the family is about to leave to do something fun and that phone rings, summoning his father to work at odd hours. That happened many times over the years. As children, we don’t understand that loyalty to a job is necessary to show loyalty to a family. Without the job, we don’t eat; we don’t have a roof over our heads. My father worked nights sometimes; he worked Sundays sometimes. I remember having to take a taxi to church (my mother still doesn’t drive…) on Sundays. As time went by, the call-outs happened less frequently, as did the Sunday work days. His job diminished over time, and eventually, he was the only person working at the AT&T station in Mineral Wells. Finally, one day, the offered him early retirement. Wisely, he accepted. (I could write a whole different blog based on wisdom…) They treated him very well, too. So I guess, no matter how angry they make me when I can’t get exactly what I want from them, I’ll probably always be loyal to AT&T, too. Besides, their U-verse beats all the competition to heck.

Sorry…this is not a commercial for AT&T…

Anyway…so he retired. And since that time (I can’t remember how long, but it’s been at least a decade), my parents have had plenty of time to spend together. And guess what!! They’re still together, still in love, and still depend on each other just as much. Probably even more so.

Fifty-five years is a long time. It’s more than a lifetime for me. Two-thirds of a lifetime for my parents. And there aren’t enough words I could put together to express my gratitude for the things that they have taught me in those years. But the one thing that I have focused on today, the one thing that I’ve seen that outshines everything else, is loyalty. They may not have been quite as successful in transferring some other aspects of character to me, but I think I’m a pretty loyal guy.

I can’t end this without a prayer…

Father, I give you thanks and praise for the example that my parents have given to Christi and me over the years. I thank you for the loyalty and faithfulness that has been displayed in their lives. Loyalty to each other; loyalty to you; loyalty to things that are important in life. I thank you for the wisdom that they imparted to me, some of which I even managed to hang on to. More than anything, I thank you for introducing me to you. I know you planned that all along, so the most thanks goes to you for deciding, before the foundations of the earth, to place this boy in that family in 1958. The legacy that their parents gave to them lives on, at least for a while longer. I pray that Christi and I can have as successful and joyful a marriage that my parents have had. We are well on our way, and you have blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.

I also pray, Lord, that you would heal my father from the Inclusion Body Myositis with which he suffers. I pray that you would restore strength to the muscles that are weak. Or that, at least, you would stop the progression of the condition. Your will be done, of that much I am confident, and we, as faithful children, accept your will. But we will always pray for healing when faced with adverse conditions.

Your grace is sufficient, and your grace has been shown through the marriage that is being celebrated today. Thank you, Father.

So, as I close this out, I say to my parents, Ken and Bonnie Bickley,


I love you!

Grace and peace, friends.