“I Am Willing”

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the thirteenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,317

Ten days until Hamilton, if the show goes on as planned.

As of this morning, there has been no news on the above subject, other than an email from Bass Performance Hall, describing procedures for gaining entrance. I’m still skeptical, however, considering that the Houston run of the same show has been postponed. Also, the U.S. had 829,209 new cases, yesterday. I don’t think that’s the record, but it’s close.

I got a few things accomplished yesterday. I tried to fix the leaky shower faucet, but, when I got the knob and cover off, saw that the cartridge looked nothing like the one on the video I had watched, so I elected to reassemble it and call a professional. I have a plumber scheduled to come between 2-4 today.

I got groceries, yesterday, and wound up making an in-person visit to Walmart Neighborhood Market. They didn’t have any pickup times left for yesterday. I got most of what I wanted, but the had not one single grape in the store. So, when I got home, I set up a small delivery order from Albertson’s, and got some more grapes, watermelon, canteloupe, and a couple other things.

I am planning to cook pecan-crusted buttermilk chicken for dinner tonight.

I’m thinking this will be a day when I don’t do much. As of right now, I’m not planning on even leaving the house, except to take out the garbage, later. That could change, but I’m feeling lazy today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; 
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
 I will sing to the LORD, 
because he has dealt bountifully with me. 
(Psalms 13:5-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord
2. that the Lord truly has dealt bountifully with me/us
3. that Jesus was not hesitant to touch the leper in Mark 1
4. that all aspects of life are "sacred"
5. for grapes

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 
Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 
Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 
“Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” 
But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. 
As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. 
(Mark 1:40-45 NLT)

Here we have a situation that should not have happened. In the world in which Jesus lived, lepers didn’t just wander around approaching people, and people most certainly did not reach out and touch lepers! But somehow, this leper was able to get close enough to Jesus to beg for healing.

And Jesus touched him.

Consider the “prayer” of the leper. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” There is great faith in this petition. The leper believes that Jesus can heal him. He’s not sure, however, that Jesus will be willing to do so.

This sentiment occurs in a lot of my prayers. I do believe that God can do the things I ask, but I’m not sure if He wants to or will. There are some folks who would assert that God most definitely wants to heal everyone. I question that opinion, because if God wanted to heal everyone, He would heal everyone. Those same folks would turn it around on the head of the petitioner and say that their faith wasn’t strong enough.

I have little tolerance for such malarky.

I, like the leper in front of Jesus, accept that whatever happens is God’s will. Now, this is not something that I would say to someone who just lost a loved one because God did not choose to heal them. In the same vein, the statement that “everything happens for a reason,” is not always the best thing to say to someone. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. But wisdom would dictate that it is not necessarily the right thing to say in certain circumstances.

It is worth noting that, not only did the man receive physical healing, but he was restored to his community. What parts of our lives need this compassion of Jesus? Perhaps more importantly, where can we show this compassion to others?

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.

(From today’s episode of Pray As You Go)


In Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, I have reached the chapter on Nehemiah. Peterson chooses to emphasize the mistaken division between “sacred” and “secular,” in his reading.

“Separating life into distinct categories of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life, a life lived to the glory of God.”

This practice is widespread today, but in another book I’m reading, I learned that the current usage of the word “secular” did not appear in our culture until sometime in the fifties. Oddly enough, that is about the same time that the concept of “youth” began encroaching upon church culture, as well. But that’s a topic for another day.

“Nehemiah worked with stones and mortar.” He was, in effect, a building contractor. Ezra, his coworker, “was a scholar and teacher, working with the Scriptures.” In our modern culture, we would say that Ezra’s vocation was “sacred,” and Nehemiah’s was “secular.”

We would be wrong.

Even the “godless” surrounding nations were aware that the work which Nehemiah was doing was God-driven.

When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.
(Nehemiah 6:16 MSG)

Neither Ezra’s job nor Nehemiah’s job was more or less important than the other. They needed each other. “God’s people needed the work of both of them. We still do.”

You’re the one, GOD, you alone; You made the heavens, the heavens of heavens, and all angels; The earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them; You keep them all alive; heaven’s angels worship you!
(Nehemiah 9:6 MSG)


To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. 

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, 
ever singing your praise! 
Selah. 
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 
As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it 
a place of springs; 
the early rain also covers it with pools. 
They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. 
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! 
Selah. 
Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! 
(Psalms 84:1-12 ESV)

Jesus, I thank You that You were not afraid to touch that leper (or others that we find in Scripture). I confess that I struggle with the approachability of some people. I’m not enough like you; there are people I don’t want to “touch,” whether physically or otherwise. At the same time, I am one who does enjoy physical touch, so not being able to freely hug people, over the last two years, has been challenging. Help me to see heaven in the eyes of everyone I encounter, even those who may not embrace You and Your teachings. Help me to not be afraid to touch or get involved in someone’s circumstances, when it is called for. Open my eyes and heart to opportunities to be Your hands and feet, Your eyes and ears, and even Your mouth, in this world.

Lord, I make the mistake, sometimes, of separated sacred and secular. It’s what I grew up learning, and, for me, became especially notable in the arena of music. But, in a sense, all music is sacred. Help me to look at everything I do, from washing dishes, cooking meals, taking out the trash, shelving books in the library, to singing worship songs, as sacred. Because my life is sacred in Your eyes, and my time is sacred. Even when I play, it can be sacred, because everything I do is an offering to You.

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” It is only recently that I have begun to look at that from the perspective of where Your “dwelling place” is, now. Your dwelling place is within us.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

His Story

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the ninth of January, 2022, the first Sunday after Epiphany.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,313

Fourteen days until Hamilton!

There’s nothing, really, out of the ordinary to share about yesterday. Eight hours at the library, C bought groceries after giving platelets at the blood center, I cooked burgers for dinner. I got a pretty good night’s sleep, and now it’s almost 9:00, and we’re having our church gathering in person, this morning, so I need to get moving with the devotional. Church is the only thing on the agenda for today, other than our traditional lunch from Applebee’s.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Father in heaven,
who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant that wll who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made,
and boldly confess Him as Lord and Savior;
who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God,
in glory everlasting.
Amen."
(The Collect for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer)
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
(Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky
2. for the Sun which gives light and warmth to our world
3. for the ocean with its waves and sounds
4. for music, with which I can praise God, be calmed, and be inspired
5. for the presence and protection of God in my life

Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, calls the two volume narrative we know of as First and Second Samuel, “The Millennial Midpoint,” as the events occur around the 1000 B.C., approximately a thousand years after the calling of Abraham, and approximately a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. I love the following paragraph, which, to me, is a great example of Peterson’s talent with words. He speaks of the four main characters in the books of Samuel, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David.

“These four lives become seminal for us at the moment we realize that our ego-bound experience is too small a context in which to understand and experience what it means to believe in God and follow his ways. For these are large lives–large because they live in the largeness of God. Not one of them can be accounted for in terms of cultural conditions or psychological dynamics; God is the country in which they live.”

What we get from these lives is what it means to be human. We learn that living a life, as a man or a woman, mostly has to do with God. “These four stories do not show us how we should live but how in fact we do live, authenticating the reality of our daily experience as the stuff that God uses to work out his purposes of salvation in us and in the world.”

And the really good news here? “We don’t have to fit into pre-fabricated moral or mental or religious boxes before we are admitted into the company of God–we are taken seriously just as we are and given a place in his story, for it is, after all, his story.”

These people understood this as evidenced by some of their prayers.

Hannah prayed:
For the very structures of earth are GOD's; he has laid out his operations on a firm foundation. He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! 
(1 Samuel 2:8-9 MSG)
David prayed:
GOD made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start. 
(2 Samuel 22:21 MSG)
Samuel said to Saul:
Do you think all GOD wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. 
(1 Samuel 15:22 MSG)

You see, what we have, here, is not a moral code with rules to live by. Peterson insists that that is not what the “biblical way” is. Rather, “the biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, ‘Live into this. This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.'”

“In the reading, as we submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.”

As we read, it must be prayerful, “a God-listening, God-answering reading.” And we find that it is no coincidence that the story is “framed by prayer: Hannah’s prayer at the beginning (1 Samuel 2), and David’s near the end (2 Samuel 22-23).”

Hannah prayed: 
I'm bursting with God-news! 
I'm walking on air. 
I'm laughing at my rivals. 
I'm dancing my salvation. 
(1 Samuel 2:1 MSG)

The prayer word for today is “learn.” “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” ~ Wendell Berry

We should never stop learning. As I reflect today, I will try to make note of what I learn about God, and about life.

I won’t say that I have “learned” the things presented from Peterson’s reading, above, because, truthfully, I already “learned” those things. But had I forgotten them? Perhaps. So, I was reminded of them, today.

Never stop learning.


Father, I am grateful for the truths presented by Eugene Peterson, and I do believe those things to be true. More and more, I view Your Word as exactly what Peterson presents it as, stories to be read, prayerfully, that invited me to live in them, stories that teach me how my life looks, and that teach me that my life is impossible without You. Help me to immerse myself constantly in Your story, and to know that my life is part of that story. I am both honored and humbled that You have given me a place in Your story. It’s not a major part. Not even close. And that’s okay. I don’t want “fame.” You have given me enough. Now teach me to take that “enough” and make it more than enough by giving it back to You and allowing You to spread it around through me.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD is near to all who call on him, 
to all who call on him in truth. 
(Psalms 145:18 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Never

Today is Saturday, the eighth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,312

Fifteen days until Hamilton!

Yesterday was a sad day, as we learned of the deaths of two more entertainment giants. First, I learned that Sidney Poitier passed away at the age of 94. Most people remember him for To Sir With Love, but I remember him more for A Patch of Blue. Minutes after I learned of his passing, I learned that Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and Mask, among others, had also passed away, at the age of 82. Both of them died on Thursday.

It was, of course, another great day at the library. In addition to working the computer center, which seemed busier than usual, with more people needing extended help, I was asked to jump over and do some shelving for the last couple of hours. Due to some unusual “projects” going on at the time, the shelving hall had gotten very backed up. There’s a chance that I might be doing a little more of that today, in between my times at the circulation desk. I believe my manager sent out an email asking the circ manager if I could do shelving during my “off-desk” hours.

Of course, I’m totally fine with this. Whatever they need me to do, I’m cool with.

Today, I am due in at 9:30, working until 6:15.

It is currently 45 degrees (which I believe is warmer than yesterday’s high), and is projected to reach 64 later today. It is currently cloudy, but is expected to be clear, this evening. Tonight’s low is expected to be 45. The temp range for the next week seems a bit more “normal” for this time of year, ranging from just below freezing in the morning to as high as 68 one day.

I finished reading A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins, last night, and posted my review of it in my other blog. I am currently reading, at the recommendation of one of the librarians, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens). This volume contains both stories, along with quite a bit of critical content. I will try to get through all of the critical content after reading the stories. After completing two books in the first week of 2022, I am ahead of schedule on my reading challenge for the year. I’m sure that will not last long.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Little Quiet Moments, by Daryl Madden

In the midst of life
An offer here for free
To take a little moment
To be still and be

A moment to ponder
A change of attitude
Practicing of wonder
To foster gratitude

A moment of dwelling
With our being whole
To open to Spirit
And center the soul

A moment of vision
Perspective to see
Of the infinite ways
That Gods’ blessing me

Little quiet moments
An insight of gleaning
That seem to give the rest
Extra special meaning

This poem inspired by a quote from Fred Rogers: “How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspiration and meditative poetry at the link provided above.

You make known to me the path of life; 
in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books and the authors who write them
2. for all of my new friends at the Hurst Public Library
3. for the fullness of joy in the presence of the Father
4. that I have a part in God's story, no matter how small it may seem
5. that God will never leave us or forsake us

Today, in Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, we get to the book of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David. Ruth was an “outsider,” not born into the faith. “But she came to find herself gathered into the story and given a quiet and obscure part that proved critical to the way everything turned out.”

In the midst of all the great names of faith (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon), we find this ordinary, seemingly random person. You and I, along with Ruth, might find ourselves saying, “Surely there is no way that I can have any significant part on such a stage.”

Of course, Ruth said no such thing, because she wasn’t even aware that there was a stage. But we, as we look back on this story, can easily find ourselves wondering how we, as similarly ordinary people, can possibly have a part in God’s great plan.

Says Peterson, “The book of Ruth makes it possible for each of us to understand ourselves, however ordinary or ‘out of it,’ as irreplaceable in the full telling of God’s story. We count–every last one of us–and what we do counts.”

“Blessed be GOD! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.”
(Ruth 4:14 MSG)

As Rich Mullins said, in "Who God Is Gonna Use," 
"You never know who God is gonna use
A princess or a baby
Maybe even you or me."

"Behold, I will do a new thing . . ."
(Isaiah 43:19)

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
(Job 12:12 ESV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 
(Psalms 92:12-15 ESV)

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
(Proverbs 16:31 ESV)

That Isaiah verse has popped up a lot, since January 1. I suppose that is always a theme for the “New Year,” that God is doing a “new thing.” But then, He is always doing a “new thing,” isn’t He? We read that favorite verse from Lamentations frequently, that talks about His mercies being “new every morning.” We wake up every morning to a new day. And who doesn’t remember the old cliche, from the seventies, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!” (Okay, maybe it was earlier than the seventies.)

Cliche as it is, it’s true. Every day is the “first day of the rest of your life.” What do we do about that? And, no matter how old we get (I’m almost 64, now), God can and will keep using us to do “new things.” We are never too old to be a part of God’s great story!


Speaking of “never,” that happens to be today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day. Harriet Beecher Stowe is quoted as saying, “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

The word “never” occurs in 186 verses in the Bible (in the English Standard Version). The first four of those are in Genesis 8 and 9, when God promises that He will never again destroy the earth in the way that He did in the flood. In Judges 2:1, “the angel of the LORD” says, “I will never break my covenant with you.”

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
(Psalms 34:5 ESV)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(Psalms 55:22 ESV)

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
(Psalms 112:6 ESV)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
(Isaiah 51:6 ESV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
(Daniel 6:26 ESV)

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
(Zephaniah 3:15 ESV)

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:14 ESV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
(John 6:35-37 ESV)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
(John 10:28 ESV)

There are many more occurrences of the word, a number of them more negative. But the point I make, here, is that God has made promises that He will not leave us, and that those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him, will not be put to shame, cast out, or perish. There are other places where the word “never” is exclusively used in the KJV, but the ESV uses a word such as “not.” Deuteronomy 31:8 is one such place.

“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 ESV)

In light of all of those “nevers,” I think it is safe to say that we, as His children, should “never give up,” because it’s “never too late.” You see, if our God is always in the business of doing “new things,” then we are “never” too old to be included in those “new things.” I’m wearing out my ” key, here.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” we’ve all heard. I disagree, because I’m an “old dog” and I learn “new tricks” almost every day.

God is doing a “new thing.” You never know who He is going to use in His plan. Remember, He even used a donkey once (go back and listen to that Rich Mullins song again). He used some real jerks in the story (go back and read about Judges in yesterday’s blog). He used a “nobody” like Ruth to be the great-grandmother of King David, in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

I won’t be in the lineage of a Savior, but I know for a fact that God has used me in peoples’ lives. I am confident that He will continue to do so, even though, in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty much a nobody. But you know what?

Everybody is somebody to somebody.


Father, I am grateful to know that You will never give up on me. Because of that, I will also never give up on You and what You can do in someone’s life, or in the life of our world and culture. I will never stop calling out to You; I will never stop worshiping You; I will never stop singing and playing my instruments to You. And I believe that, no matter how old I live to be, that You will continue to do new and fresh things within me and those around me.

I continue (because I will never give up) to pray that You will intervene and eradicate the plague that surrounds us. To all appearances, it is getting worse, daily. The country where I live had 850,000 new cases yesterday, a new record. But You know this. I implore You (yes, a fancy word for “beg”) to rid us of this disease, Father. I pray that the cases will stop, that the hospitals and their workers will get some relief. I also pray that people would stop being so mean to one another. Help us to love again, Lord. Help me to do my part, even more than my part, to spread love in this world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Soon

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, December 1, 2021, the first Wednesday of Advent.

Welcome to December.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,274

Twenty-four days until Christmas.

This afternoon, we will travel to east Texas, Henderson, to be exact, for the visitation/viewing for my Uncle Buddy, who passed away Monday morning. The funeral is tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Uncle Buddy lived 30,551 days.

We plan to leave here between 2:00 and 2:30 PM, this afternoon, and will return tomorrow evening, after the graveside service is concluded.

I don’t really have any other news/happenings to report. C is working from home, today, instead of yesterday. She had already planned to go to the office yesterday, for some reason, and work from home today, so that makes it easier for us to be ready to leave, this afternoon. I’ll be making a quick trip to the grocery store, immediately following the completion of this blog, just to get a couple of things. Primarily, we are out of cat litter. And grapes.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Man is a shadow.
In vain does he heap up wealth.
My hope is in You!
(Based on Psalm 39:6-7)

Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?
(Job 4:6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope that I have in You, through all things, whether "good" or "bad"
2. for the love and support of family and friends
3. for the promise of straight paths, when I trust in You
4. for Your Word, living and active, discerning my thoughts and the intentions of my heart
5. for the hope of Your return; we all say, "Come, Lord!"

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

For the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing to the division
of soul
and of spirit,
of joints
and of marrow,
and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)


The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
(Isaiah 35:1-2 ESV)

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals,
where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
(Isaiah 35:5-7 ESV)

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 43:19 ESV)

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.
(Isaiah 44:3-4 ESV)

No matter how dry and barren you feel, there is hope for “streams in the desert.” Our lives are waiting for the rain of God’s Spirit to come down on us; then we will “spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.”

Hope is the theme for the first week of Advent. There is always hope.


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

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

I pray to GOD—
my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
(Psalms 130:5 MSG)

I pause during the quietness of this morning to reflect on the hope that dwells in my heart; hope that is based on the faith and trust that is a gift from God, my Father in heaven.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
(Psalms 85:1-2 NIV)

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
(Psalms 85:8-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”
(Mark 13:32-37 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself of the Lord’s presence, I read these passages again, trying to take notice of how He might be speaking to me through His Word. I allow my heart to respond in prayer, taking refreshment in His presence.

God, You have shown us favor. You have forgiven our iniquity and covered our sins! You promise peace to us, Your servants. And that peace, You deliver, even when we do slip up and turn to folly. Help me to listen to what You say to me, to us.

I pray that Your glory would dwell in our land, and by “land,” I mean the entire world where Your Church exists. Anywhere there is a piece of Your Church, I pray that Your glory dwells. May love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace, all come together in that place where Your glory dwells. May faithfulness spring up from the earth, and righteousness rain down from the heavens. Give us what is good; give us only what is good, so that Your Church will yield its harvest in this world. May righteousness always go before You, as You walk among us.

Father, we know not when Jesus will return again. This, along with hope, is a recurring theme, this week. Our hope is in You, and our hope is strongly based on the promises of the return of our Savior, coming to set things right and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. Help us to be alert, to be on guard, to be watching faithfully, and waiting with great anticipation. May we not be found to be “asleep.” But may we also carry on our normal activities, doing the things that You have tasked us with, while we live our lives on this earth. Jesus stated that His return will be similar to when the floods came in the days of Noah, and people will be doing the things that they normally do. Keep us faithful and watchful, Father!

"Unexpected Savior,
You are coming again,
but this date,
already marked down by the Father,
isn't for me to know.
But I'm curious,
Lord,
desiring a timeline or diagram,
wanting to nail down a future that's out of my hands.
In place of my faithless need to control,
give me a watchful heart full of expectation and wonder.
Amen."

BLESSING

He who testifies to all these things says it again:
“I’m on my way!
I’ll be there soon!”
Yes! Come, Master Jesus!
The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you.
Oh, Yes!
(Revelation 22:20-21 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Restore Us, O God

Today is Tuesday, the thirtieth of November, 2021. First Tuesday of Advent. Last day of November.

May God’s peace be with you, today.

Day 23,273

Twenty-five days until the twenty-fifth of December.

“On December five and twenty . . .”

I was rudely awakened, this morning, but the sound of things crashing and breaking. C came running out of the bathroom, and I jumped out of bed. I thought it came from the kitchen and had visions of broken dishes all over the floor. But then I looked in the study and this is what I saw.

Luna checks out the mayhem

At the top of the pic, you can see the shelf that fell off of the wall. My creepy clown frame was broken, but I saved the picture. The black box is a speaker, which is probably okay, although I haven’t tested it out, yet. The only other things on the shelves were some notebooks that contained family genealogy stuff and some music lyric charts. The bowling ball was not on the shelf. It was already on the floor.

We’ll probably work on getting the shelf back up this weekend. I don’t anticipate taking the time before then. It’s not an urgent matter.

I got details of arrangements for my uncle’s service, last night. The visitation will be tomorrow evening, from 5:00-7:00 PM. The service will be Thursday afternoon at 1:00 PM. So, at this point, the plan is to head to Henderson (everything will be happening at Rader Funeral Home) tomorrow afternoon, probably leaving around 2:00 PM. We have a room booked at a hotel that is just down the road from the funeral home. Then we will head back to Fort Worth Thursday evening, after the service. The only work I will miss is the extra shift that I had agreed to work on Thursday afternoon.

Mama will not be making the trip. Fortunately, everyone seems to be quite understanding, and my cousins were already not expecting to see her.

I’ve been asked to lead some worship music during the service, which will likely be an old hymn or something. I think it’s up to me to choose, actually. I told my cousin that I would be honored to do so.

We also just ordered flowers to be sent to the visitation.

I don’t really have any other news to share, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

At Ease, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

We must
simply trust
and wait
 

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please check out her other beautiful poetry at the above link.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God,
and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
(Revelation 15:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your great and amazing deeds, O Lord God Almighty
2. that Your ways are just and true
3. that we lack no spiritual gift as we wait for the return of our Savior
4. that You will keep us firm, standing firm until the end
5. that You, who have called us into fellowship with Your Son, are faithful

. . . men ought always to pray . . .
(Luke 18:1 KJV)

At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.
(Psalms 55:17 MSG)

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
(James 5:16 ESV)

It is not possible to overstate the value of prayer in our lives.


If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1 John 4:20-21 ESV)


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

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – DAY THREE

INVITATION

I wait for the LORD,
my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
(Psalms 130:5 ESV)

I pause during this quiet moment to consider the immense value of prayer and waiting. Truly it is in Him and His Word that I do hope.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.” Of Asaph. A psalm.

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.

Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
(Psalms 80:1-3 NIV)

Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
(Psalms 80:17-19 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Corinthians 1:3-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps reading aloud, I look for ways that God’s Word has moved me, pondering and meditating on what has connected with my heart and soul. I pray these things to the Lord, lifting up my life to Him, and quietly enjoying His presence.

The Psalm is a simple prayer for revival, for restoration. “Restore us, O God; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved,” he says, not once, but twice, in today’s selected passage. He actually says it again in verse 7, between the two groups of verses in today’s reading.

Who is “us?” For Asaph, “us” was Israel. If I am praying this prayer today, though, “us” could very well mean the Church. I don’t apply it to a nation, I don’t pray this for the USA. Doesn’t mean I don’t pray for my country and its leaders; I certainly do (albeit not enough, I will confess). But, as I’ve stated before in this blog, I do not believe that God deals with nations, in this era, as He did with Israel. If there is a “nation” to be considered, it is the “new Israel,” which is the Church.

So when I pray prayers for revival, I have the Church, the Bride of Christ, in mind, not a country. And I do pray for restoration/revival in the Church. May God restore us and make His face to shine upon us.

As we move through this Advent season, this is our hope, that we see Jesus, and that the face of our Father shines upon us. As the Corinthians passage tells us, we truly do not lack any spiritual gift, as we “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”

But wait. Wasn’t He already revealed? What on earth is Paul talking about? As previously mentioned, this refers to the second coming, the return of Christ, as he comes back to restore everything to its rightful condition. This is one of the themes of Advent. We celebrate the first revelation, or coming, Jesus, but we also anticipate the second revelation, when He will return.

In the Corinthians passage, we also have this hope that He will keep us firm to the end. The reason for this is stated in verse 9 of 1 Corinthians 1.

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV).

Yes, God is faithful, and if He has called us into this fellowship with His Son, He will keep us. This truth is stated multiple times in Scripture, in several different ways. But it is stated. Growing up Baptist, I used to hear it said, “Once saved, always saved.” Perhaps that is a bit overly simplistic; but it’s true. If I am saved, I am saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, through faith that is a gift from God. The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. No man can snatch me out of His hands. My salvation is secure.

Period.

In this I rejoice, my Father! Thank You for the preservation of my soul in Christ. I thank You for Your faithfulness, even when I am not faithful. I thank You for Your great love for us, love that was exemplified in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I give You praise that You have confirmed Your testimony about Jesus in various ways throughout the history of Your people. I pray, alongside Asaph, for the restoration of Your Church. Revive is, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon us, that we may be saved. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

I pray for the consistent call to follow Jesus as disciples in this world. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Give us love for and commitment to the communities in which You have placed us.

"Everlasting God,
it's Advent once again.
We've eagerly waited for change,
but it appears little has happened.
Expand in me the great hope that one day I will be raised from this broken earth -
changed in the blink of an eye -
and that everything bent and bruised,
curdled and corrupted,
in me and this world,
will be transformed into lasting goodness,
righteousness,
and truth.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

He who testifies to these things says,
“Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)


Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
(Psalms 80:7 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Seek Good, Not Evil

Today is Monday, the twenty-second of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,265

Only three more days until Thanksgiving! Preparations are underway, groceries have been ordered.

Plans for Thanksgiving for this year are that we will visit my mother in Mineral Wells on Thursday, taking food with us over there, and then have another Thanksgiving meal at our house on Friday with C’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece, along with niece’s boyfriend.

I’m working tomorrow night, Wednesday all day, and then Saturday, having Friday off for Thanksgiving.

We had a nice flight home, yesterday. We got packed up and checked out with no issues, and met R & J for breakfast at the same place we ate on Friday morning, Lincoln Square. I had a German Skillet, which was scrambled eggs, smoked sausage, and sausage gravy, on a bed of small potato pancakes. It was delicious. For my “bread” choice, I got pancakes, which were also delicious. We said our “farewells” at our car, and got a few pictures. I forgot my tripod, so there is no group picture of all of us, but each of us is in at least one picture.

S, C, R, & J
R & J
S, me, R, & J
S, C, me, & R

There were tears as we drove away.

Our flight was fine. I lucked out, and the middle seat in my row (even though they said the flight was completely full) was never occupied. On the aisle was a young lady who was, at one point, reading/studying a book with some music notation in it. I asked her what she was studying, and she said she was studying the Brahms Handel Variations. Turns out she is a pianist. I asked her if she was going to be a famous concert pianist someday. She laughed and said probably not. I hope she is wrong. I never got her name, though, so I guess I will never know.

The landing in DFW was not nearly as good as the near-perfect landing in IND. Our pilot bounced a couple times in DFW. It wasn’t bad or scary, or anything. Just not as smooth. We made sure to thank all of the flight staff and attendants. I frequently made it a point to thank people, especially at the airport, even in the shops. Thanked them just for being there. These are tough times, and people need appreciation. They get treated so poorly.

I learned something new about my car, yesterday, too. In the second rental we had, in Indy, R pointed out that, if the phone was connected to the car via USB charging cable, the map for Waze (GPS app) would appear on the car display panel. So we hooked that up, which made following the GPS around much easier and safer. This came up when I mentioned having issues propping up my phone so it wouldn’t fall.

When we got back to our car at DFW, we looked around, and sure enough, there is a USB port with a picture of a phone. When plugged in, it activates “Car Play,” which displays the phone screen on the display panel where the radio usually shows.

I felt really stupid. I’ve had this car for over a year and had no clue that it would do that. But now I know.

C is off all week, thanks to her company’s generosity. She might have to crank up her work laptop here and there, but doesn’t have to go to the office. She is currently setting out Christmas decorations. We got in the spirit when we visited that Christmas market in Carmel, so we decided to go ahead and get started with them early, this year. We would normally have done it over the coming weekend, so it’s not too early.

The reason I’m running late, today, is that I have been messing around with my Dropbox account, trying to get files synced up from two different drives on this PC. I’m concerned that one of my hard drives might be about to crash, so I’m trying to get files backed up. I also didn’t sleep well, last night. We’ve been eating so badly, over the past five days, that my stomach, I think, had enough, finally. It decided to keep me up for a few hours last night. I’m still not feeling quite right and haven’t eaten anything this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

“The LORD lives,
and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be my God,
the rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from men of violence.
“For this I will praise you,
O LORD,
among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.”
(2 Samuel 22:47-50 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a very successful trip to Indy, a great visit with our kids, and safe flights both ways
2. that You are the rock of my salvation, my Rock and my God
3. for this season of the year, when most people will find some things for which to be thankful
4. for all who continue the practice of "thanksgiving" beyond this season or just this month
5. for all of Your great and marvelous attributes, described by Your Word

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY TWO

INVITATION

“Be still,
and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 NLT)

I pause, now, to consider the affirmation that You will be honored by every nation, eventually.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
(Psalms 145:1-3 NIV)

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
(Psalms 145:17-21 NIV)

BIBLE READING

There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
(Amos 5:7 NIV)

There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
(Amos 5:10-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, slowly and deliberately. I try to notice how God might be speaking to me through them. I also try to set aside preconceived prejudices and allow the Spirit to speak freshly to me. I allow my heart to respond to God in prayer, laying out my thoughts and meditations to Him, taking refreshment in His presence.

As we work toward the end of Psalms, we come to a few that are purely praise. It is hard for me to identify a single word or phrase that speaks to me in Psalm 145. It is more of an idea . . . a concept of the character of God, or His attributes. The passage lists some truths about Him.

He is worthy of praise (v. 3)
No one can fathom His greatness (v. 3)
He is righteous in all His ways (v. 17)
He is faithful in all He does (v. 17)
He is near to all who call on Him in truth (v. 18)
He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, hearing their cries and saving them (v. 19)
He watches over all who love Him (v. 20)

This praise psalm, however, seems to be on a different spectrum than the passage I’m reading in Amos, today. In fact, I find the Amos passage to be quite alarming. I do take note of the fact that this prophecy is concerning Israel. However, I see correlations with my own country.

In our modern land, there are certainly those “who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground” (v. 7). And one of our biggest problems, right now, is that there are people on both sides of the political fence who believe that that statement is true for the “other side.”

Verse 10 is similar. “There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” Again, what I said about the alleged political fence is true. Neither Democrats nor Republicans believe the other side is capable of telling the truth.

What it boils down to, though, is stated in verse 12. “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” This has long been true in our nation. It is, perhaps, more prevalent in other nations. But the Bible is clear on this issue. Our Father in heaven detests this practice. And the consequences are dire.

I find verse 13 to be interesting, though. “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think it means that, when we see evil being practiced, we should say nothing. I don’t think it means that we should be silent when the innocent are oppressed.

We are instructed, though, whether we are ancient Israel or modern man, to “seek good, not evil,” that we may live.

Father, I pray for this world, that we would be more inclined to seek good and not evil. I know that there are always going to be people who seek evil, but it is those who do evil and think that they are doing good who are of greater concern. I pray that the innocent not be oppressed, in my own country, as well as around the world. I realize this seems like such a fruitless prayer, but I truly believe in Your ability to stand up for and uphold the cause of those whom You love so much. Help us to find ways to stand up for the widows and orphans, the homeless and poor, the needy and oppressed, and those who constantly live in the shadows of injustice. The rich few have had their way for too long, Father. But in the meantime, please show C and me how we can help.

"Furious God,
thank You for fuming prophets who picture and proclaim Your anger at sin in the world - 
sin that hurts,
maims,
and enslaves.
Help me to trust Your anger,
understanding it as a form of love against oppressive evil.
Thank You that Your justice and anger find their ultimate expression in Jesus's cross and resurrection.
Amen."

BLESSING

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 NLT)

I pray that, while unity within our country is unlikely, You would bring about unity within Your Church.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Transformation

Today is Tuesday, the sixteenth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,259

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other photos!

Tomorrow, we fly to Indianapolis!

We have firmed up some plans for the week. Thursday, we are all going to the Nine Lives Cat Café, where we will partake in libations in the presence of vibrating, furry creatures. They have such things as an Apple Crisp Latte, Salted Caramel Truffle Latte, and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. I’m thinking that we will definitely be having some hot chocolate weather up there while we are there. They have a thing called “Ed’s Daily Special,” which consists of “Medium roast cat-sized pourover coffee and a blueberry muffin.”

I’m pretty sure I don’t need a “cat-sized” coffee. They also have breakfast burritos, cupcakes, macarons, salted chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies . . . oh, my. I also see this thing called “Café Meow,” which is described as a “honey & cinnamon latte.” I’m really looking forward to this.

After that, we plan to go to an escape room (we will be dropping S off back at one of our houses before that), where we will, hopefully escape. We had to sign waivers, in case we don’t, I guess. I’m not sure what the theme of this escape will be.

We plan to have a Thanksgiving-ish meal on Friday or Saturday, and maybe go to the zoo on whichever day we don’t do the meal. And then, we plan a brunch on Sunday, before heading back to the airport to come home.

We have some good friends who will be watching over our vibrating creatures while we are gone. I think they know something is up (they always do), because Rocky won’t stay off of my study desk, this morning. We haven’t even brought in a suitcase, yet.

After I finish this, I will be going back up to Kohl’s (I went there yesterday and got me some “Cuddl Duds” PJs, which are very comfy, and some towels) to exchange the towels because the color doesn’t quite match our bathroom. I got some that appeared to be burgundy, but at home, in the bathroom, they appear more purple. C likes the color, but they simply do not match the color scheme of the bathroom, which is two shades of green and brown. The store did not have stock of towels in the dark green, and I didn’t think to look for brown. So I will be looking for dark brown, or perhaps, an other shade of green. And C wants some Cuddl Duds, as well, so I will be looking for those in the women’s area.

C is not working from home, today. There is a meeting that she needs to attend in person. I will be picking up Subway for lunch, for me and S, and C asked me to get her a salad for dinner, to put in the fridge. I will be working at the library this evening, 4:15-8:15.

As for blog entries, the rest of the week, I’m taking a laptop and my devotional books with me on the trip. Tomorrow, I’ll have to make sure and get up early, because we will need to be at the airport by around 8:30, as our flight leaves at around 10:30.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
(Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

And after he had taken leave of them,
he went up on the mountain to pray.
(Mark 6:46 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the examples we have of Jesus praying
2. for the "new song" sung in Revelation
3. for the reality of true transformation, by the power of Your Spirit
4. for the reality of You dwelling among us
5. that You are equipping us with everything good, that we might do Your will

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-SIX – DAY THREE

INVITATION

Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God,
who is like you?
(Psalms 71:19 ESV)

I pause for a moment, during the quietness of this hour, to consider the prayer habits of our Savior, with hopes and desires of mimicking His example.

BIBLE SONG

He swore an oath to the LORD,
he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the LORD,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
(Psalms 132:2-5 NIV)

For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
“This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
(Psalms 132:13-16 NIV)

BIBLE READING

What will you say when the LORD sets over you
those you cultivated as your special allies?
Will not pain grip you
like that of a woman in labor?
And if you ask yourself,
“Why has this happened to me?”—
it is because of your many sins
that your skirts have been torn off
and your body mistreated.
Can an Ethiopian change his skin
or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.

“I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the desert wind.
This is your lot,
the portion I have decreed for you,”
declares the LORD,
“because you have forgotten me
and trusted in false gods.
(Jeremiah 13:21-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I seek words or phrases that stir within me. I linger over them, giving them my full (hopefully) attention. Perhaps there is something within that I need to ask the Lord, seeking what application there is to my life today.

While not written by David, Psalm 132, one of the longest of the songs of ascents, is about David. It is declared that Zion will be the resting place of the Almighty. Zion is known as the “city of God,” and is, throughout Scripture, Jerusalem. At some point in Revelation, the “new Jerusalem” is seen coming down from the heavens to be established on the “new earth.”

I’ll be totally honest, here. I am not nearly wise enough to be able to comprehend all of this and make all the necessary connections. But I do know that the Lord promises provision and blessing for all the inhabitants of His Holy City. And that’s enough for me.

As I reread the Jeremiah passage, I note how important it is to get the words in the right order! Truthfully, the first couple of times I read this, my brain saw, “What will you say when the LORD sets you over those . . .” Silly brain. That’s not right, at all. It says, “when the LORD sets over you those . . .” NOW it makes sense!

*facepalm*

Unpleasant things happen when we trust in false gods. That’s a very simplistic version of what is said in Jeremiah. Even to the point that allies become rulers. There may not even be any hostility involved, but it is said that this is what happens, and it’s because of your sin.

Verse 23 is key, here. A leopard can’t change its spots. We cannot (at least not naturally) change the color of our skin. And even if we can change the exterior color of our skin (some of us can get really dark tans), it doesn’t change the essence of who we are. The point is continued in the second half of the verse. “Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

People don’t change. People CAN’T change. Nowhere is this truth more clear than in cases of domestic abuse.

Only Jesus, by the Holy Spirit can change people. One of the key things that Dallas Willard said was that true transformation IS possible. But we cannot do it alone, nor can we do it in our own strength. I’m still the same person I was forty years ago. But within me, the power of the Gospel, via the Holy Spirit, has wrought a measure of transformation. It is not complete yet, and sometimes, the old me still surfaces, way more than I would like it to. The transformation will be complete when I step over to the other side, into another plane of existence, to meet my Savior face to face.

Until then, though, I must grapple with this mortal coil, this body of flesh, about which Paul the Apostle cries,

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
(Romans 7:24 NIV)

Of course, Paul also immediately gives the answer, which I have already given:

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(Romans 7:25 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the possibility and reality of transformation in Jesus Christ. I recognize that I cannot change anything on my own. We don’t change. Left to our own devices, we will remain as we are . . . perhaps getting worse and worse over time. The phrase, “there, but for the grace of God, go I” is an accurate assessment of our lives. I see and hear about violent and horrible crimes and, unlike a lot of people who think they are better than they really are, I recognize that, yes, I am capable of such heinous deeds. Without You, I would be evil; I would be hedonistic. If I did not believe in You, I would live life for every possible pleasure I could find, and frankly, I wonder why anyone who considers themselves and atheist does not do the same. If it were not for You, what would there be to live for? Why do anything good or helpful for anyone? But I do believe in You, even though I may not always act like it. I trust in You, as I trust in Christ for my life and the Holy Spirit for my sanctification and godliness.

You say Your dwelling is in Zion forever more. You also say that Your dwelling will be with people, and that You will dwell within us, via Your Holy Spirit. This causes questions in my mind, which I don’t want to get into right this minute, but You know them, and You know that they will be going through my mind more, during this day and going forward. Help me to understand Your Word, and what it means. Some of these things are deeper than others, and I know that, when the time is right, You will reveal them to me, even if that time doesn’t come until I see Your Face. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

"Confronting God,
things are far worse than I dare imagine:
I have traded honor for a curse,
lent my ear to the word of the devil instead of listening to Your Word of life.
Light has turned to dark because I have put my heart's confidence in counterfeit gods and forgotten You. 
In Your mercy, 
because of Jesus Christ,
remember my sin no more.
Amen."

And while there is truth in that prayer, it is also wise to remember that things are also far better than we ever imagined, within the kingdom of our Father.

BLESSING

Now therefore may it please you to bless
the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you.
For you, O Lord GOD,
have spoken,
and with your blessing shall the house of your servant
be blessed forever.”
(2 Samuel 7:29 ESV)


You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
(Romans 14:10 NIV)

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
(1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV)

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
(James 4:11-12 NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:8-12 NIV)

We cannot possibly overemphasize the truths in the above Scriptures. I, along with all the saints, simply must heed these commands.


Father, please work within the spirits of Your people, all of us, that we might stop the judging; that we might stop seeking our own good and begin (or continue, in some cases) to seek the good of all people around us, within the parameters, of course, of Your Word and Your commands. Help us to love one another; help us to love our neighbors; and, above all, help us to truly love You.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Ancient Paths

Good morning. Today is Monday, the fifteenth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,258

Two days until we fly to Indianapolis!

C and I had a nice time, yesterday afternoon. Right after our church gathering, we headed out to go to Macy’s to see if we could find the two shirts that never made it home Saturday. We did not find the actual shirts, but they were kind enough to allow us to get two more of the same kind, to replace them. While we were there, we also bought me a nice Levi’s jacket, black jean material with fleece lining, as well as a nice set of sheets for our bed. The jacket was about twenty dollars off, while the sheets were seventy-five percent off! Heck of a deal, there. We got $140 sheets for a little over thirty dollars. In addition, since C used her Macy’s card, she got another thirty dollars of “bonus money” that she can spend before December 14.

Today, November 15, is my father’s birthday. He would have been 84 years old, today. He passed away in April of 2015, from Inclusion Body Myositis, a rare muscular degenerative disease, related to Muscular Dystrophy (I think). My enjoyment of baseball has not been the same, since.

It feels like I have a lot to do, today, but I really don’t. Monday is one of my two days that I am always off work, so there are things that I like to get done on Monday. Today, I will make a quick trip to a grocery store, mainly to pick up some ground turkey for our chili tonight. Of course, we need bananas and grapes, too, but I won’t buy too many of those, because we are “leaving on a jet plane” on Wednesday morning. So I just need enough to get us through a couple days.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants,
the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
(Revelation 11:16-18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. the hope of our eternal reward
2. for the ancient paths; help us to rediscover and walk in them
3. for the calmness in the soul of contentment, as a weaned child with its mother
4. for the memories of life with my father
5. that You work to transform my heart and mind to conform to Your ways
6. that Your blessings are eternal
7. that Jesus has overcome the world; help us to follow Him

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-SIX – DAY TWO

INVITATION

Your righteousness, O God,
reaches to the highest heavens.
You have done such wonderful things.
Who can compare with you, O God?
(Psalms 71:19 NLT)

As I pause, during this chilly, quiet morning, I meditate on the promise of reward in eternity, however great or small that reward might be. All of the wonderful things that God has done add up to those final verses in the Bible, that wonderful picture of Home. I pray for endurance, going forward.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.
(Psalms 131:1-3 NIV)

BIBLE READING

To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the LORD is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it.
(Jeremiah 6:10 NIV)

“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the LORD.

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
(Jeremiah 6:13-17 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I mull over those, repeating them over in my spirit, and pray my thoughts and meditations, my desires and needs and feelings, to the Lord. I rest and enjoy His presence.

There seriously needs to be more of the attitude expressed in Psalm 131. This one, attributed to David, speaks of not being haughty or proud, not being concerned with matters too great or wonderful for me. Perhaps that is one of our biggest flaws as humans, especially in the West. We tend to be overly concerned with things that are too great and wonderful for us to comprehend. We tend to be overly haughty and arrogant.

We need to be more like that “weaned child with its mother.” We need more contentment. And we need, as the “new Israel,” the Church, to put our hope in the Lord (and only in Him), “both now and forevermore.”

We read verses like Jeremiah 6:10 and immediately thing we know who that’s talking about. It’s those other people, that’s who. Those guys over there. It’s not talking about me, or my friends!

We shouldn’t be so quick to assume.

Are we all greedy for gain? Greed has been, and continues to be, a huge problem in this culture. Prices for things have gone up, recently, and people seem too quick to blame the wrong people or groups. The bottom line is greed. And our culture’s systems promote greed.

But when the “prophets and priests” participate in this, it is that much more deplorable. We put Band-Aids on problems and say, “peace, peace,” when their truly is no peace. There is no shame.

The verse that jumps out the most, to me, today is verse 16. And this is where we, the Church, have failed, over the past decades.

GOD’s Message yet again: “Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, The tried and true road. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls. But they said, ‘Nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.’
(Jeremiah 6:16 MSG)

I like Peterson’s paraphrase, there. But I also like the NIV, that uses the phrase “the ancient paths.” That’s what one of the books I am currently reading is about. In The Divine Embrace, Robert E. Webber is examining the ancient paths of the spiritual life and comparing them to the way spirituality has “progressed” over the centuries. The Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, called for the people to look back to the “ancient paths,” find them, and walk in them.

But the people of that day, just as the people of today, said, “Nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.” We seem to think we have a better way.

But, again, we all seem to have this problem thinking that all of these warnings apply to the “other guys,” not us. Humility is needed. And trust me, I point back at myself, too.

Father, as I enjoy and rest in Your presence, this morning, I take heed of the words of Scripture. As I go forward in my life, I seek out these “ancient paths,” with the intention of walking in them, seeking Your face and the best form of spirituality that will benefit both me, and everyone else. As Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” That has truly been the prayer of my life for many years, now, and it still is. I am still seeking this truth and this way, all the while acknowledging that Jesus Christ, Your Son, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no way to get to You except by Him. Help me to find and walk in these ancient ways and paths, that I might truly know You and worship You and serve You.

Help us to see You in all things, wherever we are, wherever we look. Help us to listen to You, as well, however You choose to speak to us.

"Speak,
Lord,
because Your words are life.
Clear out my ears, 
deaf to Your Word because of the din of the world,
and forgive my foolish heart,
too quickly convinced of being the authority on what is right and best.
Let me yield my life to Your Word and walk in Your good way;
transform my mind and conform me to the likeness of the Word, 
Jesus.
Amen."

BLESSING

And now,
may it please you to bless the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you.
For you have spoken,
and when you grant a blessing to your servant,
O Sovereign LORD,
it is an eternal blessing!”
(2 Samuel 7:29 NLT)


The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
(Psalms 33:5 NIV)

Arise, O LORD;
O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart,
“You will not call to account”?
(Psalms 10:12-13 ESV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

I have said these things to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart;
I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)

Arise, O Lord! Show Your mighty arm in our world, today. Let not the wicked continue to have their way among us. I’m not wise enough to be able to weed out “the wicked.” We all have our ideas as to who makes up “the wicked,” Father. Many short-sighted people believe that everyone in a particular political party is wicked. Give us wisdom beyond that, Lord. And help us to remember that it is Your job, along with Your holy angels, to remove the weeds from the harvest, but not until harvest time. We were told, according to Jesus, to not try to do that, lest we damage the harvest at the same time. It is my opinion, Father, that the harvest is being damaged by some foolish people. Help us, Lord! Rise up! Show Your power and strength and might! And give us Your wisdom!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I have said to you,
that in me you may have peace;
I have overcome.

Grace and peace, friends.

New

Today is Saturday, the thirteenth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,256

Four days until we fly to Indianapolis!

As usual, yesterday was a great day at the library. The computer center was not terribly busy, but had a few stretches where it was fairly busy. In the meantime, I had some good conversations with the manager, about various things.

Today, I work 9:30-6:15, in circulation. One piece of good news that we received, yesterday, is that the Hurst City Council approved the library to finally be “fine free.” This will be retroactive, as well as on-going. All existing fines will be forgiven, except those related to lost books. We will still charge patrons if they lose or destroy a book. But they will no longer be charged for overdue books. This is a trend that has been occurring nationwide, in recent years. Fort Worth went fine-free a number of years ago, and, most recently, the New York Public Library declared that it was now fine-free.

I suppose C had a nice birthday. She had to work, but was working from home. S and I gave her a small gift before I left for work, yesterday, along with our birthday cards, which she appreciated. During the day, C decided she did not want to go out after work, so I picked up Subway on the way home, so C did not have to cook pizza.

Today, C is still in bed, so good for her. It’s currently 7:25, and I have been up about an hour. I’m probably about to go get my second cup of coffee.

We’re scheduled to depart DFW to IND, next Wednesday morning, at 10:29. I need to pay closer attention. I thought we were leaving in the afternoon. Our return flight is Sunday afternoon at 2:22. That must be where I was getting the afternoon departure. Oddly, both flights have the same flight number. I don’t recall that ever happening before. I do hope that there are no delays/cancellations, as it is getting close to Thanksgiving. There are multiple reasons for planning this trip the week before Thanksgiving, though.

Speaking of Indianapolis, I’m taking my heavy coat. Weather forecast shows a low of 26 degrees on Friday morning. Brrr . . .

I’m still currently reading The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber, and Humpty Dumpty, by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin. I haven’t made much progress in The Divine Embrace, lately, but managed to get a few chapters of Humpty Dumpty read, yesterday. The plot is enjoyable, and the character development is growing on me.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Of Being Real, by Daryl Madden

In Presence be
Of offered prayer
An entrance to
Surrender here

Take me deep
Deeper still
Past my thoughts
Beyond my will

To the place
Here to reveal
One of the soul
Of being real

To drift, to dwell
To simply be
Of grace and peace
In love with Thee

Such a beautiful prayer. “Take me deep, Deeper still . . .” Yes, Lord!

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for weather that actually feels like Autumn
2. for my coffee
3. for a good night's rest
4. the preview of the "new heavens" and "new earth" given in Isaiah 65
5. for the hope of the end of all violence, oppression, and injustice

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 WEB)

As I briefly pause, this morning, the entire house is quiet. In this peaceful moment, I consider the command to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. It is declared to be God’s will. Not to be thankful for all circumstances, but to be thankful in them. Big difference.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,” let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
But the LORD is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
(Psalms 129:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.”
(Isaiah 65:17 NIV)

“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”
(Isaiah 65:20-21 NIV)

They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.
(Isaiah 65:23-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps out loud, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder and meditate on what has connected with my heart and mind. I pray to God what has moved me, turning my thoughts and meditations to Him and peacefully enjoying His presence.

These are interesting passages, and beautiful, as well. I can’t really identify with the psalm, as I do not feel as if I have ever been “oppressed.” Sadly, there are people groups in the U.S. who, historically and presently, have been oppressed. I am not part of any of those. I am a white, upper-middle-class male. We’ve traditionally had it pretty good in this country. Unfortunately, there are many of us who do not want to acknowledge the oppression of others that has occurred.

But that’s not a direction I want to take, this morning. I focus, rather, on the deliverance of the Lord. Verse 4 o the psalm declares the righteousness of the Lord, and that He has cut the oppressed free from the “cords of the wicked.” As part of my prayer, I do wonder why, if that is true, we still see such oppression in our world, especially in the “land of the free.” At the same time, I celebrate my own deliverance from the cord of the wicked, but that being a spiritual deliverance from spiritual cords of wickedness.

I do believe that God desires us to be active in seeking justice and deliverance for those who are oppressed.

The end result of all of this can be seen in Isaiah’s beautiful passage. While there are parts of it that still present questions for me, over all, it is one of the more comforting passages in the entire Bible.

First we see the creation of “new heavens and a new earth.” I’m intrigued by what the second half of that verse means, “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” I’m not going to try to tackle the theology of that statement, but do believe that it has to do with the promise that all of our tears will be dried up. It also leads me down the path that disagrees with people who believe that their ancestors are “looking down on them,” from “heaven.” But again . . . that’s not a topic for today.

I have all kinds of questions for verses 20-21. I’ve looked at Matthew Henry’s commentary on it, and it doesn’t address my questions at all. I wonder about this talk of “dying” in the new heavens and new earth. I have to assume that this is figurative language, because we believe in eternal life, and in the new heavens and new earth, there will be no death at all. So perhaps the thought that “the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child,” is hyperbole.

Actually, the NIV seems to be quite different from the KJV.

There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
(Isaiah 65:20 KJV)

So I’m moving on. The description of this life continues in verses 23-25, and it is unimaginable, frankly. Considering the times we have lived in and through, and the times that have gone before us. There will be no vain labor (it does appear that there will be “labor,” but perhaps it will look more like any work that Adam and Eve did pre-fall); the children will have no misfortune. Again . . . more questions. Will there be “new children” in this time? I have no answer to these questions.

But the presence of the Lord will be so strong and so prevalent that He will answer before the words leave our lips. And there will be no violence of any kind. Even the animals who were previously predator and prey will live peacefully together.

Father, this is a wonderfully beautiful picture of what we can expect in our future. As I’ve written, questions have arisen in my mind, but they are not, in my opinion, terribly important questions. They are not vital to my faith. They are peripheral, at best. I can only imagine, as the song says, what this will look like. I can only imagine how I will react and live in this world that Isaiah has presented. The idea of a world without sickness or death or violence or oppression or crime . . . this is so foreign to me. But I long for it, and am so grateful that You have given us this preview of what it will be like. The last line of this passage, “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” gives me something to long for and hope for. I trust in Your promises, Father. They help me get through the difficult times in this life. But my “difficult” times are nothing compared to those who truly face oppression and injustice. I pray, Father, that You would help me see ways to work for justice and the cessation of oppression.

I pray, Father, that Your Church would work to this end, for the common good and benefit of all people. May we experience deep care, bold love, and rich community within the “walls” of the Church.

"God of every square inch,
thank You for the promise of Your coming kingdom,
the hope that everything wrecked will be completely renovated.
Renew in me the vision that faith in You has everything to do with construction safety and agricultural practices,
labor laws and justice seeking,
flourishing cities and thriving people.
Let Your kingdom come.
Amen."

BLESSING

Let your loving kindness also come to me, Yahweh, your salvation, according to your word.
(Psalms 119:41 WEB)


A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

Love from the center of who you are;
don’t fake it.
Run for dear life from evil;
hold on for dear life to good.
Be good friends who love deeply;
practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out;
keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
Be alert servants of the Master,
cheerfully expectant.
Don’t quit in hard times;
pray all the harder.
Help needy Christians;
be inventive in hospitality.
(Romans 12:9-13 MSG)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11 ESV)


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Is it possible to live as though we have already died?

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
(Psalms 20:1 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

By His Wounds

Good morning to you! Today is Thursday, the eleventh of November, 2021.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,254

Tomorrow is C’s birthday! At this point, there are no special plans for the day, but I may come up with some kind of surprise before today is over. S and I have a small gift to give her tomorrow, but her big present is the trip to Indiana, next week, to see R & J. The second big present is hanging from the ceiling in the garage, the new opener. I have to work all day tomorrow, but maybe we will do something different for dinner tomorrow night, rather than our usual pizza. But if she wants to do the pizza, that’s what we will do. This is also my week to work Saturday, so perhaps we will do something Sunday for lunch.

Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. We are certainly grateful for all people who have served in the military in any capacity. This day is to honor those who are still with us, as opposed to Memorial Day, which is to honor those who are no longer with us. So if you are a military veteran, and you happen to read this, know that you are appreciated here.

I had a good day at the library, yesterday. It was mostly quiet, with a few flurries of activity. It looks like I will be working with the same group of people on Saturday, in the circulation department, which is fine. The three of us who worked yesterday make a pretty good team.

We all got a bonus, yesterday, from the City of Hurst. It was a surprise to me, in a couple of ways. I was expecting a bonus, because we were told about it at the “Hurst Way Conference,” back a couple weeks ago. One surprise was how early we got it. Everyone at the library (and the Community Services Department, which shares the building), said that they usually don’t get the bonus until after Thanksgiving. The other surprise was that there was a 1% of salary included with the bonus, which I did not think part times were supposed to get. Bonus bonus!! Hahaha! The longer I work at the Hurst Public Library, the more impressed I am with the culture of the city.

I’m currently reading two books (I don’t recommend that, necessarily, but it gives me flexibility, as one is a real book and the other is on Kindle, which I can read more easily in bed). The real book is The Divine Embrace, by Robert E. Webber. I am learning some really valuable history about spirituality, from ancient times to the present. The other book is fiction, part of the Nursery Rhyme Murder collection. It is Humpty Dumpty, by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin.

I want to recommend a news podcast/newsletter to anyone who might be interested. It is Axios, and you can look at it or subscribe through this link. I listen to a daily morning podcast called “Axios Today,” and also get a few newsletters via email.

Pardon me a moment, while I engage in kitten cuddles.

The nature of what follows makes it seem ridiculous to share trivia in today’s blog.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He who has an ear,
Let him hear what the spirit
Says to the churches.
(Revelation)

the voice of mirth
and the voice of gladness,
the voice of the bridegroom
and the voice of the bride,
the voices of those who sing,
as they bring thank offerings
to the house of the LORD:
“‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,
for the LORD is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first,
says the LORD.
(Jeremiah 33:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your steadfast love, which endures forever
2. for Siamese kittens (especially Cleopatra)
3. for the Light of Christ, which dispels the darkness within me
4. that by Your wounds, I am made whole
5. that You were pierced for my transgressions; crushed for my iniquities
6. that You are faithful and will surely bring to completion what You have started

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FIVE – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Come to me,
all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads,
and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 GNB)

Come to me, all you
Tired and weary from burdens;
I will give you rest.

As I pause, during this quiet moment (and watch the aforementioned Siamese kitten bat at the cursor on my computer screen), I am grateful for the little things in life, the little comforts and pleasures that are far from necessary, but add such value to my life. I am grateful, Father, so grateful.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
(Psalms 127:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or thoughts that stirred within me. I linger over them, giving them my full attention. Do I find something that I wish to ask the Lord about? I pray my life to God, in meditation and contemplation. I spend time resting in God’s presence.

The song of ascents that is featured today is attributed to Solomon. Is it ironic that it includes the repetition of the word “vain,” especially if we think that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes? (I’m still on the fence about that, myself, but it can be argued, and I’m certainly not an expert.)

What is interesting is that this song seems to include two completely unrelated topics. In fact, the second half (last three verses) of the psalm look like something straight out of Proverbs.

Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the word “vain” in the song. If God is not in it, whatever you do is vanity. You can work your fingers to the bone, and if God isn’t in it, all you’re gonna get is, well, boney fingers. You can stay up late and get up early, and if the Lord is not involved, all you’re going to get is tired. And the end of verse 2 even implies that all of that extra labor is useless anyway, because God grants sleep to those He loves.

I find an interesting translational difference, as well. While the NIV says “toiling for food to eat” in verse 2, the ESV says, “eating the bread of anxious toil.” KJV says, “to eat the bread of sorrows,” and the NLT says, “anxiously working for food to eat.” It seems to me (again, no expert in Hebrew) that the NIV leaves something to be desired, here, as it doesn’t include the concept of anxious or sorrow. There is something deeply sad about the other translations.

The point to me is that it is vain to work anxiously for food, bread, to eat. And the key word in that is “anxious.” It is not vain to work to provide for the family. Not at all. That is our ordained lot. Even Adam and Eve had to do some measure of “work” in the garden. It only became “anxious” and “sorrowful” after the Fall.

If we consider this psalm, together with Isaiah 53, I think we gain insight. I also have to wonder about the chapter division, at this point. It seems like the first six verses of 53 continue the thought presented at the end of 52. Let’s consider them together.

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-6 NIV)

Right off the bat, this clears up who the “he” is in Isaiah 53. Sure, we assume, if we read it without the end of chapter 52, that it is talking about Jesus. But if we do read it in context, with 52, it is much clearer. There is always a danger when we don’t read Scripture in context. And it is good to remember that the chapter and verse divisions are not “inspired,” per se. The chapter divisions were not added until the early thirteenth century. The verses were not even added until much later, 100-300 years, depending on Old or New Testament.

So, I’m considering a total of nine verses, here, rather than just the six originally called for by the devotional book. The point of Isaiah 53:1, I believe, is that the questions are outlandish. Who could believe this?? That the “powerful arm of God” could be revealed in such a way as this?? This person described displays anything but power! “disfigured beyond that of any human being;” “his form marred beyond human likeness.” The sight of Jesus being crucified was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.

And it did not appear to be at all kingly or majestic. I’ve read detailed descriptions of what happened to Jesus between the time He was arrested in Gethsemane and the time He was removed from the Cross. I haven’t seen Mel Gibson’s passion movie, so I can’t say for sure, but based on pictures from the film, he may have gotten it pretty close. It would make modern “slasher” films look tame.

Yes, He was disfigured beyond recognition, to the point that He did not even resemble a man. As it says in 53:1, who would believe this??

And even before the horrific punishment was meted out upon Him, He apparently wasn’t much to look at. The traditional artists’ rendering of Jesus seem to be quite inaccurate. For one thing, most of them paint Him as a white man. But they also make Him quite lovely and attractive. Almost angelic, right?

But Isaiah says that “He had no beauty of majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

“Who has believed our report??”

But verse 5 holds the key. Actually beginning in verse 4. “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering.”

"He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was on Him,
and by His wounds
we
are
healed."

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

It’s difficult to express where my mind is going, right now. This “report,” as it is called by Isaiah, is outlandish; it is preposterous. The Creator of the universe is revealing His powerful arm in this?? In a mangled man, pierced, crushed, punished for our transgressions??

Father, I cannot cease to be amazed at this. I cannot express the depth of wonder at what was done here. I bow my head in shame (guilt?) as I consider what my Savior did on our behalf, and, by comparison, what little regard I have had for it, throughout my life. Oh, sure, I have sung the hymns and prayed the prayers, and I have given thanks and all that. But there is much in my life that would contradict what I say I believe. Or at least, historically, there is. I’m looking back on things that You claim You don’t remember. Lucky for me, eh? I’m not being sarcastic, here. I’m not taking this lightly. Truly, Your Word tells us, in many places, that You will remember our sins no more. They have been cleansed by the work of this suffering servant. They are part of the iniquities and transgressions for which Christ was pierced and crushed. Father, this prayer might ramble a bit . . . I’m sorry.

I praise You for what I’m reading in these two chapters from Isaiah. I praise You for this unbelievable report! That You chose to reveal Your “powerful” arm in this way. I cannot bear the thought of what Jesus endured for us. Perhaps that is why it is not given in such brutal detail in the Gospels. We get just enough information. It is our own historians and theologians who have “blessed” us with the gruesome details of Jesus’s walk to the Cross. So, rather than focus on my past, because You say You don’t remember it, I will look forward to the future, where You already are, as well. I will focus on the part that says that I am made whole by the wounds experienced by my Savior. Some translations say “healed,” and that’s great, but some people want to make that all about physical healing. It is so much deeper than that. Physical healing is wonderful, but, unless You build the house, it is in vain. Physical healing means nothing if I am not made whole in Spirit. And You have made me whole.

I praise You Father! All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit. Let this house be built by You, and let the labor not be in vain. You grant rest to those who love You and worship You. You grant peace to us who follow You; peace that passes all understanding; peace that flies in the face of what is going on in the world, today. Peace that tells me that this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be.

I pray, Father, for a constant yearning to know You more, and the diligence and discipline to seek You. May all Your saints know and experience, daily, the joy of Your salvation. And I pray for any family members or friends who have not experienced this joy.

"Suffering Savior,
throughout Your whole life you tasted loneliness and rejection,
grief and pain;
like us You knew the suffering of this world.
But You knew another suffering far beyond any link to my pain and tears.
You suffered the wrath of God against the sin of the world;
You took on my punishment so I might go free.
I worship You,
my crucified Lord.
Amen."
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts

BLESSING

Show me how much you love me, LORD,
and save me according to your promise.
(Psalms 119:41 GNB)


For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:45 ESV)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
(John 15:13 ESV)

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 ESV)

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV)

Father, may we, Your people embrace these truths, that You, in the form of that Suffering Servant, came not to be serve, but to serve, and to give Your life for us. May we express that same love outwardly, and seek not our own good, but that of our fellow human beings. I live this life in the hope and faith that You, who began this “good work” will bring it to completion; You are faithful; You will surely do it.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.