Thank You

Today is Thursday, the 24th of Thanksgiving (oops) November, 2022, in the 34th week of Ordinary Time.

I got a little ahead of myself, there.

May the peace of Christ dwell within you today, and cause you to be thankful.

Day 23,632

And, yes, today is Thanksgiving, in the U.S. Canada already had theirs. And this year, Thanksgiving falls on one of those days that I always think Thanksgiving should be on, November 24, 25, or 26. The weather is not the best, today. It’s chilly and rainy, out there. Which doesn’t really bother us, so much, as we aren’t planning to go anywhere. But there are people planning to travel to our house.

And, it is 31 days until Christmas. Believe it or not, I actually have two Christmas presents, already.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; 
and I will keep it to the end.
(Psalms 119:33 ESV)

O Lord God, give us new hearts, teach us a new way on earth, so that through your commandments all people may act in accordance with your Word and may become one. Only you can do this, working through your promised Holy Spirit, and you will do it in order that the earth may become a paradise, a heavenly kingdom pleasing to you. Let your words be written in our hearts, and help us to fulfill your commandments in our daily life. Only by carrying out your commandments may we foolish, sinful people be made perfect, our sins be forgiven, and everything become right and good in your sight. Stay with us, Lord God, our Father. Help us in everything. Let something new, something pleasing to you, soon come into our time. Put your commandments into our hearts, that peace may be restored to the glory of your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them...For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 5:17, 20, NIV

Today I am grateful:

  1. for this day, when our hearts are specifically drawn to giving thanks to God; may we be thankful beyond today
  2. for the promise that our God is always doing something new
  3. for the hope and promise of peace
  4. that the perfect love of our God casts out fear
  5. that the Lord is my perfection, Jesus is my righteousness; in Him, I am made blameless
  6. that God, in His mercy, does not remember our sins, once we have laid them at the foot of the cross

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. 

Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; 
preserve me from violent men, 
who plan evil things in their heart 
and stir up wars continually. 
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's, 
and under their lips is the venom of asps. 
Selah. 

Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; 
preserve me from violent men, 
who have planned to trip up my feet. 
The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, 
and with cords they have spread a net; 
beside the way they have set snares for me. 
Selah. 

I say to the LORD, You are my God; 
give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD! 
O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, 
you have covered my head in the day of battle. 
Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; 
do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! 
Selah. 

As for the head of those who surround me,
 let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! 
Let burning coals fall upon them! 
Let them be cast into fire, 
into miry pits, no more to rise! 
Let not the slanderer be established in the land; 
let evil hunt down the violent man speedily! 

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, 
and will execute justice for the needy. 
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; 
the upright shall dwell in your presence.
(Psalms 140:1-13 ESV)

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
(Jeremiah 33:3 NIV)


For who is God, but the LORD? 
And who is a rock, except our God?
— the God who equipped me with strength 
and made my way blameless.
(Psalms 18:31-32 ESV)

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 ESV)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:18 ESV)


And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)


My gratitude, on this day, is immense. Perhaps I am focusing more on it, today, since it is the day of Thanksgiving. As anyone knows, who has regularly read this blog, I am grateful, every day, as a practice of spiritual discipline. But today, that gratitude is heightened.

As I read the various Scriptures today, I find that I am most grateful for things like the promise of Jeremiah 33:3, the promise that, if I call to the Lord, earnestly, and in humility, He will answer; He will show me things that I have not known. And trust me, there is plenty that I do not know. The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know much.

I am also very grateful (is it possible to be “very” grateful?) for the truth of the passage from Psalm 18.

Let’s talk about “perfection,” for a minute. The harder we work to be “perfect,” the farther short we fall from the goal. And, it causes us great stress and anxiety, two things that Scripture tells us are bad. Jesus has told us to be anxious for nothing, because worrying cannot add a second to our lives or an inch to our stature. In fact, medical science has shown us that worry and anxiety not only do not lengthen our lives, they shorten them!

Great. There’s another thing to be anxious about!

But, as the psalmist tells us, God has made our way “blameless” (some translations say “perfect.” I rather like the way Eugene Peterson said it:

Is not this the God who armed me, then aimed me in the right direction?
(Psalms 18:32 MSG)

Exactly how has God made me perfect or blameless? How has He pointed me in the right direction? Through Jesus Christ.

Who didn’t see that coming?

Seriously, though, it is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to our account, that has made us blameless. This is one of those mysteries. I love mysteries. The Communion Table (the church we are currently attending calls it the “Table of Grace”) is a mystery. How is the bread and wine also the body and blood of Christ? I don’t know. But He said it is, so it is. Once again, God said it, and I believe it.

God has also told us that the righteousness of Christ has become our righteousness. He has, in Jesus, removed all of our sin from us.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
(1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:18-19 ESV)

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 ESV)

How much more encouragement do we need? And why? Why can’t we get this? Why can’t we embrace this? This is something that I must contemplate. It must have to do with arrogance and selfishness or something.

But there it is. And I am so very thankful for these truths today. God remembers my sin no more. None of it. He doesn’t remember that thing I did when I was a teenager, even though I can’t seem to forget it. He doesn’t remember the awful way I treated someone (many times, sadly), even though those memories pop into my brain at the most inopportune times. God forgets our sins, intentionally. His ability to do that is, quite frankly, unfathomable.

I am driven, as Paul, to declare,

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)


Father, my cup overflows, this morning. As we get ready to partake of the table that You have prepared for us, we are thankful for all of the things that I have mentioned, this morning. And, in addition, not only have You prepared a table for us, You have given us, in abundance, that we might share with others. And I am grateful that You have given us generous hearts, that we might share with “the least of these,” whom Jesus proclaims represent Him in this world.

I pray for all the world, this morning, that all would know Your presence; that all would know Your great salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that Your Kingdom will come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that everyone would know the joy of realizing this great forgiveness of sin, the healing from anxiety and worry, Father. Help us to know Your great love for us, and be thankful in all circumstances.

I pray for the many people I know, this morning, who have lost, or are about to lose, loved ones. It is such a difficult thing to lose a family member around holidays. It taints the holidays forever. I pray for comfort and peace for those, Father, that Your grace and mercy would overflow in their hearts.

I praise You that Christ is our righteousness, and that, when You look at us, You look through His sacrifice, through His blood, and You see His perfection. This does not, of course, clear us to do whatever we please. On the contrary, it motivates us to try to do better in this world. At least it should.

Thanks be to You for Your indescribable gift, Father! And may You be glorified in all the earth, today and every day.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Let Everything that Has Breath

Today is Saturday, the 15th of October, 2022, in the 28th week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,592

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence as imperfect, sinful children, who do many foolish things and who are involved in much that is evil and corrupt. We come to you, Father, knowing that your fatherly love is with us through all eternity. Be gracious to us and free us from all the harm and injury we are bound to suffer in this earthly life. May the grace your kingdom brings on earth finally blot out the sins of all people, so that as your children they may rejoice because you have helped them. May your name be praised among all people. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(Matthew 9:12-13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. that we are able to come into the presence of God, even as imperfect, sinful children
  2. for the blessings of a new day
  3. that, when the Lord wants to do something in or through me, the “how” is not my concern
  4. for “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)
  5. for the many ways that we can praise the Lord; “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
 for his steadfast love endures forever! 
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, 
whom he has redeemed from trouble 
and gathered in from the lands, 
from the east and from the west, 
from the north and from the south.
(Psalms 107:1-3 ESV)

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
(Luke 1:34 ESV)


Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 ESV)

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, 
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
(Psalms 103:17-18 ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)


Praise the LORD! 
Praise God in his sanctuary;
 praise him in his mighty heavens! 
Praise him for his mighty deeds; 
praise him according to his excellent greatness! 
Praise him with trumpet sound; 
praise him with lute and harp! 
Praise him with tambourine and dance; 
praise him with strings and pipe! 
Praise him with sounding cymbals; 
praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
 Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 150:1-6 ESV)

“Everything that has breath.”

Cats and dogs have breath. Deer and hogs have breath. Lizards have breath. There are many things, other than human beings, that have breath. There are also human beings who have breath who cannot speak.

How do all of these “praise the Lord?”

As in the question by the virgin Mary, the “how” is not my concern. Now, we note that the angel answered Mary’s question, because it was, apparently, asked in innocent wonder. Unlike Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, whose question was more of an unbelieve scoffing. You know, kind of the way Sarai laughed when she heard she was going to have a baby when she was close to 100 years old.

The angel answered Mary, but he didn’t have to, did he? I believe that wildlife praises God naturally. The trees may not “clap their hands,” but then, again, perhaps they do, when the wind blows. Their clapping just sounds more like rustling, as their leaves hit each other in the wind. Perhaps when dogs and wolves howl at the moon, they are, in their own, natural way, praising their creator. Who can say otherwise?

Of course, it can be argued that the word translated “breath” in Psalm 150 could also be “soul.” Then many people would take animals other than humans out of the picture. However, I am not 100% convinced that animals do not have souls.

While some might see this as a “command,” I do not. It’s a song of praise, a fitting end to the book of prayers and hymns that occupies the center of our Bible (for a long time, I have felt that it is no coincidence that the Psalms are in the center). It is an encouragement, an admonishment.

So praise Him! If you have breath, praise Him! You definitely have a soul. So praise Him!

Praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the evening
Praise Him when you're young and when you're old

Praise Him when you're laughing
Praise Him when you're grieving
Praise Him in every season of the soul

Join with the angels in heaven in praising Him
Join with all creation on earth in praise Him

"If they could see how much You're worth
Your power, Your might, Your endless love
Then surely they would never cease to praise You"

(Adapted from Matt Redman's "Everything that Has Breath")

Father, I join with all creation on earth and all the angels in heaven in praise You. I confess that I do not praise You enough. By Your Spirit, I pray that You remind me, more often, to stop whatever I am doing and praise You, worshiping You throughout the day, no matter what I am doing. At the library, today, remind me to praise You. As I drive to and from there, remind me to praise You. When I’m playing my video games, remind me to praise You. When I’m reading my books, remind me to praise You.

I pray that the words of this Psalm will be fulfilled, and that everything that has breath, even things that do not, will praise You! Even let the rocks cry out, Father! Let them shout for joy, to the glory of Your Name.

I pray that every tribe, nation, and tongue on earth will know Your glory, know Your power, know Your might, and know Your endless love for us. Help those of us who are living in and walking in that love display it to others so that they can also experience it.

Let everything that has breath praise You, Lord!

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of His grace!
(Charles Wesley)

Grace and peace, friends.

Humble Confidence

Today is Monday, the sixth of June, 2022, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,461

I’ll confess that I have been slightly confused about when Ordinary Time occurs, partially because of a devotional book I used last year. The primary Church calendar, however, shows Ordinary Time to occur between Epiphany Sunday (usually the first Sunday in January) until Ash Wednesday, and then from Pentecost Sunday (which was yesterday) up until Advent. Hence today beginning the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.
Lord our God, gather us together in one flock to praise you with one heart and one voice. Let this praise ring out on earth in the midst of all the evils that still confront us. We thank you for your protection, for all the help and deliverance you give us. We thank you for the hope you put into our hearts. We thank you for the hope that we may yet see great things done through the working of your Spirit, for us your children and for all peoples and nations. For your love will not rest until life on earth has come into your hands and all may rejoice. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! 
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. 
Your unfailing love will last forever. 
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the understanding that the purpose of my life is to love; to love my family, to love Jesus, to love the Church, and to love my neighbor as myself
2. that I don't have any "agenda" for my life, other than the above declaration;
3. that I am a child of God, but also that He has led me down a path of humility in that relationship, because, not only is He my Father, He is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe!
4. that I will be praising God for "ten thousand years and then forevermore" (Matt Redman)
5. that my joy is not dependent upon my happiness; I may not always smile, but there is always hope and celebration in my soul
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! 
Sing about the glory of his name! 
Tell the world how glorious he is. 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! 
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
 Everything on earth will worship you; 
they will sing your praises, 
shouting your name in glorious songs.” 
Come and see what our God has done, 
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
(Psalms 66:1-5 NLT)
Come and listen, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell you what he did for me. 
For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. 
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. 
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer 
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
(Psalms 66:16-20 NLT)

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “confident.” The quote used comes from Maya Angelou.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.”

Let me say, right off the bat, that I have no problem with the thought of confidence before God. I believe that Scripture teaches this.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

But there is a stark difference between confidence and arrogance. And we must not cross that line when we come before the Lord, in my opinion. I really don’t have a problem with Ms. Angelou’s quote, either, in the context of Hebrews 4:16.

I do, however, have a problem with where today’s reading takes the idea. The writer, Jeanette, applies this to a mindset of prayer, and relates a time when friends at a Bible study told her, “Hold up your head when you talk to God. You are His child. You have every right to come to Him and ask for what you need and want.” (I added the italics.)

This, in my opinion, crosses that line. Especially that bit about asking for what we want. I started to write that I don’t have a problem asking God for things that I want. But that’s not quite accurate. I’ll admit that I do struggle some with asking God for things that I want, but don’t necessarily need. I even struggle with praying for other peoples’ prayer requests when they ask me to pray for something that they want, but don’t necessarily need. It’s not my place to judge, for sure. And I will pray for what they ask me to pray for (unless it’s political . . . I won’t go there), but I will also let God know how I feel about that.

Haha. That last sentence is kind of ridiculous, you know? “I will also let God know how I feel about that.” As if He already doesn’t know that, right??

We say, sometimes, the most foolish things about God and our relationships with Him. He knows everything! He already knows how I feel about that prayer request.

So, do we have a “right” to ask God for anything we want?

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
(John 15:7 NLT)

Here’s the thing. I think there’s a catch there. It’s not a “blank check” as some folks want to believe. Yes, we may ask for anything we want. But I firmly believe that, if I am remaining (abiding) in Christ and His words are abiding in me, that will have a drastic effect on whatever I want! I won’t want the same things.

I can speak from experience on this. Not that I have perfectly nailed down this concept of abiding. Far from it. However, as I work toward that, and when I do abide in Christ and His words abide in me, I find that I cannot, in good conscience, ask for the same things that I would have asked for, earlier in my life.

I find myself praying that God would bless my “enemies” rather than curse them. I find myself praying more for things like unity in the Body of Christ, because that’s one of the more important things that I want when I am abiding in Him.

“Jeanette” naively compares us asking God for something to her own children asking her for stuff. She doesn’t want them to hang her head, but to ask confidently. I would like to see how faithful she is to that belief when her kids come to her in arrogance, asking for something that they want, that might harm them in some way.

Her prayer at the end says, “Dear Lord, help me remember that although You are God, You are also my Father.” I would turn that around. It’s true. He is both. But, lest we get too comfortable, we must also remember that our Father is also Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. A little humility is in order, I do believe.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Praise the LORD, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. 
He makes the nations submit to me. 
O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, 
mere mortals that you should think about them?
 For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NLT)

“You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”
(Job 42:3 NLT)

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
(Psalms 39:4-5 NLT)

And look! What more reason for humility do we need than what we find in these Scriptures?? We are but a breath, in comparison with our eternal, infinite, majestic God! “My entire lifetime is just a moment to you!” How could I come before this God with any thought of arrogance, with any though of demanding something that I seem to think I have a right to???

This life is so very short. But eternity is long. And, as the following song says, we will have 10,000 years and then forevermore to sing His praises! Hallelujah.

To me, this is a very stirring moment, as I watch and listen to Matt unable to contain his emotions while singing this praise song.

The same mindset that would have us come before our Father in arrogance also brings us the idea that we should always be smiling. And I think the bottom line in all of this is that we must remember that there is nothing “fake” about being a Christian.

The idea of “fake it until you make it” has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. This life is real. There is nothing, in my opinion, more real than walking in Jesus Christ. He is Reality.

“It is a myth that the Christian always wears a smile. There is a stream of joy that runs through the Christian life and keeps surfacing in praise and glad service. There is a powerful note of celebration in the church’s life and the Christian’s witness. But that is not the kind of smile that maintains itself by ignoring or denying everything that is troubling or difficult.”

I used to work with someone who displayed what I call “toxic positivity.” She could not bear any negative thought whatsoever, about anything.

We do, as followers of Christ, face difficulties in this world. “We must wrestle with unanswerable questions. If we take seriously the commands of God and give ourselves seriously to the task of loving our neighbors and our enemies, we are going to find ourselves in conflict with others, even find ourselves looking silly and naive – a laughingstock, in short.”

We will feel, at times, that God is unfair. I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt that. And, even worse, there is the danger of beginning to think, “If only I were a better Christian, I wouldn’t feel this way. If I just had more faith, these blasphemous thoughts would never cross my mind. If only I could be well balanced and peaceful and accepting of God’s will in my life, like the really good Christians!”

But here’s the thing. As Christians, we are not people who never have doubts or feelings of despair. Anyone who tells you different is lying to you (and probably lying to themselves, as well). As Christians, we are people who believe in spite of those things! We obey God’s commands when we don’t feel like it, and we hope, even when it looks like there is no hope.

I certainly struggle with these things. I look around me, right now, and see very little hope for this nation. It is more divided than I have ever seen it, in my 64 years, and it is, quite frankly, so foolish that I can hardly stand it. The political division in the country right now is asinine. It makes no sense. But guess what? My hope is not in this country. My hope is not in a political party (either one, or any of the alternatives). My hope is not in a president, past, present, or future.

My hope is in Jesus. And when I look around and see no hope, I still have hope because of Him. It is because of Him that I can sing “10,000 Reasons.” It is because of Him that I can go before the God of the universe with humble confidence, and ask for whatever I want, knowing, or at least hoping, that “whatever I want” is also what He wants.

And what does He want? If you’ve read this blog at all, you already know what I’m going to say. He wants us to love Him with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to love the saints in the same way that Jesus loves us.

“The picture we have of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shows him agonizing over the decision of the Cross. He struggled with his own feelings. He wrestled with the will of God and finally chose the will of God. And out of this struggle came something we call good news.”

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

Father, there may be too much stuff here, today. There is certainly a lot to pray about. I pray, Father, that people would not be subjected to false teachings. I know that Your Word says they will come. And come, they have, in droves. I won’t name names, but there are certain people that I truly believe are teaching serious error in Your kingdom. I pray for truth to be known. I also pray that we, Your children, would have the confidence to come before You boldly, but also have the sense to come before You in humility. Yes, You are our Father, and You love us. But You are also Almighty God, and have all the power.

I come before You as one who has surrendered any “rights” to anything that I might want. Therefore, when I read Jesus’s words about asking for whatever I want, I take that in context of abiding in Your Word and Your Word abiding in me. I do not have a right to anything I want, because I have surrendered those rights.

I thank You for whatever life I have on this earth. I am grateful for the number of years that I have had, so far, and will graciously accept whatever number of years You grant me, going forward. I pray that, through the rest of those years, I will heed Your Word and do what You have commanded us to do. I pray that I will always shove my opinions into the “back seat,” and simply do my job, which is to love You and love people. And I pray that this example will speak more loudly than ten thousand words.

I thank You for the hope of “ten thousand years and then forevermore.” That hope is what keeps me going, some days. And I look forward with great anticipation to that day when that multitude from every tribe, nation, language, and people will stand before You, arms lifted high, shouting and worshiping Your holiness and Your Name! You are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and glory and honor and blessing! Worthy Is the Lamb! Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

All glory to You, Lord, through the Son, and by the Spirit!

Grace and peace, friends.

Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; 
therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

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)

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Stored Goodness

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

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,458

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet.

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,430

I had a fine day at the library, yesterday. There were a couple of challenging patrons, but I always have help from at least one other manager or librarian during my time, there, and they were graciously helpful. As usual, I learned more about my job while I was there, and it is always good to learn new things, so that I can help the next person better.

The Rangers didn’t play yesterday, but the Red Sox did, and lost tremendously to the LA Angels, by the score of 8-0. The sad thing is, Boston’s starter, threw five shutout innings! It was the bullpen, once again, that blew the game and gave up 8 runs. The Sox are now 10-16 for the season, tied with Baltimore for last place. They begin a series with the Other Sox (11-13) tonight, in Boston.

The Rangers begin their series in NYC, against the Evil Empire tonight. Game time is . . . oops. No they don’t. Tonight’s game has already been postponed, and a double header is planned for Sunday. So there you go.

Those Yankees still hold the best record in MLB, at 18-7, but are only a half game ahead of Milwaukee’s Brewers and the Mets. The Reds have now lost nine consecutive games and are 3-22. There remain five teams who have yet to win ten games. The aforementioned Reds, the Washington Nationals, the Detroit Tigers, the KC Royals, and the Chicago Cubs.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer)

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
(Psalms 34:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies and mild weather, today
2. for all things that are lovely, and for the loveliness of the Name of the Lord
3. that God will show me the right path to follow; that His Spirit will lead me forward on firm footing
4. that God is rooting out all false gods from my life, any idols that may be in His place in my heart
5. for the hope that you will see these things and be inspired to practice your own gratitude

Today’s prayer word is “lovely.”

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8 NLT)

We have the ability to choose what we allow our minds to dwell on. One of my favorite Dallas Willard quotes is in regard to this. “The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon and think about.”

The casual observer might be forced to think that the majority of US citizens are choosing to dwell upon the most negative things possible. Paul gives us this admonition in Philippians, a most wonderful encouragement, to think about, to dwell upon, whatever is “lovely.”

What are some things that are “lovely?”

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude
(Psalms 84:1-4 NLT)

The dwelling place of the Lord is lovely. Now, we know that when the descendants of Korah wrote this psalm, they were speaking of a physical building. But we now think of the “dwelling place” of the Lord as the human soul. Therefore, I must believe that the soul of a human being is “lovely.” Believe me, that is extremely difficult, sometimes, especially when confronted with a human being who seems to have no soul.

The name(s) of the Lord is “lovely.”

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; celebrate his lovely name with music.
(Psalms 135:3 NLT)

There is a song that I like, called “Tremble.” It’s all about the wonder and beauty of the name of Jesus. The bridge says this:

Your name is a light that the shadows can't deny
Your name cannot be overcome
Your name is alive forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome

The name of Jesus is lovely, indeed, and most worthy of the attention of our minds.

This is the value of meditation and contemplation, the classic disciplines. By practicing these disciplines (and there is a difference between the two), we train our minds to do exactly what Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 4:8, to think upon things that are “lovely.”

And what Dallas Willard said is true. As human beings, we have the unique ability to control what we allow our minds to dwell on. The problem is, we simply fail to do that, most of the time. Just because a thought pops into our head, doesn’t mean it has to stay there, right?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me, today, to dwell upon what is lovely. If a negative thought comes into my brain, help me to push it right on through, dwelling on the loveliness of Your name or Your dwelling place. May I look upon every human being as lovely in Your sight, because You created all of us in Your image. I pray that all of Your people would do the same, and treat others with dignity and respect, even if they don’t agree about things. Your Name is lovely. The Name of Jesus chases shadows away and will not be overcome. Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble! Hallelujah!

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.
(Psalms 25:4 NLT)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
(Psalms 143:10 NLT)

As I reflect on the things that are lovely, meditating on and contemplating the name and characteristics of the Holy Trinity, then the Spirit of God can “lead me forward on a firm footing.” The Lord can “show me the right path,” and “point out the road for me to follow.” But this takes work on my part. Yes, I can pray for God to do these things, and He does answer prayer, but it’s not just automatic. I have to do the work required to learn these things. I must practice the disciplines in order to train my mind to think about the things that are pure and lovely.

Father, I praise You that You will point out the path, show me the road, and help me keep my feet on that path. But I ask You to help me practice the disciplines that will enable me to hear You when You guide me. Help me to learn how to pay attention. When I have trained my mind, heart, and soul to listen to You and focus on Your loveliness, then fear has no place in my life. Regardless of the circumstances that I see in the world around me, I will have no fear if I am simply focusing on the right things. So help me to focus on the right things. Help me practice those disciplines.

"Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus' name, Amen."
(From The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer)

Eugene Peterson expresses a wonderful sentiment in a reading called “Do It Yourself.” He relates a personal story, in which he attended a concert by Pete Seeger (I’m not at all jealous)(yes, I am, that was sarcasm), where Seeger played the banjo and sang folk songs. Peterson was inspired by Seeger’s banjo playing, to the point that he went and bought a second-hand banjo and found some used instructions books and tried to learn how to play, himself.

Here’s the thing. As much as he enjoyed the concert, and likely would have enjoyed another, the “distinctive thing in that experience was not that I wanted to go back and here Pete Seeger sing again but that I wanted to do it myself.”

And then, as he has a way of doing, Peterson applies this to the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. “That is what pastors should want to take place when they teach and preach the Scriptures–not to have people become dependent on them but to have people become eager to get the Bible in their own hands and become competent in reading it.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this way of thinking. Sadly, however, when I observe the world around me, I see a veritable plethora of people who have not, in fact, studied the Scriptures, themselves, but, rather, are spouting nonsense that they have heard from other people, who may or may not have studied Scripture, or have studied it wrongly.

I have several goals with this blog. One is simply nothing more than to have a record of my daily devotions. Years ago, I decided that keeping them online would take up a lot less space than writing them in notebooks, and would be quicker, as well. I can type a lot faster than I can write. But another goal (as well as a corresponding goal for my Facebook posts and TikTok posts) is to inspire people to 1) read and study the Scriptures themselves, and 2) practice daily gratitude.

Don’t read what I say and just believe it (or not believe it, for that matter). Be like the Berean Christians in Acts who “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” And, for heaven’s sake, don’t just believe something because a pastor said it from a pulpit.

But more than anything, I want to inspire you to be grateful. I want to inspire you to think about things that are “lovely.” I want to inspire you to love God and love people, to take part in a Love Revolution.

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

Father, I pray that people will see this blog, read it, and then take it upon themselves to think about things that are pure and lovely, to love You and to love each other, and then to practice their own gratitude. I pray that people would see Your loveliness reflected in the way I live, not the ugliness of the world around me. Help me to reflect Your love and mercy and grace, rather than everything negative in the world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Signpost Up Ahead . . .

Today is Monday, the twenty-fifth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be within you, today!

Day 23,419

Today, I’m attempting to begin a new habit/ritual. I’ve tried this before, but it didn’t stick. But I’m going to attempt to get my morning devotional actually finished in the morning, from now on, and get it done before I give significant attention to anything else. Facebook is not open; my email is not open. Only this tab is open, along with one where I can look up anything I need to know, such as how many days since I was born.

The following was added after the devotional was completed.

The Texas Rangers failed in their bid to sweep the Oakland Athletics, as Marcus Semien was the only batter to get any hits until the top of the ninth inning. Jonah Heim and Nathaniel Lowe got hits in the ninth, but the Rangers were unable to bring them home, and lost the game 2-0. They are now 5-10 for the season, still in last place in the AL West. Their next game is today, back in Arlington, against the Houston Astros. Dane Dunning (0-1) will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Boston Red Sox dropped another game to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2. They are now 7-9 for the season, and remain in fourth place in the AL East. The Yankees and Blue Jays are tied for first place. The Sox will play the Blue Jays tonight, in Toronto, at 7:07, EDT.

The LA Dodgers continue to hold the best record in MLB, at 11-4, followed closely by the NY Mets, at 12-5. The Cincinnati Reds finally managed to win another game, but still hold down the bottom of the list, at 3-13. The Rangers are third from the bottom, but only because the Nationals have somehow played 3 more games than they.

Today is an “always off” day, but I have some things that need to get done, so I will be moderately busy.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for In the Morning)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day; may it be lived in Christ's kingdom
2. for the many examples of prayer given to us in Scripture
3. for what Christ did for us in His life, death, and resurrection
4. that I have no need nor cause to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)
5. that if I take delight in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)
6. for the joy and peace that comes from knowing these things

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:4-6 NLT)

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
(Matthew 6:30 NLT)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 NLT)

There’s enough good stuff in those verses to get one through a whole week, I believe. Truly, we have no cause to worry about anything. Nevertheless, worry, we do. It seems to take much more work than it should to delight myself in the Lord, every day. And this, even knowing the truth of that verse in Psalm 37!

I am thankful for this reminder, this morning.

Father, thank You for reminding me that I don’t have anything to worry about. Thank You for the reminder that, if I take delight in You, You will give me the desires of my heart. Thank You for the example of the wildflowers and the birds, and the reminder that I am much more valuable to You than they. And thank You for the joy and peace that comes from knowing all of these things and trusting in You.

Eugene Peterson gives us “Three Short Thoughts on Direction.”

“All life is a pilgrimage. We are on our way to a destination.”

This is undoubtedly true of all of us. Even those who don’t think they are moving in any direction are on some kind of pilgrimage. This life is a journey, and there is a “final destination,” somewhere.

“Christians believe that we are on our way to God and that our companion is Jesus Christ.”

Even though we consider that God is “omnipresent,” there is still a sense that we are traveling toward Him. This is truly a mystery, and I am incapable of fully comprehending the truth that I am on my way to God, but God is also my traveling companion, because we also believe that Jesus is God.

Jesus is most definitely my companion, especially if I consider that I am walking in His “easy yoke.” If I am yoked with Him, He is right beside me. This is something that I confess that I fail to take into consideration at all times.

Is it even possible to do this? Frank Laubach believed that it was. He was a missionary to the Philippines in 1915. In 1930, he went to Mindanao, the second-largest of the Philippine islands, where he eventually taught about half of the population of that island to read and write. It was during this time that he wrote the letters that would eventually be compiled in Letters From A Modern Mystic.

Laubach came to believe (and, presumably, practice) that one could, in fact, be aware of the presence of God during every moment of one’s existence. Here is an excerpt from that book.

“We used to sing a song in the church in Benton which I liked, but which I never really practiced until now. It runs:

"Moment by moment, I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

“It is exactly that ‘moment by moment,’ every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions: First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master. Open your soul and entertain the glory of God and after a while that glory will be reflected in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head.”

And it is with this constant thought that Jesus is our companion on this journey that helps us know this “moment by moment” reality.

“One of the primary (maybe the primary) signposts showing the way is the Cross of Jesus.”

How does the Cross show us the way? It is more than just by wearing it on a chain around our necks or having it hung on the wall in our house. It is on the Cross that Jesus was lifted up to draw all men to Him. It is the Cross that is probably what many of us think of when we think of Jesus.

Sure, we consider His life, and most definitely His resurrection. But separating all of time is the Cross of Jesus. Without the Cross, His life would have been nothing more than a good example. Without the Cross, there would have been no resurrection. And without the Cross, there would be no “body and blood” to consume whenever we partake of the Supper.

The Cross points us to the way of sacrifice. The Cross points us to the way of putting others before ourselves. And, through the Cross, we gain the power to do that.

Jesus, I thank You for the Cross. I thank You for the life lived before that dreadful event, and I thank You even more for the power and miracle of the Resurrection that came after. As I continue to walk on this journey of life, may I see the Cross every day as my signpost, directing me to my destination. I thank You for inviting me on this journey, and for giving me the many other human companions that You have given me along the way.

Some of those companions seem to have wandered off the path, or simply stopped. I pray for those, Lord, that You might reach out to them and draw them back to Your path, letting them know that there is no condemnation for them, as they are fully forgiven by the very Cross of which we are speaking.

I believe, with all of my heart, that I will reach my destination, and I believe that You are my companion along the way. I thank You for this, as well. Help me to consider You, the Father, and the Spirit during every moment of every day. Perhaps this an unrealistic expectation, but Laubach didn’t seem to think so. So I will pray for it, and I will endeavor to do so. Nevertheless, I will not “beat myself up” when I fail. Because You, Lord Jesus, are full of grace and mercy, for which I also praise You.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Back To the Basics

“Our opinions and arguments on world affairs make nothing happen, but several times a day, we have chances at peacemaking, praying, and loving that implement the kingdom.”

It is Friday, the eighteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be upon you, today!

Day 23,381

Nothing much happened, yesterday, as it was a pretty lazy day for me. I did finish another book, which I will get posted at my other blog, at some point, today.

Today’s my day in Computer Center, which is always nice, and usually pretty laid back. And hopefully, the manager and I can get my PC taken care of, during the day.

There may be Freebird’s for dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Reinvention,” by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

Life is what happens
when new creation
overtakes all doubts

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

As always, I encourage you to click on the link, as there is always a lovely photograph that accompanies the poem.

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
(Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing, and I woke up this morning
2. that, by the power of God's Spirit, I have all that I need for life and godliness; I do need to practice the disciplines to strengthen and develop what I have, though, just like physical muscles
3. for my brothers and sisters in Christ, as our faith increases and our love for one another increases (hopefully)
4. that I can practice the presence of God in any circumstance, even cooking and cleaning
5. for the opportunities to practice love and prayer that will come my way today

The prayer word for today is “increase.” This is a word that has some dangerous connotations. For example, it seems to have ties to the almost cultic outbreak of the “prayer of Jabez” a few decades ago. But the idea presented by the reading today is an increase of characteristics such as the fruit of the Spirit.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
(Luke 2:52 ESV)

Note that Jesus did not increase in property, wealth, and territory.

The writer, identified only as “Jeanette,” speaks of needing an increase in patience, only to hear from the Lord that she already has all the patience (along with the rest of the fruit of the Spirit) that she needs, she just needs to “exercise it.”

Could it be that that is how this works?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is a lot like muscles. If you exercise them, they get stronger. You already have all the muscles you are going to have. But, through discipline, you can develop those muscles and make them stronger. So it goes with Christ-like traits. This is why we have the “spiritual disciplines” or practices. So that we can develop and strengthen love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Scripture tells us that we already have all of those that we need.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

One more way I like to use the word “increase.”

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
(John 3:30 ESV)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:10 ESV)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
(2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

There’s that word again, “increasing.” In this case, it is our love for one another. There is a reason that I harp on love all the time, here. As a general rule, we humans are pretty bad at our performance of Romans 12:10.

Eugene H. Peterson quotes William Blake, who said, “He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars” (Selections from ‘Jerusalem’ [The Holiness of Minute Particulars]).

Peterson considers love and prayer to be among those “Minute Particulars” of which Blake speaks. These are things that we can carry out in our immediate circumstances, regardless of where we are.

“Our opinions and arguments on world affairs make nothing happen, but several times a day, we have chances at peacemaking, praying, and loving that implement the kingdom.”

Read that again. Read it until it sinks in. Remember that thing that Amy Grant said, that I keep going back to? We two jobs . . . love God and love people, and our opinions about controversial matters don’t factor into the job descriptions for either job.

We go through life accumulating debris, stuff we may have needed, at one time in our lives, but need no longer. That debris causes fatigue in our lives. Just like we must occasionally do house cleaning, we need to “get rid of whatever is interfering with who we want to be before God and with each other. Wise Christians go back to the basics.”

Peterson then takes a couple paragraphs to talk about the famous Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, who wrote Practicing the Presence of God. Inspired by a dry, leafless, winter tree, Brother Lawrence decided to let spring come in his life, “letting the life of Christ take root and blossom in his whole being.” He spent the rest of his life “among pots and pans. He cooked meals, baked bread, and swept the kitchen floor, all the while practicing the presence of God.”

The practice of the presence of God is “simple, but not easy. Basic, but not elementary. It takes determined attention to be simple. It takes all the help we can get to be basic.”

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

Father, help me to practice Your presence today, as I sit in the Computer Center, as I sort books, as I shelve books, and as I assist patrons in doing whatever they need. Help me to set aside my opinions and arguments, things that have absolutely not bearing on world situations, so that I may faithfully practice love and prayer whenever the opportunity arises.

Help me to decrease while Christ increases in my life.

Help me to declutter my life, both spiritual and physical/material.

Help me get back to the basic.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Gobsmacked

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

Today is Thursday, the seventeenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,380

Today is also St. Patrick’s Day. March is a busy month. St. Patrick’s, Ides of March, my birthday, Spring Break, and the Vernal Equinox. Oh, and the change to fake time, which may be on the verge of being permanent real time.

It was a pretty quiet day at the library, yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect, it being Spring Break. But it was also a beautiful day outside, so that may be why we didn’t get a lot of traffic. I’m off today, and will be back in the Computer Center, tomorrow.

The weather is pretty nice again today, with a high of 78 predicted, but possible thunderstorms late this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
(Isaiah 29:13-14 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a growing sense of awe, wonder, and mystery surrounding my Father in heaven
2. for the utterly astonishing mercy, unconditional love, and faithfulness of God; I am gobsmacked
3. for the community of saints; oh, how we need each other
4. that, though I may not be the wisest, the mightiest, or the richest, I can boast I know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
5. that Jesus teaches me to die so that I can live

Today’s prayer word is “glorious.”

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

There are a lot of things that we might think are “glorious.” But truly, our God is the only One worthy of the adjective. One of the definitions is, “having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.” There are many things in our physical world that might evoke such feelings. A beautiful sunset, the ocean waves crashing on the shore, whether it be rocks or a sand beach, a beautiful mountain range, or a dense, green forest. I have seen all of these things.

I have not “seen” God. Yet I know that He is beautiful; He has a striking beauty and splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration in me. Therefore, He is glorious. In the words of one known only as “Susanna,” “I am stunned by His mercy. I am gobsmacked by His unconditional love. I am awed by His faithfulness.” Yes, she said “gobsmacked.” That’s a British adjective that means, “utterly astonished; astounded.”

I, too, am all of those things in the presence of God.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
(John 7:38 ESV)

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 ESV)

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

It’s only two paragraphs, so I’m going to quote the Peterson reading in its entirety.

“A gospel paradox: in getting us ready to live, Jesus gets us ready to die. First he gets himself ready to die so that he can live. Then he gets us ready. Our habit is to think life first, then death. Jesus radicalizes our perceptions: first death, then life. This death is not primarily biological, although it will eventually include that.

“Jesus is leading us to the death of illusions, and illusions die hard. Jesus is leading us to the death of self-will, and self-will is a stubborn survivor. Jesus is leading us to the death of sin, and sin is a cat with nine lives. Jesus is leading us to the Lenten death that will catapult us into the Easter resurrection.”

“Death, Then Life” is the title of this reading. Just as we have traditionally gotten evening and morning reversed in our thinking (the ancient Hebrews considered evening as the beginning of the new day), we may have the whole death and life thing reversed. In order to truly live, a lot of things must die first.

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

As I continue looking at Augustine’s writing on fasting, I see that he uses a word that is not used much these days. “Ostentation” is indicated as something that should be avoided in fasting. What is that? It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I’ve seen the word “ostentatious” a number of times, and confess that I was unclear on its meaning. Now I’m more clear.

Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel accounts, in the Sermon on the Mount.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

So, instead of ostentation, we are to exhibit joy when we are fasting, not sadness or gloominess. If we practice fasting in order to attract the attention of others, Jesus is quite clear that that will be the extent of our reward.

“In his fasting, therefore, let a man rejoice inwardly in the very fact that by this his fasting he is turning away from the pleasures of the world to make himself subject to Christ, who in the words of this precept wants him to have his head anointed. With the same intent he will be washing his face, that is, cleansing his heart whereby he is to see God.”

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

Father, indeed, you are glorious, and I am, indeed, “gobsmacked” by Your mercy, faithfulness, and unconditional love. It is all of these things, along with Your great kindness, that lead me down the ongoing path of repentance, constantly revising the way I think about reality. And reality, for me, is what I run into when I am wrong. And I’m wrong a lot. Oh, how I love You, Lord! Your glory is everlasting and beyond my comprehension. The word “glorious” isn’t even adequate to describe You.

I am so very grateful that I know You, Lord, and that is the only truth in my life that is worth boasting about. Well, maybe not the only truth. I feel justified in boasting about the things in my life that You have placed there, such as my loving wife and family. But all of the things that I could boast about have come from You, and are from nothing “good” that I did. I am not very wise, not very mighty, and my “riches” are made up by much more than material things.

I praise You that I have been, for the most part, delivered from any kind of envy about anything that my “neighbor” might have. I am, by Your grace and Holy Spirit, quite content with all that I have. I am also praising You for the relationships that I have that make life so much easier, beginning with my family, and continuing into the community of saints, and I use the definition of saints that says that it is everyone who calls on the name of Jesus.

Thank You for teaching me how to die in order to live. We’re still working on that, because there are plenty of places I have not yet surrendered to You. But, like I said . . . we’re working on it, and for that, I thank You for Your great, and seemingly infinite (thought I think it probably isn’t) patience with me. Help me to eradicate illusions, self-will, and sin in my life.

All glory to You, the One and only glorious God, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Blessing

Today is Tuesday, the thirty-first of August, 2021. Last day of August. And just in case anyone wonders, there still twenty-two days of summer left.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,182

Six days until Labor Day.

It still feels like summer, in DFW, too, with temps soaring to the upper nineties every day this week, and no rain in the ten-day forecast.

Today is We Love Memoirs Day, which is fitting, because I just finished one, yesterday, and you can see the review of Willie Nelson’s Letters to America on my other blog by clicking here.

The word for today is gorgonize, a verb which means, “hypnotize; petrify.” “She felt trapped and totally helpless in his gorgonizing stare.” Wouldn’t that be an adverb in that context? What do I know?

Today’s quote, from Arthur C. Clark, is one that I love and believe I have used before. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s true, right? Seriously, anyone from a primitive culture (and they do still exist on this planet) who saw the things we do with computers would only be able to assume that we were engaging in sorcery.

Birthdays for August 30:

Lizzie Arlington, the first woman to play men's professional baseball, 1877-1919
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1880-1962. The state park and lodge in Mena, Arkansas are named after her, because many of the original investors were Dutch.
Buddy Hackett, actor in The Music Man, 1924-2003
Frank Robinson, HOF baseball player and manager, 1935-2019
Roger Dean, album cover illustrator for Yes, 77 years old today
Van Morrison, singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland, turns 76 today
Roger Dean album cover illustration

I’ve officially gotten my work schedule, which will be effective after the beginning of October, assuming the city goes ahead with plans to open the library on Fridays. It will look like this:

Every Tuesday: 4:15PM-8:15PM
Alternating Wednesdays: 9:15AM-6:15PM
Every Friday: 9:15AM-6:15PM
Alternating Saturdays: 9:30AM-6:15PM

So, based on the city’s work week, which begins on Friday and ends on the following Thursday (makes my head hurt trying to figure this out), I will work Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday. I actually like this better than my current schedule, which has me working Saturday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. When you break it down like that, it looks fine (and I am NOT complaining, here), but if you look at the calendar week, I have weeks like this week where I am working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, as well as Saturday, which falls in the next pay week. So I’m actually working four calendar days, this week, and only two next week (Tuesday and Wednesday).

Like I said . . . if you think about it too hard, it makes your head hurt. I get twenty hours per pay week, but it looks like I’m actually working twenty-eight hours in this calendar week and only twelve hours next week.

Today, I’m working 11:15AM-8:15PM, and will be training in the computer center for the first time.

C is getting ready for her surgery on Thursday. She works from home today, and tomorrow will be the last day at the office for anywhere from four to six weeks (mid October, sometime), but may be able to work from home after two or three weeks, depending on how the recovery is progressing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Glory to You, Lord God of our fathers;
You are worthy of praise;
glory to You.
Glory to You for the radiance of Your holy Name;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You in the splendor of Your temple;
on the throne of Your majesty, glory to You.
Glory to You, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You, beholding the depths;
in the high vault of heaven, glory to You.
Glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
(TeDeum)

Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. How quickly I would escape—far from this wild storm of hatred.
(Psalms 55:6-8 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, in spite of the "wild storm of hatred" outside, You still have things firmly in hand
2. that You give me quiet and rest during these times in my own home; I don't have to fly away to some distant place
3. for Your blessing upon us
4. for Your face being turned toward us
5. for the call to be peacemakers, and the peace with which You gift us

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FIFTEEN – DAY THREE

INVITATION

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
(Psalms 57:9-10 ESV)

During this moment of peace and quiet, I pause to simply reflect on the presence of the Lord, with me at all times, in all places.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.
(Psalms 61:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
“‘”The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and
be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”‘
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am always in God’s presence, I linger over these passages, allowing the Holy Spirit to move within my soul, guiding my thoughts, meditations, and prayers.

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)

These are two great passages, full of depth and encouragement.

The prayer of David is one that I am fully persuaded that God stands ready to answer.

We can cry out to God “from the ends of the earth.” It matters not where we are, He is there. It matters not when we are, He is there! Consider that our Father is currently present when you were born. He is “omnipresent,” with us at all times and all places. Therefore, He stands ready to hear us, no matter where we are.

Where is the “rock that is higher than I?” There can be various interpretations of this. I tend to see this “Rock” as Jesus. Matthew Henry, however, visualizes this rock as a place he cannot attain without the assistance of our God. I can equally see this as being true, as in the old hymn, Higher Ground.

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

Refrain:
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

There’s another hymn, though, that speaks of the “Solid Rock,” being Jesus.

In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

Refrain:
This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One
This Rock is Jesus, the only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

In times like these you need the Bible
In times like these, O be not idle
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

In times like these I have a Savior
In times like these I have an anchor
I'm very sure, I'm very sure
My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

What a longing is expressed in verse 4: “I long to dwell in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.” This is a sentiment that is expressed many times in the Psalms. And I can most certainly echo the prayer, as my heart grows more and more in its longing for Home. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like my life, here, but just means that I know where I belong, ultimately.

I believe that this prayerful psalm goes hand-in-hand with the blessing seen in Numbers 6. Such a beautiful passage that I have adopted as prayers for people for a long time, now. And I like it in many different versions. I have sort of “tweaked” it, combining a couple of my favorite versions to make it go like this:

May God bless you and keep you;
May He smile on you and gift you;
May He look you full in the face and give you peace.

The majority of that comes from The Message, but Peterson ends his with “and make you prosper,” and I would rather have it say “give you peace.” Prosperity is not my goal, here.

I pray this blessing over people when I see that it is their birthday. We frequently end our worship gatherings by either saying or singing the blessing. There are several contemporary songs that incorporate it. Matt Redman has a good one:

Then this one, more recently, from Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes (video is long, but powerful):

My favorite part of the blessing is the line that speaks of the Lord turning His face towards us. It gets translated “lift up His countenance toward you,” “look you full in the face,” “turn His face toward you,” and “show you His favor.”

The lowest point in the life of Jesus was when His Father turned His face away from Him, resulting in the cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me??”

I am moved to tears, this very moment, as I try to imagine what it must have felt like for this ripping of personalities apart. Jesus, God incarnate, experienced a tearing like none of us will ever experience, couldn’t possibly even imagine. For those few hours, on that day, there was a rift in the Holy Trinity, that perfect fellowship which had existed for all eternity. The Father turned His back on the Son, because He cannot look upon sin. The Son, for that moment, took on all the sin that had ever been committed, and ever would be committed. According to the Apostle Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, at that moment, Jesus became sin!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

So, today, I pray for you, whoever happens to stumble upon this humble blog, and manages to read this far.

May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He smile on you and gift you; may He look you full in the face, make His face shine upon you, turn His face toward you, show you His favor . . . and give you peace!

Father, I am overwhelmed, this morning. There are tears in my eyes as I try to type this. This famous blessing is so appropriate to be prayed for all of Your people, today. It is even appropriate to pray over people who don’t know You or refuse to acknowledge You. I would ask You to make Your face to shine upon people all over the world, so that they might prosper and have Your peace in their lives. After all, Your Word does say that You show favor on the just and the unjust, alike. People who have never once acknowledged Your existence still reap the benefits of that existence, whether they know it or not. And I believe, with all my heart, that, deep down inside, they do know it.

May Your Holy Spirit fill us, today, Father. Fill us with Your presence, Your peace, Your blessing. Send us out to wherever we need to go, with Your Gospel of peace fitted on our feet. Peace. That is the key word in all of this. Make us peacemakers in this world, not rabble-rousers, not dividers. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Jesus. Lead us, O God, to the Rock that is higher than we are. Help us up to those heights which we cannot reach on our own.

I pray for the call to follow You out into those workplaces and neighborhoods, Lord, and I pray for the peace and well-being of those workplaces and communities. May You rain down Your special blessing on those who work in agriculture, who provide food and sustenance for us.

"May I see Your face, God?
For to live with Your face turned from me is more bitter than death.
I thank You that in this ancient blessing, 
I may place my life in the grace of Jesus and catch sight of Your face turned in delight toward me.
Amen."

BLESSING

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
(Proverbs 28:14 ESV)

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
(Psalms 51:2-4 ESV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
(Ephesians 1:4 NLT)

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 1:9 NLT)

There is a Hebrew word in that Jeremiah verse. “Makhashabah,” which means “texture,” a sort of “weaving” of a plan together. It’s the word that is translated “plans” in the ESV, and other translations, but “thoughts” in the KJV and WEB. Here’s the KJV.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
(Jeremiah 29:11 KJV)

“Thoughts” is the Hebrew makhashabah, while “think” is “chashab,” which literally means to weave or to fabricate.

So just as it is impossible to see what the weaver on the loom is fabricating until she is finished with the work, so it is not possible to see what the Lord is doing with our lives until He is finished. We need to trust in the truth that He knows what He is doing. He is weaving a perfect work, and “all things work together for good” in our lives.

Father, I praise You for this truth. And in this weaving, I wonder how much our prayers effect things. In light of that, and in that spirit, I ask of You to end this plague on our world. Please do away with the COVID-19 virus, once and for all, that we might have peace in our world and in our nation. We are unable to come together to fight this. We are too concerned with our own “freedoms” and “rights.” Please eradicate this. I believe that You can do this. I also pray for the racial strife to end, that all people, in Your Kingdom, will be treated equally. Oh, how look forward to seeing that multitude described in Revelation, of people from every tribe, nation, and tongue, praising Your Holy and majestic Name as one!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.