A Kingdom of Masterpieces

Today is Tuesday, the thirty-first of May, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,455

Later, this morning, it will be time to take Mama to her follow-up visit to the podiatrist after having her toenail removed. It has been two weeks, and the appointment is for 11:00, this morning. We’ve been taking diligent care of the toe, each day, and it looks pretty good, at least as far as we know.

It is Tuesday, so I will be heading in to the library at 4:15 today, to work my four-hour shelving shift. I’m not planning to come home with another book, but who knows? Last week, I found a Dave Barry book and checked it out. I finished it last night, and it was hilarious. You can find my review of Best. State. Ever. at my other blog or at Goodreads.com. It’s exactly the same review, copied and pasted from Goodreads to my blog.

The Texas Rangers tunned the Tampa Bay Rays, last night, beating them 9-5. In the first inning, Eli White robbed the Rays of a three-run home run, and then hit a two-run homer in the bottom half. Rookie Josh Smith went 3 for 4 in his MLB debut, while his wife watched from the stands. That was very exciting, as well. Glen Otto got the win for the game. The Rangers are, once again, one game under .500 at 23-24, seven games out of first place and three games out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, today, at 7:05 CDT. Martin Perez will get the mound for Texas.

The Boston Red Sox had the kind of day you don’t want to talk about, yesterday, losing to the Orioles 10-0. I can’t even wrap my head around how that happened. The Sox are 23-26, in fourth place in the AL East, 10.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Cincinnati Red tonight. I’m afraid to look.

The New York Yankees and LA Dodgers are in a literal tie for the best record in MLB. Both of them are 33-15. The Cincinnati Reds and KC Royals are in a literal tie for the worst record. Both of them are 16-31. This is weird. The Toronto Blue Jays have the longest current win streak, at five games. The LA Angels still have the longest losing streak, at five games. The Dodgers are still way ahead of the pack in run differential, at +118. The Pirates are still at the bottom of the heap, with -83. The Rangers are at +10, and Boston is at +17.

I didn’t get to recap the PWBA Twin Cities Open, yesterday, as I ran out of time. Shannon O’Keefe climbed the ladder, winning four games in Sunday’s final show to take home the trophy. She beat Dasha Kovalova 227-159 (Dasha had a horrible game, missing non-split spares). O’Keefe then defeated Bryanna Cote (pronounced “coat-tay”) 228-163. The third game was a little closer, but not really, as Shannon beat Danielle McEwan 247-204. In the final round, O’Keefe beat the top seed Missy Parkin 213-192.

The St. Petersbury-Clearwater Open begins Thursday, June 2, at Seminole Lanes, in Seminole, Florida. The format will be identical to that of the Twin Cities Open, with practice on Thursday, two six-game qualifying rounds on Friday (cutting to top cashers), a six-game round Saturday morning to cut to top twelve, who will then bowl a six-game round Saturday evening to determine the top five for Sunday’s final ladder elimination. There will be 94 bowlers competing in this event, including all of my favorites.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we want to find our joy in you and in all your promises to us. For you have promised that in the midst of all the pain and sorrow, you are preparing what pleases you and serves your honor in every heart. May we experience in our lives the fulfillment of many of your promises, so that again and again we can go forward joyfully, rising above difficult times and situations. Have mercy on us and protect us in your strength. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
(1 John 2:24-25 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, through all circumstances, whether pleasant or painful, the Lord is preparing within me that which pleases Him and glorifies Him
2. for all the teaching I've had in my life, even that which was wrong, because it makes me think about things
3. that I am God's "masterpiece," created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared in advance for me
4. that, in Jesus Christ, God has ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation
5. that prayer pulls me toward the center; in praying, I become "most human" (Eugene Peterson)

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
(1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “masterpiece.”

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

“Masterpiece” is defined as “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.” Many of are more familiar with a translation such as the ESV that uses the word “workmanship” (the KJV also uses that word) to translate the Greek word “poiema,” which, as I have discussed in this blog before, related to our word “poem.” In fact, I believe I once quoted the Passion translation, which says, “We have become his poetry.”

A masterpiece is also that which is created by one’s own hands. We don’t get “cookie cutter” masterpieces. Masterpieces don’t get created by mass production, or by a bunch of monkeys jumping around on typewriters. Masterpieces are works of artistry, labors of love.

And you and I, if we are followers of Christ, are God’s labors of love, truly His masterpieces. I’ve seen it said (can’t remember where), “God don’t make no junk.” Ecclesiastes 3, a quite famous and popular chapter, thanks to Pete Seeger, says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”

I believe this is important for us to grasp, during these challenging days. Humanity is in the midst of a time when we are being made to feel inadequate. Everywhere we look, there are advertisements that threaten to make us feel like we are less than adequate if we don’t drive this car (it parks itself! “That’s so you!”), drink this beer, wear this brand of shoes or clothes, or use this brand of makeup. I mean, honestly, what was the intent of makeup to begin with, if not to convince someone that they weren’t “pretty” enough without it?

True story. I once worked with a pastor who said, when it was suggested that his wife didn’t have to put on makeup, “Well, she was wearing makeup when I married her!” I have no respect for that person, whatsoever, and he has no business shepherding God’s people. And that’s a rabbit trail I don’t intend to pursue, this morning.

The point is, we are God’s masterpieces, the works of His hands. Psalm 100 says this:

Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
(Psalms 100:3 NLT)

We are not all the same. God did not use cookie cutters when He created us. We are all unique in some way. And while some of us are not as “beautiful” as others (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?), we are each beautiful in our own way, as well, because we are His masteripieces!

And that means that, no matter what some bully or marketing scheme or abusive spouse or parent is trying to tell you . . .

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NLT)

Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.
(1 Corinthians 12:13-14 NLT)

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NLT)

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
(Revelation 5:9 NLT)

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
of the world."

I remember growing up, singing that song in Sunday School. (Later, someone decided we needed to add “brown” in between “red” and “yellow.”) The beautiful scene in the book of Revelation, where the multitude of people proclaim the worthiness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is a wonderful depiction of the reality of that love that Jesus has for “all the children of the world.” In recent years, that passage in Revelation has become one of my favorite Bible passages. The diversity depicted is beautiful.

And God truly has ransomed people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” And, even though we may all look different, we are also all the same, because we are equal in standing with Jesus Christ. Once again, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

I also believe that these verses, quoted above, further illustrate the idea that we are all God’s masterpieces. Especially that verse in Galatians that tells us that the differences that once separated us by race or sex or economic status have been eradicated.

It is simply beautiful, in my opinion. It is also my opinion that, if we are true followers of Christ, we will see and acknowledge that same beauty in all tribes, languages, people, and nations.

"Prayer is the act that pulls us into the center of what it means to be ourselves.
"In praying, we are becoming most human."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I am grateful for prayer, even though I must confess that I do not engage in it enough, not nearly enough. I don’t come close to praying “without ceasing.” While I can acknowledge that I do pray many times, during any given day, there are also long periods where it is the furthest thing from my mind. I pray that I might remember more often, and when I tell someone I am praying for them or will pray for them, I ask that Your Spirit would remind me so that I do not forget and, thereby, let that someone down.

I thank You and praise You for the diversity within Your kingdom. The beautiful color palette of humanity is represented completely and perfectly withing Your kingdom, and we who would give preference to a particular race or color are simply wrong. I pray that that same sense of equality and diversity would work its way into our society, as well, although I fear that this will never happen. I know it will happen in eternity, as represented by John’s Revelation. I long to take part in that worship service that is described. I have no idea what “heaven” is going to look like, but I know I want to be there (wherever “there” is) and I know I want to participate in that multitude.

In the meantime, please continue to give us new songs to sing that praise Your holy name and lead us in that direction.

I praise You that You have made us masterpieces and You make everything beautiful in its time. Help us to see things with Your eyes; help us to see people with Your eyes, that we might see how beautiful they are to You. Help us to set aside our judgments, that are based on whatever they are based on. For some it is skin color; for some it is economic status; for some it is social status; for some it is language; and for some it is sexual orientation. There are, I’m sure, many other considerations. I guess I probably left out the biggest one in this country, right now, which is political affiliation.

So I pray, most desperately, that You would cause Your people to stop putting so much emphasis on political affiliation and simply be affiliated with You and Christ. Let the power of the Holy Trinity dwell within us, overcoming all obstacles and overcoming all of the tricks that our enemy is using to divide us. A house divided cannot stand. Father, please unite Your House. Make us like that multitude in Revelation.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Peace and war start within one’s own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our families. Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another. It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband. In order for love to be genuine, it has to be above all, a love for our neighbor. We must love those who are nearest to us, in our own family. From there, love spreads toward whoever may need us. It is easy to love those who live far away. It is not always easy to love those who live right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a needy person than to comfort the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.
(Mother Teresa, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Open Heart; Open Hands

Today is Wednesday, the fourth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter. May the fourth be with you.

More importantly, peace be with you.

Day 23,428

I had a good evening at the library, last night. There were no carts left for me to shelve, so I began working on a project for one of the Adult Services librarians. This involved pulling books from the New Bookshelf. Our “new books” have red dots on the spine label, and the number of the month that they were acquired is written on them. So I pulled any books that were marked from last December or earlier. These were all placed on carts, which wound up back in that librarian’s work area. (This area is affectionately known as “The Pit.” It’s like a large cubicle at the back of the library, shared by four of the most wonderful people I know.)

I was able to peel off the red dots from all the books on one of the carts, so that was also helpful. The librarian will get the rest of them done, and then all of those books will wind up in our regular stacks, later this week.

My “To Be Read” list increased by at least twenty books while I was doing this. Hahaha!

The Texas Rangers pulled off a good win against the Phillies last night (is there such a thing as a “bad” win?), 6-4. The Rangers did score first again, but fell behind just as quickly when the Phillies scored three in the bottom of the first. The Rangers came back, though, tying the game in the top of the fourth (on a solo home run by new dad Jonah Heim), and then going ahead in the top of the sixth. Brock Burke (3-0) got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 9-14 for the season (this is their second three-game win streak, by the way), and are still in last place in the AL West. However, they are only a half game behind the struggling Athletics, who have lost five consecutive games. The Rangers and Phillies will play the last game of this series tonight, at 5:45 CDT (in Philadelphia).

The Boston Red Sox shut out the LA Angels, last night, 4-0, behind a strong start by Michael Wacha (3-0). The Sox are 10-14 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East. They are eight games behind the Evil Empire, who has won eleven consecutive games. The Sox will play the Angels again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees continue to hold the best MLB record, but only one game ahead of the Mets, who have lost two more than the Yanks. The sad Cincinnati Reds have now lost seven straight games and only won three for the year. They are the first team to lose 20 games, this season. The Rangers have improved a little, and are tied for sixth worst in MLB, and the Sox are tied at eighth from the bottom.

There are almost 140 games left, so there is still a lot of season left.

I’m off work today, and plan to get in some serious reading, today, and maybe a little music, as well. Hopefully, our lawn guy will be able to get the lawn mowed before the afternoon storms roll in.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, 'Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:' Regard not our sins, but the faith of Your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Daily Devotions)

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, with new opportunities; may I make heavenly choices, rather than selfish choices
2. for the fruit of the Spirit; may it be evident in me today
3. for the ability to be honest and transparent, and, therefore, vulnerable
4. for a generous spirit; may all followers of Christ share all things, as opportunities arise
5. for the testimonies of saints that inspire me to live a better life

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
(Acts 16:13-15 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD.
(Judges 2:11-12 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They forgot about the LORD their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.
(Judges 3:7 NLT)

Once again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight, and the LORD gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil.
(Judges 3:12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “honesty.” That’s a word that brings fear into the hearts of some men.

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” ~ Mother Teresa

I believe that this is a valuable admonition. I like to think that I’m an honest person; most of the time. I know that I’m pretty transparent, as my wife constantly reminds me that my feelings are written all over my face, even when I don’t express them verbally. It’s like I exude this aura that screams out that I don’t like something.

I don’t know if it’s true that “honesty is the best policy.” At least not always. There are definitely times when we should keep our feelings and opinions to ourselves. Especially when those opinions would create more division than already exists. I have lots of opinions about things. I lean away from sharing them here, because, as you already know if you are a faithful reader, my opinions about things are not in my job description. In the long run, in the big picture, they simply don’t matter.

Where you will see me being honest is in my imperfections; my humanity; my shortcomings. Because everyone needs to know that I don’t think I’m superman. Far from it. My understanding of things is very limited. While I like to think I’m a relatively intelligent person, I am also well aware that I don’t know it all. As is true for all of us, the amount of stuff that I don’t know is exponentially greater than what I do know. So, in areas like this, I choose to be honest and transparent, which, yes, make me vulnerable, and that’s okay.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to make the right choices daily, when it comes to honesty and transparency. I believe that vulnerability is akin to meekness and eliminates any chance of being arrogant. I don’t want to be seen as arrogant, so help me to be more vulnerable and humble. I know how dangerous it is to pray for humility. It’s kind of like praying for patience. It always brings a testing, almost as if You say, “Okay, you asked for it, here it is!” Be that as it may, I’m still praying for those characteristics to be evident in my life. But I also pray for the ability to keep my mouth shut when my opinion is not needed or helpful.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

Daily Guideposts writer Carol Knapp points out that this verse is not so much a “to-do” list to be checked off, but more of a way of living. It is not as if I should get out of bed every morning and think, “Okay, today I have to love someone; I have to be joyful; I have to display peace; I must exhibit patience,” and so on.

Rather, Paul is simply stating a fact, here. If we are in Christ, we have “nailed the passions and desires” of our “sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24). And, if we are, therefore, living by the Spirit, this fruit will be evident in our lives. In addition, if you look carefully, you will see that this mirrors the characteristics of our Savior.

One other thing that Ms. Knapp said that I like. One of her daily priorities is to ask herself, “Did I benefit someone today?” I like this thought, although I might word it differently. Did I help someone today? Did I make someone feel better today? Did I leave something positive with them? Twice, recently, I have simply thanked restaurant employees for being there. You might be surprised at how much difference something that simple can make.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
(John 15:5, 8 NLT)

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
(Romans 14:17-19 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I pray that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident in me, today. As I do whatever I do, today, go wherever I go, may my countenance reflect the characteristics of Jesus Christ, and may I spread love all around. I also pray that I might find an opportunity to truly help someone today, even in a small, simple way.

As we attempt to work out these things, this “fruit,” we sometimes fall into a bad habit of trying to keep God to ourselves. But we cannot do that. “He is not a private acquisition.” God is a generous God. Only a fool would not know this, because all you have to do is look around you to see how generous God is. I mean, look at all He has given us!

And, if we are truly related to Him, truly His children, “we participate in the sharing. We join in the giving.” This truth speaks volumes, when we stop and consider the people who are not sharing and giving, who hoard God’s blessings and refuse to share because they deem the needy to be unworthy or even unclean. (My honesty is showing.)

“The Christian is not a person who hides in a bunker but a person who explores all reality. When Christians keep to themselves what they ought to generously give, they deny the spirit and command of their Lord.”

Dorothy Day once wrote, “I did not see anyone taking off his coat and giving it to the poor. I didn’t see anyone having a banquet and calling in the lame, the halt, and the blind . . . I wanted, though I did not know it then, a synthesis. I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too.”

Dorothy found this life, became a Christian. “She went on to become one of the most effect apostles to the poor and oppressed that America has seen. She did it as an act of faith, through prayer and in love. She experienced the gift. In response, she gave. Will we?”

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

I pray, Lord, that I will never be found to be one who hoards Your blessings. You have created a generous heart within me, over time. You have chiseled away the tendency to look at things and consider them “mine.” You have blessed us with plenty, with an abundance, and given us the willingness to share this abundant life with others. I pray that this may grow even more. May we glorify You through our generosity and sharing.

I pray even more so that Your Church would live in the same way. I pray for Your intervention in the hearts of those who claim to follow Christ but hold on to everything with a tight fist, instead of an open hand. May You soften the hearts of those who would love country more than people.

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.

Called and Equipped

“People who believe that Jesus is already Lord and that he will appear again as Judge of the world are called and equipped (to put it mildly) to think and act quite differently in the world from those who don’t.”

Today is Saturday, June 8, 2019.

Day 22,367

Twenty-six days until July 4

Quote of the Day

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
Mother Teresa, Albanian Saint, 1910-1997
BrainyQuote

Word of the Day

stymie ~ to hinder, block, or thwart. (Dictionary.com)

The weekend is here! It seems as though that’s all we think about, right? On Monday morning, we’re wishing for the weekend already. I’ve backed off on that a little, because, if, on Monday, I’m wishing for it to be Friday already, I’m wishing for four or five days of my life to be gone. At this age, I can’t afford to do that, right?

We got finished with work on time, last night, which is always nice on Friday. C picked up our traditional Freebirds dinner on her way home, and we chilled while we watched the last new episode of Black Mirror on Netflix. Then I played Vampyr on the PS4.

Today, after I finish this, C and I are going to head over to Six Flags. We can save on parking by parking at her work place and walking across to the entrance. She promises it’s not that far.

We scheduled our grocery pick-up for tomorrow after church.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Oakland Athletics, as they normally do, 5-3. Jose Leclerc took the loss. They were tied going into the ninth, and gave up two runs in the top of the ninth. They are now 32-29, in second place in the AL West, ten games out. They play the A’s again, this afternoon, in Arlington. Joe Palumbo, a new LHP, will get the start today.

The Boston Red Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-1. Rick Porcello took the loss. The Sox are 33-30, in third place in the AL East, 6.5 games out. They play the Rays again this afternoon, at Fenway. Josh Smith will take the mound for Boston.

Rocky, the grey cat, is on the desk in front of the monitor, which makes it hard to type. Ah. He just jumped up on my chair back. Much better.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33:1-3

Today I am grateful:
1. For the weekend to rest for the coming work week
2. For the Psalms that help me learn how to pray
3. That God can make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19)
4. For the things that God has done for my soul
5. That God has given me everything I need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)

God and Father of all believers, for the glory of your Name multiply, by the grace of the Paschal sacrament, the number of your children; that your Church may rejoice to see fulfilled your promise to our father Abraham; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer)

“The language of prayer is forged in the crucible of trouble.” ~ Eugene H. Peterson, in Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “Work for the ‘Day’,” by N.T. Wright.

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Does it seem as though the Church feels that it must build God’s kingdom all by itself? Or, perhaps, is there a sensation that we can do nothing at all until Jesus comes again? In truth, neither one of these feelings is reality. We may, at times, feel either way, but it is not reality. “We do not ‘build the kingdom’ all by ourselves, but we do build for the kingdom. All that we do in faith, hope, and love in the present, in obedience to our ascended Lord and in the power of his Spirit, will be enhanced and transformed at his appearing.” Of course, there is also a note of judgment included in this, as seen in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. When Jesus appears again, the quality of our work will be made evident.

“People who believe that Jesus is already Lord and that he will appear again as Judge of the world are called and equipped (to put it mildly) to think and act quite differently in the world from those who don’t.”

Called. Equipped. Those are words we hear a lot. So much, perhaps, that their true meaning loses its impact on us. But both are true, regarding anyone who believes in Jesus. We are called by him. We are also equipped by him. We are told in 2 Peter that we already have everything 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

These are some of the most encouraging words in Scripture, as well as some of the most ignored. I have failed, frequently, to appropriate this truth into my life. I forget, daily, that this is true. What would our lives, what would this world look like, if every believer lived according to the fact that is stated in 2 Peter 1:3-4? Don’t call it a “promise,” because that is not what it is. This is not a “promise” to be “claimed.” This is a fact!

Father, I confess my failure to live by the truth of these verses. If Jesus were to appear today, a lot of my “work” would be revealed to be wood, hay, and straw. I do believe that there would be some “work” that would be more along the lines of the gold and silver. But I think that most of it would burn up. Help me to do better. Remind me, daily, that you have provided me with everything I need for this life and for your work. I believe . . . help my unbelief!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Quietly Unaware of Self

Today is Friday, May 3, 2019.

Day 22,331

SIX DAYS until Vegas!!!!

Quote of the Day

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Mother Teresa, Albanian saint, 1910-1997
BrainyQuote

Word of the Day

Vigesimal ~ of, relating to, or based on twenty.

We had a nice dinner, last night. We wound up going to Pappasito’s in Arlington, near where C works. It was rather expensive, but our finance/life insurance guy paid for it. It’s a tax write-off for him. He gave us a stack of material to look at, things that could help us figure out what we need to do to set up funds for S, later on. We’ll need to find a lawyer who can set up a special needs trust, then get some more life insurance that will ultimate feed into that fund. Then, of course, we will have to identify someone who can oversee the trust. Lots of stuff to think about.

The Red Sox gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth (must have been on a home run) to lose to the White Sox 6-4. The “closer,” Ryan Brasier took the loss, as well as a blown save. The Sox are now 14-18, in fourth place in the AL East, 6.5 games out. They play again tonight, at 7:10 PM. Chris Sale will take the mound, still seeking his first victory.

The Rangers had the day off, and will begin a weekend series with the Blue Jays, in Arlington, tonight at 7:05 PM. Mike Minor will take the mound for the Rangers.

Tonight, we have a church event, called “Taco bout it.” We are gathering at a member’s home for conversation and, well, tacos. We plan to attend unless I have to work late, which frequently happens on Fridays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

Psalm 26:2-3

Today I am grateful:
1. That we have an advocate who is willing to help us with financial matters
2. That God has given us the means to prepare for future events
3. That we have the ability to cast our cares upon the Lord
4. That God can enlarge my heart if only I surrender
5. That I can have the ability to truly love people

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.
Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Bless the Lord who forgiveth all our sins.
His mercy endureth for ever.
(The Book of Common Prayer, Penitential Order)

(From The Root of the Righteous, A.W. Tozer)

Today’s reading is “Narrow Mansions.”

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, would likely be on anyone’s list of the mightiest Christians to have walked the earth since the Apostle Paul. His Confessions is one of the most famous of all spiritual tomes. However, it is apparent from these Confessions, that Augustine, himself, did not know how great he was. “Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in,” he wrote.

“Augustine’s vision of God was so tremendous that his own little capacity to receive seemed to him intolerably restricted. God was to him so vast, so world-filling, that no temple could contain Him, no shrine enclose Him.” Augustine, looking at his own heart saw “only narrowness and constriction.” The involuntary cry of his heart was, “Enlarge Thou it!”

This seems to be vastly different from the attitudes we see today. There is a prevalent “self-satisfied spirit” among modern Christians. “To be saved appears to be the highest ambition of most Christians today. To have eternal life and know it is the highest aspiration of many. Here they begin and here they end.” Their own narrow temples are build around this theme, “and in these cramped confines they sing their congratulatory songs and offer their cherry thanks.”

Of course, one can’t really blame them, because that seems to be the theme of contemporary evangelism. It’s all about “accepting Jesus” and “getting saved.” While those things are important, they are only the beginning. We can’t afford to stop there, as our hearts will shrink to the point where there is “room in them for little beside ourselves.”

Christians, of all people, should have the largest hearts. “They should seek for inner enlargement till their outward dimension gives no hint of the vastness within.” And it is futile to attempt to defend our moral flaws against the complaints of the world. “We should remove the ground of the criticism rather than deny it.” All too often, we even see people using Scripture to defend their own flaws. In case you didn’t, well-meaning slave owners in the nineteenth century used Scripture to defend their ownership of another human being.

Paul spoke to the Corinthians about this subject in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.”

Let us be clear, however, that we are unable to enlarge (or widen) our own hearts. “Only God can work in the heart. The Architect and Builder of the soul alone can build it anew after the cyclone of sin has gone over it and left only one small room standing.”

We must surrender our hearts to God that he may enlarge them. This is more difficult than it sounds, of course. I know from experience. But once we do, we will notice (or maybe we won’t) that the singular characteristic “of the enlarging life is that it is quietly unaware of itself.”

I am still way too aware of myself.

Father, “narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge Thou it.” I don’t even seem to have the ability to surrender my heart that you might enlarge it. Help me to surrender. Make me more like Jesus. Make me less aware of myself.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Prayer of Faith

Today is Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

Day 22,181

21 days until Christmas! Three weeks.

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Mother Teresa, Albanian saint, 1910-1997
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is perspicacious, “of acute mental vision or discernment : keen.” I’ve loved that word since the first time I learned it. That, and perspicacity.

I made something new for dinner last night. I found the recipe on Pillsbury’s website (which is odd, because I don’t think it had any Pillsbury ingredients). it’s called “Beefy Nacho Soup.” It was relatively easy and only had a few ingredients. Ground beef, taco seasoning, Rotel, milk, and a can of condensed Nacho Cheese Soup. Yes, we used soup to make soup. We added sour cream and topped with shredded cheese and tortilla strips. It was delicious! Here’s a link to the recipe.

We didn’t do much else. We finished an episode of The Newsroom on HBO, then went to bed kind of early.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1

Today I am grateful:
1. For brothers and sisters who are willing to call for intercession for other people
2. That we have the ability and willingness to obey God’s promptings
3. For the Renovare organization
4. That someone thought it important to preserve the writings of the saints of old
5. For grace that enables me to pick up and keep going when I fall

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:8

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 1:11-12

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Ephesians 2:19

Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:4

(From Power in Prayer, Andrew Murray)
Intercessory Prayer of Faith

. . . how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Hebrews 9:14

Andrew Murray says, “The ministry of intercession is one of the highest privileges of the child of God.” Intercession is more than simply determining that there is a need and pouring out our prayers to God on behalf of that need. That’s a good thing to do, and it is not at all discouraged. “But the peculiar ministry of intercession is something more than that and finds its power in ‘the prayer of faith.’ This prayer of faith is different from pouring out our wishes to God and leaving them with Him.”

I’m adding in a passage from James that speaks of “the prayer of faith.” “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15) James goes on to speak of Elijah, who prayed for the rain to stop, and it didn’t rain for three and a half years! Then he prayed for rain, and it rained again. Elijah, says James, was a person just like us.

In the prayer of faith, says Murray, “the intercessor must spend time with God to appropriate the promises of His Word, and must permit himself to be taught by the Holy Spirit as to whether the promises can be applied in this particular case.” The intercessor will then take on the burden of the sin or need as though it were his own and lay hold “of the promise concerning it as though it were for himself.” She will keep at it until the Spirit prompts that the matter is finished, or at least until she has faith that the prayer has been heard.

This is the same way that many parents pray for their children, or people pray for their ministers. There are many times when I will lay a prayer request before God one time, and feel that that is enough. But there are other times, when I might feel it necessary to keep at it for a while. “It is the blood of Christ through its power in bringing us near to God that bestows such liberty to pray until the answer is obtained.”

Also, it is important to not allow well-meaning but misled people to confuse us. This “prayer of faith” is not a formula or specific set of words that will magically force God to act. There is no such thing. It is exactly what is described above. Staying in the presence of God, through Christ, in the Spirit, until we are sure that our prayer has been heard. It is also necessary to be walking with Him in truth and grace, and not following the ways of the world; being filled with the Spirit.

Father, most of the time, I’m just a guy who prays for other people when they send me prayer requests. Occasionally, I become a real “intercessor.” I would be an intercessor more of the time, if it please You. Help me to remain in Your presence until I know that my prayer is heard. Help me be strong enough to take their burdens upon myself as through they are my own. Help me to be familiar enough with Your Word to know what promises are applicable in their case. And help me to lean on the promise that the Holy Spirit is interceding, as well, when I don’t quite know how to pray.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Grace and peace, friends.

Never Alone

Today is Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Hump day. Day 21,944.

Five days until jury duty.

Mother Teresa (not her birthday), said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” (BrainyQuote)

The word for today is astroturfing, a noun which means, “the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion.” I think there may be more of this going on than we realize.

The Red Sox pounded Severino and the Yankees, last night, 14-1. This increased their winning streak to nine consecutive games since losing Opening Day. Their record is now 9-1. They scored nine runs in the sixth inning, including a Mookie Betts over-the-monster grand slam, as Chris Sale finally got his first win of the season. This is the best season start in Red Sox history. They continue their series with the Yankees tonight.

The Rangers lost badly to the Angels, last night, 11-1, as Martin Perez gave up eight runs in his second start of the season. They are now 4-9 on the season.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 
You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. 
You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. 
You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams. 
Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. 
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter. 
Remember this, O LORD, how the enemy scoffs, and a foolish people reviles your name. 
Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of your poor forever. 
Have regard for the covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. 
Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame; let the poor and needy praise your name. 
Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day! 
Do not forget the clamor of your foes, the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

Psalm 74:12-23

Many times, I have felt like praying those last two verses, as I ponder the apparent inactivity of God in our society. It doesn’t mean he is not working, and I believe that he is. It just seems as though he is not defending himself, sometimes, as the “foolish scoff” at him “all the day!”

I am with you always . . .
Matthew 28:20
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

I’m reminded today, by Daily Guideposts, of something that we all need to remember. We are never alone.

Have you ever been afraid to take the first step in a journey, but then when someone else offered to walk alongside you, it suddenly became much easier? How many of us have faltered in our walk of faith out of fear of the unknown? But then, we remember that there is always someone alongside us in every step we take. That “someone” is Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit. We are never alone. Jesus is always with us, in front of us, behind us, on both sides, above, below, and even inside.

One of my memory verses is Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (And yes, I just typed it from memory.) That is a wonderful verse to have handy in my mind, to remind me that God is always with me and I have nothing to fear.

When we remember these things, the words of Dallas Willard are absolutely true. “This present world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

Father, thank you for your presence, and for the presence of Christ in my life at all times. Remind me of this truth when I am afraid.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Lavished

Today is Saturday, August 26, 2017. Day 21,716. Nine days until the Labor Day holiday!

Quote of the Day

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~ Dalai Lama

Bonus quote

“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” ~ John Galsworthy

Just a word on these two quotes. For the first one, I believe a lot of Jesus’s teachings could be summarized by the Dalai Lama’s quote. For the second one, I agree 100%. The farther we are from the situation, the more expertly we seem to believe we can solve the problem, and the louder we express our opinions. Something to ponder on the Saturday in August.

Word of the Day

Funster ~ “a person who creates or seeks fun, as a comedian or reveler.”

Today is Women’s Equality Day, so deemed because it was this date in 1920 when women were first allowed to vote. “You’ve come a long way, baby,” said Virginia Slims. Sadly, we still have a long way to go.

On a lighter note, it’s also Cherry Popsicle Day. I may have to see if I can get me one of those!

I haven’t done birthdays in a long time, but on August 26, 1910, Mother Teresa was born, in Skopje, Macedonia. I think that’s a notable birthday to recognize.

I had to work a little over an hour late, yesterday. I know I’m blessed to have a job, but this having to work late almost every Friday is getting old. As is driving 60 miles round trip every day. But it is what it is, and finding a new job when you’re almost 60 years old is no piece of cake. Or pie. Or cherry popsicle. Plus, there’s the salary cut I would have to take.

The Rangers and Red Sox both lost last night. The Rangers lost 3-1 to the last place A’s, while the Red Sox were completely embarrassed by the O’s, 16-3. Fortunately, the Yankees lost, as well, so no ground was lost, there. They maintain a 4.5 lead in the AL East. The Rangers, though, dropped back to two games out of the second wild card spot, while Seattle has moved to within a half game of that spot. Just for kicks, the Rangers’ wild card elimination number is 33. With 34 games remaining. So this could go right up to the last day of the season.

Nothing much planned today, and tomorrow, we have a quartet leading our worship music, so I won’t have much to do there, either, other than helping with setup and tear-down.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:2-3
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 
I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!

Psalm 119:18-19
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:11
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:43-45
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8

(From Practice Resurrection)

Continuing in the series of words that Eugene Peterson highlights in Ephesians 1:3-14. The fifth verb is lavished. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (Ephesians 1:7-8).

As noted in a previous entry, Paul uses the word “bestowed” only once in Ephesians, “but with striking appropriateness, transmuting the noun ‘grace’ into a surprising new verb form.” Paul and Luke are the “only early church writers who used it.” But his word “lavish,” occurs much more frequently. It is, says Peterson, everywhere. In fact, it appears to be one of Paul’s favorite words. “We might say he uses it lavishly.”

This word, in various form, appears seventy-eight times in the New Testament, and Paul uses forty-five of those. He can’t seem to get enough of the word. Does he overdo it? “I don’t think so,” says Peterson. “In matters of God’s grace, hyperboles are understatements.”

Before moving on, let’s pin down what “lavish” means. As adjective, it means, “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious,” as in a lavish banquet. As verb, it means, “bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.”

Peterson quotes a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins, called “God’s Grandeur.”

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men the now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Father, may I ponder, today, this word. Lavish. The grace which you have lavished upon us. May that not escape my thinking for the rest of this day, nay, for the rest of my life! Keep me thinking on this as I ponder the events in the world around me, and in the world not around me. You have lavished; you have spent extravagantly upon us, your children. May we be grateful for all of this, although our gratitude would not nearly be enough.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Growing Up in Christ

Today is Monday, June 19, 2017. Day 21,648.

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.” ~ Mother Teresa
BrainyQuote

Today’s word of the day is sundog, a noun, meaning “a bright circular spot on a solar halo; parhelion.”

Today is Sauntering Day, a reminder to slow down the pace a bit and saunter through the day.

Yesterday was a nice day. I spent most of the day playing PS4 and Xbox games, two of which I received as Father’s Day gifts (Horizon: Zero Dawn and Witcher III, the Wild Hunt). I did do the grocery shopping, because C had messed up her knee a bit and was having trouble walking.

We had a great day with R & J, the day before, as well.

Back to work, this morning, with band practice tonight, so it’s a long day, but there’s a couple hour break in the middle. We appear to be having thunderstorms this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Psalm 96:9
O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before thy throne of grace.
O Lord–this morning–
Bow our hearts beneath our knees,
And our knees in the lonesome valley.
We come this morning–
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merits of our own.
O Lord–open up a new window of heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of glory,
And listen this morning.

James Weldon Johnson
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation
Psalm 18:46
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Psalm 14:1
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 
He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 
The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 
But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29

(From Practice Resurrection)

Eugene Peterson opines that we have allowed emotional needs to call the shots for too long, as well as allowing “ecclesiastical market analysts” to determine the agenda of the church. His purpose in this book (finishing the introduction this morning) is to “engage in an extended and serious conversation with my brother and sister Christians around the phrase ‘growing up in Christ.'” To aid us in this conversation, he enlists the help of Paul the Apostle, and his letter to the church in Ephesus. “The words he wrote in a letter to a congregation of Christians in Ephesus two thousand years ago is as up-to-date as anything we are likely to hear these days, and strategically crucial for what faces us.”

The conditions in which we live in this life are established by the resurrection of Christ, and even “which took place without any help or comment from us.” This fact keeps us from trying to “take charge of our own development and growth. Frequent meditation on Jesus’ resurrection–the huge mystery of it, the unprecedented energies flowing from it–prevents us from reducing the language of our conversation to what we can define or control.” Peterson got the title of this book, the phrase “practice resurrection” from a poem by Wendell Berry. “When we practice resurrection, we continuously enter into what is more than we are. When we practice resurrection, we keep company with Jesus, alive and present, who knows where we are going better than we do, which is always ‘from glory unto glory.'”

Father, help me practice resurrection today. And tomorrow. And every day. But help me begin today. Give me the mindset of meditation on the resurrection of Christ as I walk through this day, hopefully in the steps and words of Christ and in his easy yoke. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Help me to be “growing up in Christ.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Pray the Psalms!

Today is Thursday, March 23, 2017. Eleven days until Opening Day!

Quote of the Day

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” ~ Mother Teresa

Word of the Day

Throttlebottom ~ a harmless incompetent in public office. Please note the word “harmless.”

Today is Chip and Dip Day. I love chips and dip! So many good kinds of dips, too. Salsa, queso, guacamole . . . wait . . . I see a pattern emerging, here.

C had a good time visiting with her friend, last night, and I had a good time playing Mass Effect: Andromeda. S and I had Lee’s Grilled Cheese for dinner, which, as always, was delicious. I discovered, last night, however, that I definitely do NOT need to order the “large” order of fries. Holy cow. I don’t think I even ate half of them!

We don’t have anything planned for this evening, but tomorrow night we will have a gathering with the worship team members. No plans for this weekend, either. In six days, R has a birthday. We might be getting together on April 2 for that. We aren’t sure yet. April 1 is our next Night of Worship, though, which is a week from Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Psalm 96:9
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Psalm 25:21
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:25-27
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. 
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37:1-7
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

(From Living the Message)

For many years, now, Psalms has been my favorite book of the Bible. And recently, over the last couple of years, I have become more and more convinced that we should be praying the Psalms on a regular basis. We should be praying them, both in and out of our worship gatherings. Eugene H. Peterson’s reading today focuses on that necessity.

He begins by quoting St. Pius X, who said, “The Psalms teach mankind, especially those vowed to a life of worship, how God is to be praised.” There is a great need, especially for pastors, a need so great that there is too much at stake for pastors “to pick and choose a curriculum of prayer as they are more or less inclined.” (Reminds me of a book that I read recently, God’s Prayer Program.) He compares it to allowing a physician to create medications from herbs and weeds in his own back yard.

“Prayer must not be fabricated out of emotional fragments or professional duties. Uninstructed and untrained, our prayers are something learned by tourists out of a foreign language book: we give thanks at meals, repent of the grosser sins, bless the Rotary picnic, and ask for occasional guidance. Did we think prayer was merely a specialized and incidental language to get by on during those moments when we happened to pass through religious country?”

Prayer is something that should involve our entire lives. And there is a desperate need for us to be fluent in the language. “Praying the Psalms, we find fragments of soul and body, our own and all those with whom we have to do, spoken into adoration and love and faith.” It is not just for pastors, but pastors most definitely should be immersed in them.

St. Ambrose described the Psalms as “a sort of gymnasium for the use of all souls, a sort of stadium of virtue, where different sorts of exercise are set out before him, from which he can choose the best suited to train him to win his crown.”

. . . you thrill to GOD’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.
Psalm 1:2 (The Message)

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

And these words, I pray for everyone who might read this today:

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Raise Your Banner High

Today is Monday, December 19, 2016. Six more days until Christmas!

Quote of the Day

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” – Mother Teresa

Word of the Day

Cordate – heart-shaped

Today is Look For An Evergreen Day. If you’re going to get a live tree for Christmas, you’d better get moving!

Well, it’s fifteen degrees again, this morning. It’s supposed to get up to 35 today. Then back down to fifteen, and then up to 51? Gah! I’m tempted to text my shift lead and tell him I’m not coming in because I don’t have enough clothes. Just kidding of course. Christmas is supposed to be 67 and raining. How lovely.

We had a good day, yesterday. We decided to go straight to the grocery store right after church, so we wouldn’t have to get out again. That means we were shopping without a list. That’s always dangerous, but I think we actually got everything that we needed.

C’s bosses are taking the leadership team out for an event and dinner, Wednesday evening. That should be fun for her.

68 days until the first Spring Training game.
105 days until Opening Day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Monday in the fourth week of Advent

Psa 31:23-24  Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Psa 31:2-3  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

Psa 31:19  Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

(From Praying With the Psalms)

Psa 145:1-3  A Song of Praise. Of David. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

“Praise raises a banner, blazoned with God’s name and attributes, high into the air. Thrust against the sky, the celebrative flag catches the attention of the wandering and aimless and leads them in a parade of joy.”

“God, I want to fill the air with the notices of your goodness and attract drifting minds to a new allegiance to your Lordship, even through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.”

Father, teach me, still, to lift your banner high, to praise your name and your attributes, both privately and publicly, so that all can see your glory. Help me to lift that “celebrative flag” high, that the “wandering and aimless” might see and find peace, joy, and comfort in you.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” . . . Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)

Grace and peace, friends.