Stop Trying Harder

Today is Saturday, the 21st of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ enfold you today!

Day 23,690

I suppose the next “big thing” coming up is Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22, this year. That’s 32 days from today. I’m looking forward to observing Lent at my new church.

I made it through my work day pretty well, yesterday. Some coughing, used a few tissues, but it was okay. I’m feeling better, this morning, but still not quite 100%. I will “mask up” at work until my symptoms are gone. I’ll be at the library from 9:30-6:15 today, working at the circulation desk. We never know what Saturdays are going to look like at the circ desk. The last Saturday I worked, two weeks ago, was one of the busiest that I can remember. But yesterday was really slow, at least in the computer center.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Oh, how I love your law!
 It is my meditation all day long.
(Psalms 119:97 NRSV)

Father, I thank You for Your Word. I confess that I do not make it my “meditation all day long,” but I do, at least, remember to come back to it, during my day. I keep praying for a united heart, that I might properly fear Your name.

Dear Father in heaven, we rejoice that you are our Father. We rejoice that you rule and guide each of us so that our path in life leads to what is good and genuine and we do not get stuck in this or that concern. Lead us, renew us, and again and again free us to go forward, finding new courage and joy for ourselves and for our fellowmen. Then we can praise you, your strength and power can be revealed to us, your heaven come down to earth, and your will be done on earth. Here on earth your help shall come to the poor, the weak, the lowly, the sick, and the suffering. May your name be praised! We rejoice in your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer from Plough.com

In my distress I called upon the LORD; 
to my God I cried for help. 
From his temple he heard my voice, 
and my cry to him reached his ears.
(Psalms 18:6 NRSV)

Today I am grateful:

  • for God’s Word; may it be my meditation all day long (Psalm 119:97)
  • that the Lord hears me “from His temple,” when I cry out to Him.
  • that the Spirit guides us to what is good and genuine
  • that life in the kingdom of God is not about trying harder
  • that because the Lord is my light and my salvation, my stronghold, I have nothing to fear (Psalm 27:1)

Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually.
(Psalms 105:4 NRSV)
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" 
Your face, LORD, do I seek. 
Do not hide your face from me. 
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. 
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 NRSV)
But you indeed are awesome! 
Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?
(Psalms 76:7 NRSV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, 
and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 NRSV)

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:8-10 NRSV)

You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 
Because you have made the LORD your refuge, 
the Most High your dwelling place,
 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. 
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 
On their hands they will bear you up, 
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 
You will tread on the lion and the adder, 
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
(Psalms 91:8-13 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

"Now we cannot . . . discover our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is every going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, 'You must do this. I can't.'"
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted in The C.S. Lewis Bible, in regard to Leviticus 14-16)

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
(Psalms 23:4 NRSV)
Of David.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 NRSV)

But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.
(Colossians 1:22 MSG)


The book of Leviticus is arguably the most difficult book of the Bible to read. I have never known anyone who has enthusiastically approached this book, and declared it to be their favorite book in the Bible. I have heard it said that you can find Christ on every page in the Bible. I’m skeptical about Leviticus.

I mean no disrespect or dishonor. It is part of what we have before us as God’s Word, and, therefore, has some purpose for us. And I believe that at least part of that purpose is illustrated by the quote from C.S. Lewis, above.

I started reading through the Bible, again, this year, starting with Genesis, in the new NRSV that I got for Christmas. This week, I arrived at Leviticus. I’m reading five chapters a day, so I don’t have much more to go . . . maybe another day or two. Or three. I have twelve chapters left.

It is, essentially, nothing but laws about this and that. Most of the five chapters I read today are about what to do if leprosy appears on one’s body or one’s clothes or in one’s home.

We are no longer under the law, as we have moved into the era of grace, because of Jesus. As the verse in Colossians says, Jesus has brought us “over to God’s side,” and put our lives together. We are, in Christ, “whole and holy.” Or, as one of my favorite Mercy Me songs says, “The Cross has made you flawless.”

We have a choice in our lives. We can keep on “trying harder and harder,” as C.S. Lewis said, or we can stop that nonsense and come to the correct conclusion that, “You must do this. I can’t.”

We can try our best to live by the Ten Commandments, and all of that Levitical Law, but then we must accept what was said in Paul’s epistles, that, if we fail at even the smallest point of the Law, we have violated the entirety of it. That should be most discouraging to anyone.

Unless that “anyone” has become a Christ-follower. Christ kept the Law for us; He fulfilled it. He did not abolish it, but He fulfilled it, which means we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow His commands. And His commands are short and sweet. They sum up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets. We simply must love God and love people.

This is not as easy as it sounds. I know this from experience. God is easy to love. Most of the time. Except for maybe when things don’t go quite the way I want them to. But people? People, especially some of them, are really hard to love. I imagine I am pretty hard to love, to some people.

But here’s the thing. Way up there, close to the top of this post, are some verses from Psalms that give great advice, advice that is very helpful in this journey of faith. I’ll repeat them.

Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually.
(Psalms 105:4 NRSV)
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
 "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" 
Your face, LORD, do I seek. 
Do not hide your face from me. 
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. 
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
(Psalms 27:7-9 NRSV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, 
and delivered me from all my fears.
(Psalms 34:4 NRSV)

Seek. Seek the Lord. Seek His face. Expend as much energy as you can on this, and the rest of this stuff will align itself. I’m not pretending that it will not still be difficult to love some people, but if we are seeking God, constantly (Frank Laubach, in his “game of minutes,” opined that it is possible to think about God at least once per minute, throughout our day), His love will channel through us and shove our own unloving thoughts to one side, and maybe even eliminate them altogether.

It’s not about trying harder. Remember what Moses said to the Israelites, when they saw Pharaoh and his army coming after them at the Red Sea?

“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
(Exodus 14:14 NRSV)

They didn’t have to “try harder.” They just had to stand still and watch the mighty hand of God take out their enemy.

So stop trying harder and start seeking.


Father, I praise You for Your Word and what it means to me. I thank You for the truths contained therein. I pray that You will help us to take these truths and incorporate them into our lives, that we might fully love You and then love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to stop expending so much energy in trying to be “better Christians.” We can’t do it. I can’t do it; You must do it. I surrender.

I thank You that, in Christ, I have nothing to fear. You are my light and my salvation, the stronghold of my life. I may not always live like I believe that, and I pray that that would change as I continue to seek Your face. As I go through this day, may my mind, soul, and spirit be drawn into Your presence, to know You more, and to contemplate You and Your presence even more.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


Grace and peace, friends.

Extravagant Love

Today is Sunday, the nineteenth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,474

Today is Father’s Day, so I wish a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I hope you are able to love on your kids today, and spend some time with them. Some of us will have to love some of our offspring from afar, and that’s okay, too. My father, of course, has been gone for seven years, now, and is still sorely missed. But he is more than fondly remembered for the love that he showed and care that he gave.

Today is also Juneteenth, but that holiday will be observed tomorrow. Since it was finally made a federal holiday last year, most banks will be closed, as well as the post office. I’m not sure about the library where I work, but I don’t ever work on Mondays, anyway.

The Rangers game was terrible, yesterday. Taylor Hearne did not have his best stuff, and they lost 14-7. It was actually quite a bit worse than the score indicates, too. But today’s another day. They are 31-34 for the season, still in second place, nine games out of first. They are also still four games out in the Wild Card race. They will play Detroit again today, in Detroit, at 12:40 CDT, with Dane Dunning taking the mound to try to win the series.

Almost as if the two teams are joined at the hip, the Red Sox also suffered an embarrassing loss, yesterday, losing to the Cardinals 11-2. They are now 35-31 for the season, still in fourth place, 1.5 behind Tampa and 14.5 behind the You-Know-Whos. They have another game with St. Louis today.

The Yankees have the highest everything right now. Best record, 49-16, highest run differential (+144), and longest win streak (nine games). Massive sighs. The Athletics have the worst record, at 22-45. The Nationals, though, have the worst run differential, at -115, as well as the longest losing streak, at eight games. The Rangers’ run differential sits at zero, today, and the Sox are at +45, after losing by nine runs, yesterday.

In the PWBA, the top 30 are currently in the fourth round of qualifying in the U.S. Women’s Open in South Glens Falls, NY. After three rounds, the top thirty were, in order, Cherie Tan (Singapore), Jordan Richard, Lindsay Boomershine (I like her name), Shayna Ng (another Singapore bowler), Shannon Sellens, Stefanie Johnson (from Texas), Erin McCarthy, Hui Fen New (Singapore), Shannon O’Keefe, Danielle McEwan, Rocio Restrepo, Birgit Noreiks (Germany), Liz Johnson, Daphne Tan (Singapore, Cherie’s sister), Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine), Verity Crawley (England), Missy Parkin, Bryanna Cote, Kerry Smith, Kayla Bandy, Clara Guerrero (Columbia), Chelsey Klingler, Sydney Brummett, Breanna Clemmer, Olivia Farwell, Hope Gramly (also from Texas), Jenny Wegner (Sweden), Diana Zavjalova (Latvia), Jen Higgins, and Josie Barnes.

This morning’s round will cut to the top 24, who will bowl in match play one round this evening, and two rounds tomorrow, to determine the top five, who will be on the live TV broadcast Tuesday night.

We aren’t going to church, today, as C has not been feeling well. She does not have Covid, though. Just some kind of cold or allergies, or something.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, O great and almighty God, we thank you that you have given us the Savior, in whom we can become united and have peace on earth. May he, the Savior, work powerfully among us. May your Spirit come into people’s hearts so that they learn to acknowledge you as their leader and their God and to rejoice in their lives, which are intended for eternal life. Bless us through your Word and through all the good you do for us. Constantly renew and strengthen us in faith and in patience through the grace you send us. Remember all the peoples who should become yours in the name of Jesus Christ. May they all confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the honor of God the Father. We praise you for the promise you have given us of a wonderful new day of help for all. We praise you that you have created all people to recognize their true calling and their way to salvation. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that unfailing love and unshakable covenant of peace from God, our Father
2. for the love that I had from my earthly father for all the years he was with us, and that he did his best to train me up in the love of the Lord
3. for the faithful love of my two wonderful daughters
4. for the extravagant love that our Father in heaven has lavished upon us
5. for the equality of all people in Jesus Christ (the reality is not necessarily realized, but it is still the reality . . . the ground is level at the foot of the cross)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32 NIV)


The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is extravagant. You have to look pretty extensively to find that word in any version of the Bible. It occurs a single time in the NLT, in Revelation 18:3, in reference to the sins of the Great Babylon. It does not appear in NIV, ESV, or KJV.

However, Eugene Peterson likes the word, apparently, and it occurs multiple times in The Message. This particular verse is featured in today’s reading.

I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant.
(Isaiah 63:7 MSG)

And what a word to describe the love of God for us. Extravagant! There are, of course, many other words that have been used, over the years, to describe God’s love. Frederick M. Lehman may have said it best, in 1917, when he wrote the song, The Love of God. In the chorus (or refrain, if you prefer, he wrote:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
the saints’ and angels’ song.

And then, the last verse, one of my favorite hymn verses of all time:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
and ev’ryone a scribe by trade;
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.

He doesn’t use the word “extravagant,” but it certainly fits.

Father, I praise You for Your extravagant love. Your love split seas and rivers in half, crumbled walls, even made the sun move backwards. Your love created things out of nothing, and miraculously fed your people with food from heaven. And then, when we thought it couldn’t get any more extravagant, Your love died for us, and then rose from the grave so that we could live in eternal glory in Your Kingdom. Extravagant, indeed. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
(Galatians 3:26 NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Father, today, I pray for racial equality in our land, and throughout the world. If we truly believe the words of Paul in Galatians, let us strive to make things better for all people, because we see all people as equals in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! And it is back to Your extravagant love that has provided this truth for us!


Eugene Peterson continues writing on the Sabbath. He makes a bold claim: “Keeping the Sabbath is easy: we pray and we play, two things we were pretty good at as children and can always pick up again with a little encouragement.”

He calls praying a “great act of freedom in relation to heaven.” Through prayer, we exercise our “bodies and minds in acts of adoration and commitment, practices of supplication and praise, and ventures of forgiving and giving.”

He calls playing a “great act of freedom in relation to earth.” Through playing, we “exercise our bodies and minds in games and walks, in amusement and reading, in visiting and picnicking, in puttering and writing.”

Easy, he says, yet we, in our society find it so hard. Part of the reason for that is that our culture doesn’t encourage us to keep a Sabbath. In fact, if anything, it is out to steal it from us. For many of us (and I have been fortunate in this respect, for most of my adult life), we are expected to work our jobs, seven days a week. Many people find themselves unable to attend worship services because of the demands of the job, as accomplishment and profit are king in America.

And the bottom line, says Peterson is that “after a few years of Sabbath breaking, we are passive consumers of expensive trash and anxious hurriers after trash pleasures.”

Ouch. Explicitly descriptive, but truthful.

“We lose our God and our dignity at about the same time.” And this is why Peterson encourages us to keep a Sabbath. “Guard the day. Protect the leisure for praying and playing.” And for those of you who think you are too mature to “play,” I give you this:

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the nose-thumbing)

Father, I praise You for the Sabbath. I thank You for the command that we have a day to rest, a day to pray, and a day to play. I realize Your command said nothing about playing, but I find myself in agreement with Peterson, whom I respect deeply, and trust just as deeply. I pray that You would remind all of us, frequently, that we need to take a day off to pray and play, a day off from the hustle and bustle that this culture demands from us. I also pray that, not just on the Sabbath, but all days, that You would help us to demolish the very concept of “hurry,” as it steals from us in many ways. You are not in a hurry. Why should we be?

Sometimes I find myself in a hurry to be Home. I also need not do that. Help me to live the life that You have planned for me, at the pace You have planned. I do pray that I will accomplish all that You have for me to do, and that I will reach and inspire all that You have for me to reach. May my presence in social media platforms be one that shows love and forgiveness to all, and inspires all to know the kind of gratitude that we should have toward You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


I realize Mercy Me changed the meter, but I’m okay with that.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

Today is Saturday Friday, the twenty-ninth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

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

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

A City Yet to Come

Today is Friday, the third of December, 2021. First Friday of Advent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,276

Twenty-two days until Christmas

Yesterday, of course, was a bittersweet day. I was fine, emotionally, until it came time to sing the two songs at the service. I made it through “The Old Rugged Cross,” pretty well, only stumbling at the line, “then He’ll call me, someday, to my home far away.” But the second song I decided to sing was “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin. It’s a great song for a setting like that. I was blindsided by emotions when I got to the chorus.

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise, I will rise

I recovered, though, and made it through the song, with only one more “glitch” in the bridge. As I walked back to where C and S were sitting, in the family section of the room, I dared not look up to make eye contact with any of my cousins. And, of course, the emotions were driven by memories of my own father, as well.

We had a good trip home, but it seemed to take a lot longer than the trip out there. Of course, we hit Dallas at rush hour, and we stopped along the way to refuel and take a restroom break.

C is at the office today, rather than working from home, and I’ll be heading in to work my Friday shift at the library, in the computer/media center. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in there. I hope I remember how everything works.

I’m off tomorrow, so I’ll have a few more days to recuperate from this week.

I’m currently reading The Black Echo, by Michael Connelly. It’s his first novel, from 1992. I had seen quite a few of his books during my shelving nights at the library. We have a large number of his, in both regular and large print. It wasn’t until I realized that he was the author responsible for Harry Bosch that I became interested in reading them. I am really enjoying this one, so I will, no doubt, continue in the series. I haven’t given up on The Divine Embrace. It’s still in the wings, and I will continue reading it, when I take the time to sit and take notes as I read it.

Be right back . . . I need a second cup of coffee.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Becoming Who We Are, by Daryl Madden

The journey of our life
Of inner and afar
That all paths lead unto
Becoming who you are

Acknowledging the truth
A pride-filled sinner be
Blessed be the finding
Of the One who saves me

That we find emptiness
When this world, we purse
That only gifts beyond
Are treasures of value

In telling of our story
With humility
In sharing of our gifts
Our true purpose, be

We are made complete
Even though we’re flawed
Because we’re a beloved
Child of our God

“We are made complete, even though we’re flawed, because we’re a beloved Child of our God.” This reminds me of a Mercy Me song that I really like.

"No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless"

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry in the link provided above.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
 that God sent his only Son into the world,
 so that we might live through him. 
In this is love, 
not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 
(1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, because of Your grace, and the cross of Christ, I am made complete, in spite of my flaws
2. for Your great love, that never fails and never ceases
3. for a safe trip home, last night
4. for loving memories of family
5. for "the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:14)
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, 
and the young men and the old shall be merry. 
I will turn their mourning into joy; 
I will comfort them, 
and give them gladness for sorrow. 
(Jeremiah 31:13 ESV)
But, as it is written, 
"What no eye has seen, 
nor ear heard, 
nor the heart of man imagined, 
what God has prepared for those who love him"— 
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. 
For the Spirit searches everything, 
even the depths of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV)
For here we have no lasting city, 
but we seek the city that is to come.
(Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

What beautiful words are in these Scriptures, and how appropriate for them to come up today. God will turn our mourning into joy, and we will rejoice in Him with dancing and singing. Truly, no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard (not among the living, at least) the things that God has prepared for us who love Him. And this place in which we live? It is, truly, “no lasting city.” I, along with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, “seek the city that is to come.”

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 
(John 15:14-16 ESV)
. . . and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, 
according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 
(Ephesians 1:19-21 ESV)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
(Colossians 1:9-12 ESV)
Jesus Christ is the same 
yesterday 
and today 
and forever. 
(Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

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

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – DAY SIX

INVITATION

With all my heart, 
I am waiting, 
LORD, for you! 
I trust your promises. 
(Psalms 130:5 CEV)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to meditate on these truths that have already been presented. I am waiting on You, Lord! I am waiting on and looking forward to that city that is yet to come.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. 

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, 
we were like those who dreamed. 
Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations, 
"The LORD has done great things for them." 
The LORD has done great things for us, 
and we are filled with joy. 
Restore our fortunes, LORD, 
like streams in the Negev. 
Those who sow with tears 
will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with them. 
(Psalms 126:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. 
(Romans 13:11-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. I linger over them, giving them my full attention. Do I find something within about which I wish to ask God? I pray my life to Him, resting in His presence.

Father, my family has experienced sorrow, this past week, yet we have also known Your joy. The truth of these promises, that those who go out weeping will return with songs of joy, has been realized, in real time, in our lives. There will still be sorrow, yes, but as was so aptly pointed out in yesterday’s funeral message, we have hope because of Jesus and His work in our lives. It is because of Him, whom we both celebrate, during this season, and for whom we await as we look forward to His return, that we have this joy.

I also find hope in these words as I ponder the potential of restoration for everything that is broken or flawed, in this creation. The poem and song, earlier on in this blog, have reminded me of the truth that everything that is flawed or broken will be fixed, made whole, and restored. And it is when these things become reality that our true joy will be made manifest. The joy we experience today, as great as it is, is still incomplete. It is incomplete because we are still dwelling in “jars of clay,” bodies of sin, this “mortal coil.” We long to shed this mortal coil and be done with it. We long to be done with this body of sin, with these temptations and sorrows. Oh, come, Lord Jesus and restore everything to its true reality!

Awaken us from our slumber! Make us aware that the time of our “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Oh, praise, that the “night is nearly over.” Help us to put aside all deeds of darkness and put on the “armor of light.” May we fully clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus and His righteousness!

I pray, Father, for relief and justice for all who are living in poverty and injustice. Give us, O Lord, both the willingness and the capacity to suffer with others, and give relief to the refugees, Lord!

"Sovereign God,
on the coming judgment day the book on my life will be opened and a verdict will be given.
Knowing that every idle work,
every well-guarded secret and shadowed hypocrisy will be uncovered makes me want to run for cover.
Remind me that just as You gave Adam and Eve garments to cover their shame,
You dress me up in Christ-clothes that I might stand before You.
Amen."

BLESSING

The one who has spoken these things says,
 "I am coming soon!" 
So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!
 I pray that the Lord Jesus will be kind to all of you. 
(Revelation 22:20-21 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends!

I Can Only Imagine

Today is Friday, the sixteenth of July, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,136

34 days until S’s birthday

We are officially past the halfway point of July.

C is working from home today, and it’s a good thing, because she was up quite late, last night, dealing with issues that they are having keeping the current youth tournament going. So she is, at this moment, still asleep.

C also posted some pics on Facebook, of the granite slabs that will become our new countertops, soon.

Slab 1
Slab 2

The style is called Colonial White. I am excited to see this on our counters. The install is scheduled for August 10.

I’m taking PTO, this coming Monday. I can’t tell you why, just yet, but hopefully, there will be news soon.

As far as I know, we don’t have anything planned, outside of our usual activities, this weekend. I think C plans more painting. I forgot to mention, I think, that she got some stainless steel paint for appliances, and painted the front of our dishwasher.

It used to be white

So she may try the stove, this weekend. The microwave is the original one that came with the house in 1999. We are thinking about replacing it. It will have to be installed, as it is an under-the-cabinet microwave.

Moving on to the devotions for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Sweet Nothing, by Daryl Madden

I kneel at the altar
In an empty church, be
The warmth of Your presence
Here surrounds me

One of this moment
Of welcomed embrace
A gifting of now
Is blessed by Your grace

No past or future
No worries no fear
No desires or needs
Just to be with You here

Offered in moment
Of surrendering, fall
Found in sweet nothing
Our being of all

I chose this one, today, because of the third stanza. That is, for the most part, what I am after, during these morning times; just to be here with Him.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
(Psalms 34:19-20 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You deliver us out of all of our afflictions.
2. for these sweet times of devotion with You.
3. for the wonders of Your great love, which You constantly reveal to me.
4. for the promise of Home.
5. for the joy in my heart, this morning.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK EIGHT – DAY SIX

INVITATION

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!
(Zechariah 9:16-17a NIV)

As I pause to reflect, I dwell on Your presence here with me, this morning. I consider that Your presence goes with me throughout this day, before me, behind me, beside me, above me, and below me. You are all around me. What joy and comfort this brings!

BIBLE SONG

A prayer of David.

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
(Psalms 17:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
(Revelation 19:1 NIV)

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
(Revelation 19:5-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I dwell in Your presence, this morning, I ask the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and meditations. What words are there, what phrases, that draw my attention, that lead me closer to You?

Verse 7 of Psalm 17 draws me in. Here is a look at in in the New Living Translation.

Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.
(Psalms 17:7 NLT)

The love of our God is not only “great,” it is “unfailing.” And He will reveal that love to us in “wonderful ways,” if we but open ourselves up to Him. More and more, I see this, each day of my life.

There is much to ponder in the passage from Revelation 19, more than I have time for, this morning. Let me say that the thought of hearing that great multitude shout, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” gives me goosebumps.

I do not pretend to comprehend this “wedding supper of the Lamb.” At first, it sounds like a wonderful and glorious thing. However, if you keep reading Revelation 19, it gets rather gruesome.

Being someone who has been drawn to the importance of worship for many years, I choose to focus on the worship service that is going on in John’s vision. Never has there been a worship service quite like this one, and probably never will be, on this plane. If what John saw was a foreshadowing of future reality, I can’t wait to be there. It almost makes me weep with joyful anticipation, this morning.

Home.

Home, with a capital “H,” which, to me designates my eternal inheritance. I have a “home” on this planet, but I have a “Home,” for which I am desperately longing. I have family members who, by ways that I will not comprehend until I am there, myself, are already there. My father is there; all of my grandparents, I am certain, are there. They had brothers and sisters who might be there. My mother has a sister who got there years ago.

I know what I’m going to be thinking about today.

Father, great and mighty God, You have shown me the wonders of Your unfailing love in so many ways. Even through the relatively mild hardships that I have experienced in this life, You unfailing love shines through. I am beyond grateful for this. As I sit here and think about Home, and all the people who have preceded me, I wonder what it will look like. The joy of that worship reflected in Revelation 19 excites me to no end. What will it be like to physically stand in Your actual presence, to see Your face in person, and to proclaim, with the multitudes from every tribe, nation, people, and tongue, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”? In the words of Mercy Me, “I can only imagine.”

"Lord of the feast,
I am awed by the vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb,
the banquet of finest wine and richest foods,
surrounded by friends and music and dancing--
a picture of the perfect enjoyment I will have of you for all eternity.
May I open my home and share a meal today with others as a preview of that great feast.
In the Lamb's name,
amen."

Lord, give me, today, the Christlike ability to deny myself and serve others. May I have the ongoing commitment to do justice and show mercy. May You especially be with the elderly and infirmed, today, along with those who care for them.

BLESSING

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)

Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?” They were in absolute awe, staggered and stammering, “Who is this, anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea, and they do what he tells them!”
(Luke 8:25 MSG)

Now GOD, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.
(Psalms 40:11 MSG)

The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness.
(Psalms 57:10 MSG)

For GOD is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever.
(Psalms 100:5 MSG)

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
(Genesis 50:19-20 ESV)

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
(Psalms 30:11-12 ESV)

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Created For A Purpose

Today is Wednesday, December 16, 2020, in the third week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,924

Nine days until Christmas!

In what must be the strangest week of the year, so far, I am back to work, this morning, only to be off, once again, tomorrow and Friday. Yesterday, I did not go to work, as we celebrated the life of C’s step-brother.

It was an interesting day for me. Emotionally/mentally, I began struggling on the trip to the funeral home. However, I recognized what was happening, and managed to stave it off. It would have been really ugly had I remained in that state of mind through a funeral.

There were moments in the funeral where I teared up, for sure. However, I can’t say that any of those moments were for the step-brother. Don’t get me wrong, we loved him, and we are sad to lose him, and most definitely sad for his wife and kids.

But one of those teary moments happened early on, as they played a number of recorded songs throughout the proceedings. The first was “I Can Only Imagine,” by Mercy Me, a very appropriate song for a funeral. I wept a little as I worshiped through that song. The second song was some country song I didn’t recognize. But the third song! “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin. Again, I worshiped, deeply, through that song, and the tears flowed.

And what this made me realize is how much I miss worship. It has been way too long since I was able to simply sit and worship like I did yesterday afternoon. I don’t know what the answer/response is to this, though.

Later, they played another Mercy Me song, “Homesick,” which the front man wrote about missing his father. Actually, according to wikipedia, it was written when the band experienced the loss of nine different people close to them, in a short period of time. At any rate, anyone who knows me can guess where my spirit and heart went during that song. Those tears were for my own father, lost five and a half years ago.

Over all, it was a good experience, as many memories were shared by family members. Two daughters spoke, a son sang a song, and his wife sang a song, as well. I have no idea how either one of them made it through their songs.

We were exhausted afterward, and went to bed quite early last night. But I have to say that it was a pretty good day. Oh, and S went with us! She discovered that she could wear the facemasks made by WW. They are built with a little more space in them, making it easier to breathe. S did very well. But she reached her limit, so we did not try to attend the graveside service.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Psalms 145:21 ESV
(21) My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Today I am grateful:

  1. For life and breath; grateful to be alive and breathing, this morning
  2. For my family, and the love shared among us
  3. For Your steadfast love that reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36:5)
  4. For creating me “just as I am”; may I honor that within me today
  5. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Psalms 36:5 ESV
(5) Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 145:1 ESV
(1) I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

John 19:25-27 ESV
(25) but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
(26) When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
(27) Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

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

Psalms 70:1 ESV
(1) Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Stir up your power, O Lord,
and with great might come among us;
and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy
speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

Day Eighteen

Isaiah 7:10-14 ESV
(10) Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,
(11) “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
(12) But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”
(13) And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
(14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Luke 1:26-38 ESV
(26) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
(27) to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
(28) And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
(29) But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
(30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
(31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
(32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
(33) and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

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

(35) And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
(36) And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
(37) For nothing will be impossible with God.”
(38) And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Hebrews 1:1-9 ESV
(1) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
(2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
(3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
(4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

(5) For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
(6) And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

(7) Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

(8) But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
(9) You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV
(10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“We would be so much more at peace if we simply accepted how God made us and tried to be the best ‘us’ we could be.” (Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts 2020)

Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV
(2) For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

1 Peter 2:9 ESV
(9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Psalms 139:13-24 ESV
(13) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
(14) I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
(15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(16) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(17) How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
(18) If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
(19) Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!
(20) They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.
(21) Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
(22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
(23) Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
(24) And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head, right now, but I’ll filter it down to this: Once again, the Holy Spirit has brought together passages from totally independent sources that fit together like fingers in a glove.

God has created me, “just as I am.” I find that I am strangely satisfied, in this. That does not contradict, I believe, my current need for therapy. Yes, therapy/counseling is an attempt to change something in me that I am not fond of. But it is something negative; feelings, emotions that I don’t believe are honoring to my Creator; things which result from the effects of sin in my life.

There are characteristics that I have that God gave me, that do not need to be changed. I need not worry about physical appearance. The reason I am losing weight is not so much about physical appearance as it is health and how the extra weight prohibits activities that I want to do.

I don’t need to be taller or shorter. I don’t need to rub hair restorer on my balding head. I don’t need to have talents that God did not give me. I need to be satisfied with how God created me.

Why?

Because, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I was created for a purpose. You were created for a purpose. We may not have quite figured that out, yet, but you know what?

That doesn’t matter! You don’t have to know your purpose in order to fulfill it! If we simply go about our daily lives, doing what God puts in front of us to do, no matter how “mundane” it may seem, we just might be fulfilling that purpose, and not even realize it.

Just some simple words of wisdom for the day. Go out there (or stay in, depending on your circumstances), and do what God gives you to do, and, in doing so, honor Him with all your being.

Father, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that You created my inmost being, forming me while still in my mother’s womb. I will honor that today, doing my best to be the best “me” I can be. And, as Oscar Wilde once said, I need to be myself, because everyone else is taken. Help me to honor You today, by faithfully doing whatever You put in front of me to do. Give me the wisdom to know what that is. But also remind me that I don’t necessarily have to understand my purpose in order to accomplish it.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Marvelous Light

Here we go. It is Monday morning, April 14, 2014. Up and getting ready for the new job. I’ve got about forty minutes to get this done, so I have to stay focused.

Today is Look Up At the Sky Day. I have a friend who loves to do that. I’ll have to make sure he knows.


Stephanie and I had a marvelous time at the game yesterday. It rained a bit after we got there, but we had brought umbrellas, thanks to Christi’s suggestion. But shortly after the Rangers took the field, the rain stopped, and, by the end of the game, the sun even came out. To make it even better, the Rangers won the game, 1-0. It was a very close game. The Mercy Me concert after the game was great! Bart and company are not only entertaining, but they even led us in worship a bit, as well. It was an uplifting experience. I’m glad we got to go.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
Psalm 119:48
O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!
Psalm 71:12
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.

Psalm 5:1-7

“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established
the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn
in this fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what
they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “A Joyful Heart.”

“Thanksgiving is the song of the saved sinner.” When we are immersed in the awareness of God’s merciful love, brought to us most visibly through the Cross of Calvary, our lives become filled with “humble, joyful thanksgiving.” I have been called, by no merit of my own, out of darkness into marvelous light! For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). “The cross is a confrontation with the overwhelming goodness of God and the mystery of his love.” How delighted God is when we sing to him, and our song should be, “It is right to give him thanks and praise!”

Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,
and the voices of those who celebrate.
I will multiply them,
and they shall not be few;
I will make them honored,
and they shall not be small.

Jeremiah 30:19


Father, you have, indeed, brought me out of the darkness, into the marvelous light! The problem is, my flesh keeps drifting back toward that darkness! Each time it does, you gently (sometimes, not so much) draw me (push me, shove me, drag me) back to the light, where your Spirit graciously restores my fellowship with you. Your grace is amazing, and it truly is right for me to give you thanks and praise. I fear I do not do that enough. How beautiful it was, though, yesterday afternoon, to be standing in the middle of a ballpark, raising my hands in praise to you, as we worshiped along with Mercy Me. That is such a unique and uplifting experience. I thank you for that opportunity, and that things like that are still possible. My morning drive-time prayers have become so precious to me, but not precious enough that I don’t still get distracted along the way. Sure, I have to pay attention to driving, but that is not typically what distracts me. Thoughts come out of left field (why don’t thoughts ever come out of right field?) and draw me away from what is important. I pray that you keep me focused on what is important. May my heart be joyful today, as I go about on my way.

I pray for Christi today. She has a phone interview with another company. Etherios, or something like that. I pray that it goes well, and that she finds favor with people who have control over hiring, not just with this company, but with any company. We need for her to get a job soon. At least we seem to think that. You know better than we do, and I keep saying that because I believe it. We are not panicking, yet. Our hope is in you. Her back still feels good, and we praise you for that, as well. I also pray for Stephanie, who has been doing better in a lot of areas, lately. May you continuously draw her heart toward yours and give her wisdom and understanding. For me, I pray for a good first day at work, and may my drive go smoothly, this morning.

I pray for the family of Marty Hernandez, Father. I pray that you would be especially close to them during these days. Wrap them in your arms of comfort and give them hope for their future.

Your grace is sufficient.


I pray that you all have joyful hearts today, and that you would run into the marvelous light.

Grace and peace, friends.