Plan to Pray

Back home, but not back to work! Two more days of vacation left!

The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is miasma. This noun means, “a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease; also : a heavy vaporous emanation or atmosphere, or, “an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt; also : an atmosphere that obscures : fog.”

Today is Conflict Resolution Day, a global event intended to “promote the concept of peaceful conflict resolution.”

We had a splendid trip back home, yesterday. After this trip, we are definitely fans of Sun Country Airlines. Their motto seems to be, “We want to go early.” They said that numerous times as we were preparing for take off and landing. And they did seem to be in a hurry, too, which we certainly didn’t mind. The only downside to yesterday was Apple Vacations insisting on picking us up at our hotel at 9:00 AM when our flight didn’t leave until 1:40 PM. The excuse used was that we had booked “shared transport.” Okay, we understand that. There are other people to be picked up for other flights. However, as it turned out, all of the other people were at the same Iberostar complex, and all of their flights left after 1:00 PM. Two of them were even on the same flight we were on!

We got to the airport, and had to sit for an hour before we could even check in, as there were no Sun Country reps at the counter until 10:50. And why would they be? The next flight wasn’t scheduled until 1:40! Then, after we finally got checked in (very smooth process both ways), we had to sit for another two hours at the gate.

So, as we consider this vacation trip, we would give high ratings to the airline, Sun Country, but low ratings for Apple Vacations (which we will definitely not use again), and Iberostar. However, we might stay at an Iberostar again. The place was nice, and the room service food was delicious. We also liked the one in Cancun, when we stayed there. It’s just that, in our opinion, neither Apple Vacations nor Iberostar handled this crisis in the best way. Christi read some accounts that were even worse than ours. Apparently, not everyone booked at the Tucan got to go to another Iberostar. But it sounds like no one was given a choice in the matter.

One other thing we have learned. For us, at least, October is not a good month to go to Mexico. It’s just as hot as Texas, and about twice as humid. It’s much better in the winter, when it’s cold (sometimes) in Texas, but mild, in the seventies, in Mexico. We have filed that information for future reference.

We have no plans today, and Christi isn’t feeling well. She started feeling under the weather Tuesday night, and wasn’t well all day, yesterday, which is truly a bummer. She might have a bit of a cold or something. Tomorrow, we plan to go to Mineral Wells to see my mother and take care of some business, such as ordering a gravestone for my father’s (and mother’s, eventually) grave site. We also need to take care of legal business with her lawyer, in town.

This date in 1582 directly followed October 4, as Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian Calendar. In 1793, Marie-Antoinette was tried, convicted, and condemned to death the next day. On this date in 1815, Napoleon I began his exile on Saint Helena. In 1888, the letter known as the “From Hell” letter was posted by a person claiming to be Jack the Ripper. It was received by George Lusk the following day.

In 1928, the Graf Zeppelin completed its first trans-Atlantic flight. In 1956, the first modern computer language, Fortran, was first shared with the coding community.

Today’s birthdays include Virgil (Roman poet), Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher), P.G. Wodehouse (British novelist), Mario Puzo (American novelist), Lee Iacocca (American auto exec), Berry McGuire (American singer), Linda Lavin (American actress), Penny Marshall (American actress/director), Jim Palmer (American baseball player), Richard Carpenter (American musician, The Carpenters), Chris de Burgh (Irish singer/songwriter), Tanya Roberts (American actress), Emerial Lagasse (American chef), Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York), and Dominic West (British actor).

Mata Hari, Cole Porter, and Edie Adams are among notable deaths on this date.


(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “Plan for Prayer.”

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7

“Prayer pursues joy in fellowship with Jesus and in the power to share his life with others.”

And when we pray, we glorify God by treating him as “the inexhaustible reservoir of hope and help.” When we pray, we admit our poverty, and we confess God’s bounty. We acknowledge our misery and claim his mercy.

We exalt and glorify God in prayer when we pursue all that we long for in him, and not in ourselves. In John 16:24, Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” If we combine this passage with some other words of Jesus, we could come up with, “Ask, and you will receive . . . that the Father may be glorified in the Son and . . . that your joy may be full.” One of the primary reasons that so many Christians don’t have a fulfilled prayer life probably has to do more with the lack of planning than the lack of desire.

Christi and I did not wake up Saturday morning and say, “Hey, let’s go to Mexico today!” We planned in advance, for many months. (And even with that, some of our plans did not quite go as we expected.) But isn’t that how we tend to treat prayer? We get up every day, and, at some point, we realize that significant prayer times should be part of our lives, but nothing is ready. We haven’t planned. We don’t know where to go, or how to get there. “The opposite of planning is the rut.”

Piper says this: “Therefore, my simple exhortation is this: Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you.”

We find ourselves all too easily “tyrannized by the press of busy days.” Even someone who has a good habit of prayer could use some “midcourse corrections.” May we turn to prayer and plan to pray, “for the glory of God and the fullness of your joy.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Spontaneous Celebration

Good morning (at least it was when I started this). It is Sunday, December 22, 2013. Three days until Christmas. 10 days until 2014. 55 days until pitchers and catchers report. 99 days until Opening Day.

Today is “Date Nut Bread Day.” No. No thank you. You can have mine.

We had, in my opinion, an awesome worship celebration last night at The Exchange. And not just because I got to lead three songs. I mean, that was great fun; felt like old times. But I think the worship was good, and Jacob’s sermon was another great one. He keeps showing me stuff I’ve never seen before. Last night, his sermon passage was Isaiah 11:1-10. He took that passage and made direct correlation to Genesis 3:8-19. It was beautiful and well done. Jacob Seay, I salute you!!

After church, we stopped at Sonic for dinner, and headed home, where we pretty much chilled for the rest of the evening. We even had eggnog with brandy in it. Yes, brandy. I read an article that said that brandy was best in eggnog, between brandy, rum, and whiskey. I know it’s just one person’s opinion, and I had never had brandy before. So I decided to try it. I don’t think I would like brandy by itself, because it smells like wine. But the eggnog was very delicious!

We didn’t get our mail, though, because, for some reason, the lock on our mail slot has decided to stop working. This is disturbing. I guess I’ll have to call the post office Monday. We’ve had issues before, but were able to fix it with good ol’ reliable WD-40. You know the saying, right? “If it moves and shouldn’t, use duct tape. If it doesn’t move and should, use WD-40.” That’s pretty much all you need to know. Well, WD-40 didn’t work this time.

Christi is making the Kahlua fudge today. We cleaned out the bowl after she poured the fudge into the pan for cooling. It was delicious, warm, gooey, chocolaty goodness. That description doesn’t even begin to do it justice. You should be very jealous. And your mouth should be watering all over your keyboard or smartphone or whatever device you are using to read this.

Today, I hope to take Stephanie out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. Well, I guess it’s not technically “last-minute,” because it’s still three days until Christmas. One thing I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (do you understand?) do AGAIN is go to a mall on Christmas Eve. I did that once. It was probably at least 30 years ago, and the memory is still fresh. It was, perhaps, the most horrible thing I have ever experienced. Just thinking about it makes me want more eggnog.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1793, Captain of Artillery Napoleone Buonaparte “was promoted to the rank of brigadier general” at the age of 24. This was a reward for his “heroic achievements during Republican France’s victorious Siege of Toulon.”

Today’s birthdays are Rene-Robert Cavelier La Salle, French explorer, 1643, Abigail Adams, second First Lady, 1744, Thomas Cook, English tour director, 1808, George Eliot, Victorian novelist, 1819, (both of the last two are listed as having birthdays of November 22 by other sources), Frank Kellogg, Secretary of State, 1856, Connie Mack, baseball executive, 1862, Edgard Varese, composer, 1883, Wiley Post, aviation pioneer, 1899, Claudia A “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson, First Lady, 1912, Barbara Billingsley, June Cleaver, 1915, Gene Rayburn, game show host, 1917, Geraldine Page, actress, 1924, Gunther Schuller, composer, 1925, Steve Carlton, MLB pitcher, 1944, Diane Sawyer, newscaster, 1945, Rick Nielsen, guitarist for Cheap Trick, 1946, Steve Garvey, 1st baseman, 1948, Maurice and Robin Gibb, The Bee Gees, 1949, and Jordin Sparks, 1989.

Muarice and Robin Gibb were co-founders of The Bee Gees. Maurice passed in 2003, while Robin passed last year (2012). Here is a You Tube of what is probably my favorite Bee Gees song.


Sunday Fourth Week of Advent

Psalm 47:5-8 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 67:3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Jeremiah 23:5-6 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.'”
Psa 111 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

“Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (The Divine Hours)

Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Awake, Awake, Utter a Song!” The scripture reading is Judges 5:1-5, 12a.

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!
“Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the LORD I will sing; I will make melody to the LORD, the God of Israel.
“LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, even Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel.”
“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, break out in a song!”

This song gives praise to God for his deliverance, as well as for people cooperating with God. “Deborah’s prayer of praise holds as much gratitude for the turning of the people’s hearts toward God as for the turning of the battle to Israel’s favor. Deborah rejoices to see the Israelites once again worshiping God and placing themselves in his hands.” Perhaps we can be inspired by Deborah to come up with our own song of praise.

“Lord, as you awaken us to delight in your praise,
grant that we may know you,
call on you, and praise you;
for you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in you. Amen.”

Father, may I find myself erupting in spontaneous songs of praise each day! I have so much to be thankful for in my life. There is no reason why I should not burst into songs of praise frequently throughout my days. I pray that your Spirit would remind me throughout my day, of the great and wonderful gifts that I have to praise you for. Teach me to celebrate more.

I pray for this day, that we would have good rest and that we would be safe when we venture out. Even though we worshiped you last night, keep us mindful of your grace and mercy in our lives throughout this day.

Your grace is sufficient.

We have no idea what kind of “musician” Deborah was, and it really doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a skilled singer to sing a song of praise to God. The Psalms tell us to “make a joyful noise to God,” so I encourage you to simply do that. Whenever his Spirit leads you, let yourself erupt in spontaneous praise for his goodness.

Grace and peace, friends.

Mary Pondered

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Four more days until we’re on vacation! Galveston is calling my name! The ten-day forecast has possibility of isolated t-storms on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but I don’t care. We won’t be here, and I will still be able to see the ocean. Well . . . it’s technically the Gulf of Mexico, but I still count that as “ocean.” Just typing that made me relax a little.

I have two friends who have been out of work for a desperately long time. Both have been without jobs for over a year, one, I think, getting close to two years. I’m calling on the blogosphere to pray for them. Debbie, who lives in the same area we live in, and Mike, who lives in Indianapolis, but is willing to re-locate. He’s even gone back to school to get some different education in hopes of expanding his possibilities. Please pray for them.

Today is Sushi Day and Go Fishing Day. Haha. That kind of makes sense. But you need to go fishing first, then you can have your sushi. By the way, did you know that “sushi” is NOT raw fish? There are some who mistakenly believe that sushi must be raw fish and that if it doesn’t have raw fish in it, it’s not sushi. The sushi is actually the “vinegared rice.” It can pretty much contain anything, even just vegetables. I have grown very fond of sushi over the last few years, and have tried several different kinds. Odds are, I won’t have any today, though. Not likely to go fishing either. Oh, well.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1815, Napoleon’s career ended at the battle of Waterloo. His 72,000 strong army was defeated by “a mixed force of 68,000 British Dutch, Belgian and German troops, strongly reinforced by some 45,000 Prussians led by the 72-year-old Field Marshal Prince Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher.” That, of course, makes me think of this!

Anyway, the Allied army was commanded by none other than Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Of Napoleon and Wellington, it was said, by Victor Hugo, “Wellington was the technician of war, Napoleon its Michelangelo.” After losing the battle, Napoleon abdicated four days later. “It must have galled him that his defeat came at the hands of the British, whom he had once derided as ‘a nation of shopkeepers.'”

Today’s birthday is Blake Shelton, born on this date in 1976. Yes, the year that I graduated high school, this 6’5″ country superstar was born. And yes, I’m choosing a country superstar as my highlighted birthday today. Everyone who knows me well knows that I’m not a big country fan. But there are a few artists that I respect and appreciate. Having watched a couple of seasons of The Voice (a singing competition that leaves American Idol in so much dust it’s not even funny), I have really grown to like Blake Shelton. The interaction between him and Adam Levine on The Voice is enough to keep me interested in the show, even if the talent wasn’t amazing. By the way, Blake is probably going to win this season, either with The Swon Brothers or Danielle Bradbery. I personally cast ten votes for Michelle Chamuel, because I see her as the underdog. Plus, she’s quirky, from the same state as the Red Sox, and . . . she’s not country. Anyway, here’s a video of Blake’s newest song, “Boys ‘Round Here.”

Honorable mentions go to E.G. Marshall, 1914, Red Adair, 1915, Lou Brock, 1939, Paul McCartney, 1942, Roger Ebert, 1942, Carol Kane, 1942, and Ray Lamontagne, 1973.


God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Psalm 47:5-8
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. Psalm 119:147
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Father, I echo the words of the psalmist who asks you to give glory to your name alone. Not to us, O Lord, not to us. Your love is steadfast and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. All glory goes to you. Help me to abide in your word this morning, that I might know the truth. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Mary Pondered the Words in Her Heart.” The scripture reading is Luke 2:8-19, a very familiar passage.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” All of the events and words that related to the life of her son, Jesus, she treasured and pondered. My mind and heart cannot even fathom what Mary went through. The last glimpse we get of Mary is in Acts 1:14, where it is stated that she regularly gathered with other believers to pray. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has this to say of Mary, and of meditation: “Just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.” What a beautiful quote.

In chapter one of The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard has been talking about living “upside down” and “right-side up.” (I didn’t start writing about this in here until I was well into the chapter, but one of the things he states is that most people are living life “upside down.”) We have been invited by God to come out of the darkness and live “right-side up.” But this doesn’t make sense to many people. “Jesus came among us to show and teach the life for which we were made.” He has opened access to “the governance of God,” and has “set afoot a conspiracy of freedom in truth among human beings.” He overcame death and remains among us, to this day, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we study his words and believe them, we integrate our little kingdom with “the infinite rule of God.” This is “the eternal kind of life.” And it is here. Now. It is not something to be accepted now and enjoyed later. It is “something to be entered now.” (pp. 27-28)

Father, I thank you that you invited me and drew me into your kingdom. I thank you that it is present and active now, and not something that we are waiting for. I pray that you help me to enjoy this “eternal kind of life” that is present in my life now. Keep my little kingdom integrated with your kingdom, that your rule and reign might supersede mine. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!” Yes, Lord!

May I ponder the words of scripture just as Mary pondered the events and words about Jesus that were given to her. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth. Guide me by your Spirit as I meditate on your words every day. Remind me to engage in meditation each day. I so easily forget. It’s not a habit yet. My heart’s desire is to be so immersed in your word that it becomes like breathing to me.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi’s foot will continue to heal. I pray that she has a good day today, and that she will be able to work out a detail that has come up. I pray for Stephanie today as she continues to look for Jesus in Colossians 1. I thank you for pastors with a heart of compassion that treat her with dignity and respect. And I pray for my day, that you help me maintain a positive attitude to get through these last four days on this account. Then I pray for one of the most relaxing vacations ever, next week.

I also pray for Debbie and Mike, that you might give them jobs. Hasn’t it been long enough? I don’t challenge you, I simply ask that question. As the psalmist and other scripture writers said, at times, “How long, O Lord? How long?” How long must these go without work? Teach them whatever you need to teach them. May their ears and hearts be open to your words.

Your grace is sufficient.

Ponder the words of God today, just as Mary pondered words about Jesus. I pray that all who read this might enter into this “eternal kind of life” that is now.

Grace and peace, friends.