The Colors We See

Today is Thursday, the twenty-sixth of May, 2022, in the sixth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you, today.

Day 23,450

Just a little catching up to do, as I ran out of time, yesterday morning. Yesterday turned out to be a great day at work, and our lunch event went quite well. It was the quarterly birthday lunch that we have, and, for this one, the theme was soup and salad. About five or six of us brought some kind of soup to share, and there was a veritable plethora of salad ingredients from which to choose. I brought our latest soup creation, the “Creamy Italian Chicken,” and it was well-received.

I’ll give a quick recap of Tuesday night’s PWBA USBC Queens tournament finale. It was fun to watch, as I really didn’t have a strong feeling about who would win. Danielle McEwan, fourth seed, defeated Hope Gramly (from Texas, so I wouldn’t have minded if she had won) in the first game. Then Laura Plazas, a tiny bowler from Columbia who was third seed, narrowly defeated McEwan in the second game. Plazas missed two “easy” spares (is there really any such thing??) in the game, but, thanks to a split in McEwan’s tenth frame, had an opportunity to win the game by getting two strikes and five pins. She got two strikes and six. But alas, Ms. Plazas fell to the number two seed, Birgit Noreiks, from Germany, who then went on to win the tournament, beating Clara Guerrero, also from Columbia, in the final match. It was Birgit’s first major tournament win.

This week, beginning with qualifying rounds today, the PWBA is in Minnesota, for the Twin Cities Open. Oops. I’m wrong. Practice is today, and qualifying rounds will be tomorrow and Saturday, with the live finale on CBS Sports on Sunday afternoon. I will be able to see some of the qualifying, probably, on Bowl TV. At least tomorrow’s, but I am scheduled to work this Saturday.

C is leaving for Addison, IL, tomorrow morning, to take part in the Women’s Open Championship, which is being hosted at the same center the PWBA just finished with, Stardust Bowl. She will be bowling tomorrow evening and Saturday morning, after which she will drive southeastward to Indianapolis, to visit with R & J for a few days, before coming home on June 1. This works out well with my work schedule, as I will be able to drive her to the airport tomorrow morning, and then pick her up on Wednesday, as I will not be working next Wednesday.

The Texas Rangers beat the LA Angels, last night, 7-2, after losing Tuesday night, 5-3. The Rangers are now 19-23 for the season, still in third place in the AL West. This was a two-game series with the Angels, so they split it. Tonight, Martin Perez will start a four game series against Oakland, also on the west coast, so the games will be late.

The Boston Red Sox, after beating the Other Sox 16-3 Tuesday night, lost 3-1 last night. The Red Sox are 20-23 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East. They will play the Other Sox again, tonight.

While I wasn’t looking, the Yankees won their thirtieth game (and their thirty-first), and continue to dominate MLB, at 31-13. The Reds continue to hold down the cellar, but only because the Nationals have played two more games than them. Both teams have lost thirty games. There are currently eight teams with two-game win streaks. But only one with a six-game losing streak, which would be the KC Royals. The Dodgers continue to dominate the run differential column, with +101, and the Pirates continue to bring up the rear with -83. The Rangers are currently at -6, and the Red Sox are at +12 (that 16-3 win over the Other Sox certainly helped that statistic).

Since this is Thursday, I’ll be heading in for my regular 11:15-8:15 shift at the library, in a couple hours.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for wanting to give us happiness and for holding our earthly life firmly in your hands. May we have the confidence that we are in your hands. Grant us the light of faith. Let this light of faith guide us in material things and help us to wait in patience until the doors open for us to pass through according to your pleasure. So bless us all. Bless our life. May we grow joyful and free of heart through all that Jesus Christ gives. On the foundation he establishes for us may your divine working, your fatherly love, lift and support us throughout our lives. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my life is held firmly in our Father's hands
2. for joy, that circumstances of life cannot steal or wither
3. for all the colors that I can see, both in nature and in humanity
4. that my heart's desire is to desire God more than anything in this world
5. that God is constantly teaching me to pray, working on the interior life as much as, if not more than, the exterior

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

Listen to my prayer, O God.
 Do not ignore my cry for help!
 Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. 
My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. 
They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down. 
My heart pounds in my chest. 
The terror of death assaults me. 
Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking. 
Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! 
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. 

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. 
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. 
But you, O God, will send the wicked down to the pit of destruction. 
Murderers and liars will die young, but I am trusting you to save me. 
(Psalms 55:1-7, 22-23 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “color.”

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalms 19:1 NIV)

I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, when the sky is splashed with the most beautiful colors. Countless people, upon seeing a photo of one, will say something like, “God’s paintbrush.”

It’s more than just the sky, too. I’ll never forget our first trip to New England, back in 2000. We went in October, for our fifteenth anniversary. Never had we seen such vibrant colors in the trees. There were a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” on that trip.

I cannot imagine not being able to see color. I also celebrate the colors that I see in humanity. What a wonderful mosaic picture it will be when we all get to heaven, and join in that majestic choir that is depicted in the book of Revelation, singing the praises of the Lamb together.

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

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You for color. Of course, we understand that the phenomenon of color is caused by light, which is one of the first things You spoke into existence. Without light, there would be no color. Jesus is the Light of the world. Therefore, He is the source of all color. I am grateful for the many wonders that the miracle of color brings to me. I am also grateful for the palette of colors in the human race. Some people believe we should be “color-blind” when it comes to humanity. I believe the opposite. I think we should celebrate the colors, not ignore them. You do not show favoritism, and neither do we. But ignoring the colors in the human race would be like not being able to see the colors in the sunset. It would make life plain.

It is true, Father, that in many ways we are the same. But we are also all different. You created us each in a unique way, and I celebrate this uniqueness. All praise to You, Father!

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
(Psalms 73:25 NLT)

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
(John 3:30-36 NLT; the words of John the Baptizer)

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
(Colossians 3:2 NLT)

Father, my heart’s desire is that I desire nothing more than You. There is nothing on earth that is worthy of the same desire that I should have for You. I say “should have,” because that desire is not always as it should be. Help me to repent of this and to focus my desire on You. I do not desire, however, to be “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” (I bet You’ve never heard that one before.) Let my desire for You work itself out in the way I interact with people and circumstances on earth. Let it work out in love for You and visible love for other people. After all, love cannot simply be words and thoughts. Love must be shown in action. I cannot simply say, “I love you” to people. I must demonstrate this love by the things that I do. So help me to do that more and more, especially during these challenging days.

“There is nothing more important for a pastor to do than teach people how to pray,” says Eugene Peterson.

I know many pastors who would not agree with this statement, but I find that I do agree with it. He is quick to clarify that he doesn’t mean teaching people to say their prayers better. “The term prayer refers to the cultivation of your interior self, the experienced practice of God’s presence in the entirety of your life, not just the ‘religious’ parts.”

This, to me, is quite deep and profound. “In prayer,” he says, “we deal with our most ordinary self, everybody’s ordinary self, and learn to answer in the simplest and most direct language the God who speaks to us.”

I’ve heard many public prayers that were anything but simple and direct.

Peterson, here, is focusing on the interior, though, not the outward. There are countless books and lectures on how to deal with the outward pieces of our lives. It seems, these days, that there is a higher emphasis being placed on the interior life. I’m seeing a lot more focus on meditation and such. This is good, but not so much when it is misdirected.

When Peterson says he wants us to “get good at prayer,” he is not referring to the words we say when we pray out loud in public. Nor is he referring to getting the words right when we are praying in private. There is no set form or formula of words that will magically cause God to answer the way we want Him to.

What Peterson is getting at is living a life of prayer. “Prayer” begins deep inside us. Sometimes, there is no more adequate prayer than the word “help.” On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the ten minute public prayer by deacon so-and-so at the end of the weekly church service is never warranted. God is not impressed by the number of and largeness of the words we use, nor is He impressed when we put on our deep, “pastoral” voice when we pray.

I believe what God is “impressed” (I don’t even like using that word, because, I mean, what in the world could we ever do that would “impress” the Almight??) with is the quality of our interior life.

And this is what Peterson is getting at when he speaks of teaching someone how to “pray.”

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

Father, I have a feeling that, when Jesus’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray, this was not what they had in mind. Or maybe they did. I’m not sure that the answer He gave is what they were looking for, either. Were they asking for a formula to gain Your approval? I’m not wise enough to know. And, while a large part of Christendom takes what Jesus answered with as a formula, I see it more as a guide. I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with quoting the prayer verbatim. I do it frequently. But I also believe that it is something we can use as a sort of “springboard.” It seems to cover all of the necessary categories of prayer.

And I believe it addresses the interior life quite well. It speaks of our relationship with You, to begin with, with a desire that Your most Holy Name be hallowed or revered in all the earth. It speaks of a desire that You would bring about Your kingdom on this earth and that Your perfect will would come to pass. These are interior desires more than outward circumstances. Attitudes are addressed in the prayer of Jesus. And maybe it’s more about attitude than we realize.

As I continue, at this late state in my life, to learn how to pray, I ask that You would keep working in my interior life, drawing me ever closer to You. Because I find that the places I struggle the most with are inside me; thoughts that come to my mind, frequently unbidden, with which I must wrestle, and sometimes just push on out the other window. I acknowledge that, just because a thought comes to mind, doesn’t mean I must entertain it.

So help me to work this out, Lord, as I continue to learn to pray. And then, I ask, please keep me in more of an attitude of prayer all day, that I might be in constant connection with You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I want to end this by sharing a weekly devotional from a local Lutheran church that I visit, sometimes. It’s not directly related to today’s blog (or is it?) but most definitely related to our week, here. The hymn included, “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” is most certainly appropriate.

Grace and peace, friends.

Wisdom and Forgiveness

Good morning! Today is Friday, the fourth of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,367

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other photography at the link provided.

We had a successful and uneventful trip to get Mama, yesterday, and she is safely back here in Fort Worth, with us, for a little while. We dropped off a mail hold form at the Post Office, and left her tax documents with her CPA, and I also grabbed a couple cases of Crazy Water while in town.

The only “incident” that occurred was that my tire pressure light came on, in the car, before I got out of Fort Worth. Everything felt okay, so I didn’t stop to check it until I got to Mama’s house in Mineral Wells. The lowest tire had 30.5 (after driving that distance), so I wasn’t terribly worried about it. I just checked it, this morning, and it has 26, which is about seven pounds low. I’ll keep an eye on it, and, unless it drops drastically more between now and then, I will put some air in it Sunday afternoon.

Today is a normal work day for me, at the Hurst Public Library, in the computer center. Tomorrow is my Saturday to work the circulation desk. Sunday, our house church is not meeting, so I am going to take the opportunity to attend a Lutheran church in Grapevine, with my friend and former pastor. I’ve never been to a Lutheran service before, so this should be interesting.

The Lenten fast continues to go fairly well. As expected, keeping critical comments out of my vocabulary has been much more challenging than not eating candy. I have not been 100% successful, but am being more aware of when they occur, and able to stop them in their tracks.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Nothing Called My Own,” by Daryl Madden

I know I’m in danger
But need not of fearing
If I remember
That I am nothing

I’ll know that danger
Can take nothing from me
When I feel afraid
I forget, nothing I be

And If I remember
I’ve nothing called my own
That will not be lost
At the end of life shown

That only what’s not mine
But God’s will ever live
And free me from false fears
With a heart to give

(based upon words by Thomas Merton)

This poem really spoke to me, this morning, as I recall words from a little book by Horatius Bonar, called How Shall I Go To God? It opens with the line, “It is with our sins that we go to God–for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own.” Please check out Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for the WordPress community; I am constantly encouraged and uplifted by my blogging friends
2. for the safe trip to Mineral Wells and back, yesterday
3. for the wisdom taught in the book of James, difficult as it is
4. for the lineage of faith that is in my ancestry
5. for the strength of God that is helping me in my Lenten journey

The book of James is a tough book to swallow. Every time I have to read it, I cringe, because it doesn’t just step on my toes. It crushes them.

But one thing we learn from this difficult book is that “Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.” The outside world looks at that statement and gives out a hearty “Ya think??”

Part of the problem, though, is that 1) the outside world seems to have the mistaken idea that the Christian church should be a model community of good behavior; and 2) the Christian church often tries to deceive the outside world into believing that it is a model community of good behavior.

James would have us believe otherwise. And, as Eugene H. Peterson points out, “Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential.” This does not necessarily involve knowing truth, although that is helpful, because “what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?”

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
(James 3:17-18 MSG)

James was traditionally known as a man of prayer, spending much time on his knees. He lived what he wrote:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.
(James 1:5-6 MSG)

“The prayer is foundational to the wisdom. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.”

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.
(James 1:17 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:22 ESV)

Or, if you prefer:

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
(Matthew 18:22 NLT)

Speaking of wisdom, in this passage of Scripture, we see the wisdom of forgiveness. And we see Peter, thinking himself extremely righteous by offering to forgive someone seven whole times, having his toes crushed by Jesus’s James-like wisdom, telling him, essentially, don’t count how many times you forgive someone.

“God – on Whose repeated forgiveness I depend – requires that I do the same for others and that they do the same for me. Not grudgingly, but from a sincere heart. . . . Forgiveness is a wisdom near to the heart of God.” (Carol Knapp)

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

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
(Matthew 6:9-15 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s prayer word is “link.” I almost passed over this one, but I got to thinking about it. Laurence Overmire, an American poet who is also a genealogist, is quoted as saying, “All of our ancestors give us the precious gift of life.”

There is not a word of Scripture in this reading, nor is there any reference to it. It is entirely about someone’s lineage.

And when I think about my lineage, I am blessed. God didn’t have to birth me into this family. But He chose to place me in it. (Remember yesterday’s prayer word?)

My family has a long history of God-loving people in it, and I am very grateful for this. My spiritual life would likely have been much different otherwise.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You and thank You for placing me where You did. What a blessing to have been born into this family. Random luck, some would say, but I don’t believe in “luck” or “coincidences.” It was part of Your plan, and I am very grateful for this. And You kept it going, even when I tried to leave (or at least wander off) the path. You always kept me on the path, sometimes nudging me, other times outright shoving. There may have even been a few times You had to tie me up and carry me over Your “shoulder.”

Father, as Your Church continues trying to survive these years, I pray that You help us in several things. Help us to forgive the way Jesus told us to forgive, not the way Peter tried to. It is unlimited. Jesus didn’t mean seventy-seven times or four hundred and ninety times, at least that is what we believe. He seems to have been indicating that the amount of forgiveness is as unlimited as Your love. And praises be that You don’t stop forgiving us at seventy times seven times!!

I also pray that You help us, as a Church, to get along in wisdom, the way James is trying to teach us. We are strongly divided, these days, and we need Your help. There are factions that are focusing on the wrong things. We need to be focusing on Your love, the love of Jesus, and our love for each other. Maybe it really is “all about love.” And, while I wouldn’t go quite as far as the Beatles, we definitely do need love and more of it. Help us to remember that our jobs are to love You and love people, not to judge people and condemn people. That is actually Your job, and Yours alone. But You also have promised that, in Christ, there is no condemnation. Thank You for that, as well.

We are broken, Lord, all of us. So we need Your “fixing.” Give us wisdom, give us love, give us one another. And help us, as brother Daryl reminds us way back at the beginning, that we really have nothing that we can call our own.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Jesus Only

“One of the first things we learn in experiences of fasting is how it reveals what controls us. You see, we cover up with food and other good things what is inside of us, but in experiences of fasting these come to the surface.”

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the third of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today.

Day 23,366

I’m a little behind, this morning, apparently. It is almost 10:00 AM, and I’m just starting this thing. I actually slept until almost 8:00, this morning, which was nice. And I slept much better than the night before. I still had, typically, a couple of long awake stretches, though.

As soon as I finish this, I’ll be heading to Mineral Wells to bring Mama back here for an extended stay. We don’t know how long. That is TBD.

My first day of Lent went pretty well. I had no candy. I even resisted some Oreo cookies at work, but that’s not candy. I had some ice cream at home, that had chocolate flakes in it, but that doesn’t count as candy. Candy = M&Ms, Reeses, Heath bars, and so on. Pieces of chocolate in ice cream is not candy. As for the criticism, I did pretty well. I forgot myself for a few minutes, during a conversation with C, but was able to acknowledge what had happened and stop. (I was not criticizing her, by the way.) And I resisted talking about a scenario or two at work that would have resulted in me being critical or judgmental. So that’s good.

What needs to happen, though, in order for this “fast” to be effective, is that, when I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me . . .

Oops. Sorry. My fingers just took off on their own.

When I find myself being tempted or craving candy, or when critical thoughts pop into my brain and threaten to come out my mouth, I need to stop and be thankful for something; to consider my blessings and be grateful. The idea is to divert the temptation or craving or thought into something positive.

Enough of that, let’s get on with the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:6 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a good night's rest and a day off work; praying for a safe trip to Mineral Wells
2. that circumstances have worked out the way they have, so that I/we can do things for Mama
3. for the spiritual benefits of fasting, both from certain types of food, and from other things, like being critical
4. for the beauty and love of the Lord that chase after me every day of my life
5. that I am chosen to be one of God's children, and that is totally by His good pleasure, not for anything that I did to deserve it

I’m going to share Richard Foster’s reflections on the writing of Catherin Marshall on fasting.

“The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. Now, when we understand fasting from this perspective we see its reasonableness as well as its broader dimensions. The Catherine Marshall reading helps us see these broader dimensions by teaching us about a way of fasting that is not from food but from a critical spirit. Then as she chronicles her day we see the intense spiritual activity she enters, especially as it relates to the young man for whom she was praying.

“One of the first things we learn in experiences of fasting is how it reveals what controls us. You see, we cover up with food and other good things what is inside of us, but in experiences of fasting these come to the surface. Did you notice how true this was in Catherine Marshall’s experiment? She learned how dependent she was on criticism even to feel like a whole person and how utterly bankrupt her critical insights were at creating positive change in anyone or anything. She saw what was controlling her, and this released her to begin moving in a new direction, a direction free from a critical spirit. The same will be true for you and me.”

Two major points I see here. First is the idea that we find out what controls us when we embark on a fast. This is so true. What is harder for me? To not eat candy (difficult) or to not be judgmental (virtually impossible)? So what is it that controls me? Not so much the desire for sweet treats. I have proved before that I can squelch this. But this need to judge people . . . does it make me feel superior? I have prayed desperately that this is not the case. I have no desire whatsoever to feel superior to anyone.

Or do I? That is the big question, isn’t it?

The second major point involves the lack of ability to create positive change. Being judgmental or critical, especially in a negative way (judgment is rarely if ever positive, where criticism can be), I think it is safe to say, never creates any kind of change. One only has to look at social media for a few minutes to see that. Many opinions being forcefully stated, and no minds being changed, largely because both sides of any given issue insist that they are the only ones with any brains.

So this is where I find myself today, with a “promise” to God to try to eliminate candy from my diet for forty days, and to try to not be judgmental for forty days (that one I would prefer to be a permanent change).

The suggested activities and/or questions in the chapter involve enlarging one’s ideas about fasting. This is something that I have already accomplished, as evidenced by the two things I am fasting from for Lent. But I didn’t always think like that. Up until about a decade ago, fasting only involved food, in my mind. But if one is considering embarking on a fast, there are different types and lengths and concepts.

One suggestion is to consider a fast from criticalness for one day. Well, you can see that I’ve already gone beyond that one, looking for a complete life change in that regard.

But here is one that I find intriguing, and worthy of contemplation. “Pray over a particular personality trait of yours, one from which you would like to ‘fast,’ and consider writing in your journal about it. Express your struggle as a dialogue between you and the Lord.”

One such personality trait that I might find myself praying over is my tendency to be late, like I am this morning. Granted, I have no scheduled “appointment,” but I did have a self-imposed goal for leaving the house, and it looks like I may not make it.

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

Jesus Christ is “the centerpiece of everything we believe” (Hebrews 3:1 The Message). “Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.”

But we tend to become “self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth.” This results in “Jesus-and” theology. When I was in college, we defined a cult as anything that added to Jesus. In other words, anything that produced “Jesus-and” thinking.

Sad to say, if we went by that definition today, almost every major “Christian” group would be classified as a cult, because very few of them are “Jesus only.”

In the book of Hebrews, according to Eugene H. Peterson, it was “Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood.” Today, he says, “it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha.”

But the unknown writer of Hebrews warns us:

Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
(Hebrews 13:9 MSG)

And, perhaps more importantly:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
(Hebrews 12:2 MSG)

“When we do that, the focus becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get in the way but on the Way.”

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
(Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Still, when I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache . . . Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture:
(Psalms 73:16-17 MSG)

How often have we struggled through a week’s events (or two years??), feeling defeated and, sometimes, useless. But then, we enter into that sanctuary, that place, whether it be a huge cathedral, a tiny church building, or a house, where God’s people gather, and it all comes together. “Fellowship occurs. Stability returns. The Lord is near. And I am blessed.”

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalms 23:6 MSG)

I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.
(Psalms 27:4 MSG)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Today’s prayer word is “chosen.” It’s a dangerous word, true. We can get a little caught up in the pride of being “chosen.” It happened to Israel, right?

Tim Hughes, English songwriter and worship leader, is quoted as saying, “But at the heart of the gospel is this truth, we are called and chosen by God to join in with the dance of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

For many years, now, I have loved the idea of our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being described as a “dance.” As stated by a writer known only as “Heidi,” “My part in this dance of faith is small, but important. Without me, God’s song would be incomplete. He chose me specifically for the part I play, and I’m honored.”

Yes, we are chosen. Whether this indicates predestination or not is not the topic of today’s devotional. But we are chosen by God to be His people. And He “needs” (that’s in quotation marks because God truly “needs” nothing) every one of us . . . okay, I’m going to change that. He requires every one of us for the picture to be complete. That’s why it takes all kinds of people to be the Church. That’s why we are so diverse.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, remind us, today, that we are chosen. Help us to remember this when we pray, not to produce pride, and make us think we deserve something. Rather, the truth should humble us and give us humility and grace in in our prayers. The idea that I am chosen for Your Kingdom makes me more humble and creates a greater gratitude within me, especially when I know that this choosing had nothing to do with anything that I possibly could have done to deserve it!

Help me in this fast, Father, to accomplish the purpose that You desire. Remind me, when I really want a piece of candy, to be grateful for something else in my life, or to pray for someone who needs prayer. Stop me when I’m about to be critical and give me something to praise about, instead. Help me to find positive things to say to and about people. Yes, even those people.

Lord, forgive us when we add things to Your great grace and action in Jesus. Please teach us and remind us that our faith involves Jesus only, not Jesus-and-anything. Remind us that, anytime we add anything, we “dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity” of Jesus and Your grace.

And thank You for Your Church, with whom I can always gather to help me figure things out and bring my focus back to what is important.

All of this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

“Remember That You Are Dust”

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the second of March, 2022, in the season of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,365

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the forty-day season leading up to the celebration of Easter, or, as I prefer to call it, Resurrection Sunday. The Fat Tuesday parties are over, the revelry is complete. Today, the fasts begin. Many people will give up meat for Lent. I understand that is a common practice, especially among Catholics.

If you recall yesterday’s blog, I discussed a few things I might be looking at “giving up” for Lent. The thing is, I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that I read the selection on fasting that I read yesterday, of all days. And while I realize that the purpose of that specific selection was not necessarily driven by the idea of being critical, it certainly struck home for me.

This year, for Lent (which I do not always technically “observe”), I have two goals in mind. One is physical. I am giving up candy for Lent. Laugh or chuckle if you want, but candy has been a serious downfall for me, in recent weeks. M&Ms, Heath bars, Hershey “Nuggets,” and other forms of chocolate, mainly. Those will be eliminated from my diet for at least forty days.

I also have a spiritual or mental goal. I plan to fast from being critical for at least forty days. That’s right. I’m going to try to not criticize anything or anybody for at least forty days. If you know me, you know that the only way I can accomplish this is by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t promise that I won’t have any critical thoughts, mind you. Sometimes, those thoughts can’t be prevented. However, as Dallas Willard reminds us, we humans have a unique ability. We are the only creatures on the planet who have the ability to control what we allow our minds to dwell on. So that means that, when a critical thought pops into my brain (and I say “when” not “if”), it will be my duty to stop it in its tracks, “nip it in the bud,” as it were.

We got our new bed, yesterday, and got it assembled before I went to work at the library. It’s very nice, and works just like S’s bed and the one we got for Mama’s room (I wonder . . . will we still call it R’s room?). Head and feet raise and lower, and it has vibrator massages on both ends. Plus each side has four USB ports for device charging! I didn’t sleep real great, last night, sadly, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the new bed. Hopefully, tonight will be better.

We also made the decision, yesterday, after conversing with the A/C tech, to go ahead and replace our systems. We will be getting a 5-ton A/C unit that provides, I believe, 18 seer (I have no idea what that means), and is variable speed instead of single speed. That means it should be more efficient and save us somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35% on our electricity in the summertime. The work will be done next Wednesday. Total cost for the whole shebang is roughly $12,500. Yikes.

Before I head into today’s devotional, I want to share an article by one of my long-time favorite singer/songwriters, Carolyn Arends. I remember her from years ago, when she broke into the CCM arena after having been a staff songwriter for a label. She had a number of successful albums and singles and then kind of faded (or so I thought) for a bit. Or maybe I just lost track, I don’t know. She resurfaced a decade or so ago as a major player in one of my favorite Christian organizations, Renovare. And by “major player,” I mean leader. I’m not talking about musically, I’m talking spiritually. And Carolyn has really shined (shone?) in this role. Well, what I want to share, today, is a recent article she wrote about Ash Wednesday. It’s called “I Was An Ash Wednesday Rookie.” It really resonates with me because our backgrounds are similar, at least church-wise.

I probably won’t be attending an Ash Wednesday service today. I wish I could, but it’s my Wednesday to work at the Hurst Public Library (circulation desk), and we don’t leave the library until 6:15. All of the services I can find start at 6:30, and I don’t think I could make it in time. Maybe next year, because I would really like to attend one, someday.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we,
worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you,
the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen."
(Collect for Ash Wednesday, The Book of Common Prayer)
Jesus said to them again, 
"Peace be with you. 
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 
And when he had said this, 
he breathed on them 
and said to them,
 "Receive the Holy Spirit. 
(John 20:21-22 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the season of Lent, as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday
2. for the many saints in my life that have inspired me and brought me to the spiritual place I am today
3. for the life and peace that Jesus breathes into us
4. for the reminder that I am dust
5. that life doesn't end here
'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 
Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? 
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'  
(Isaiah 58:3-9 ESV)

This is the scripture passage that is brought forth in Spiritual Classics, after presenting the selection by Catherine Marshall that I summarized yesterday. The people question the fact that they fast, but it seems to get no results. God answers by questioning the validity of their fast.

The purpose of the reading, again, was not so much to highlight the critical nature (although that is what spoke so loudly to me), but to center on the discipline of fasting. And what better time to arrive at this place than the beginning of the Lenten season?

And, as I read the passage from Isaiah, one of my initial reactions tends to lean toward being critical toward the church of today, but I am stopping those thoughts and not going there. Rather, I will focus on what I can do to accomplish this “fast” of which the Lord speaks. What can I do to help loose the bonds of wickedness, to break every chain, and free the oppressed? What can I do to share my bread with the hungry and my home with the homeless (there’s a scary thought, right there), and to cover the naked? The passage indicates that, when we are successfully doing these things, our cries will be heard.

As the week progresses, there will be questions and suggested activities, and a final thought from one of the writers of the book.

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

There is a common misconception that our “religion” is a “private matter.” And while much of what goes on in “religion” concerns matters of the heart, it cannot help but spill out into real life.

“Every movement we make in response to God has a ripple effect, touching family, neighbors, friends, community. Belief in God alters our language. Love of God affects our relationships. Hope in God enters into our work. Also their opposites – unbelief, indifference, and despair. None of these movements and responses, beliefs and prayers, gestures and searches, can be confined to the soul. They spill out and make history. If they don’t, they are under suspicion of being fantasies at best, hypocrisies at worst.” ~ Eugene H. Peterson

The book of Philemon is a perfect picture of the truth of this. One of the single chapter books of the New Testament, it involves a letter from Paul to a slave owner named Philemon, who is a brother in Christ. It turns out Paul has come in contact with a runaway slave of Philemon’s, named Onesimus, who has, apparently because of Paul’s ministry, also become a Christian! As Paul writes to Philemon, it is apparent that this relationship between Philemon and Onesimus has to change, because they are now brothers in Christ. And Paul is sending Onesimus back to him, with instructions on how this has to change!

It is in situations like this that Christianity is proved to be real or, as Peterson said, “fantasies . . . hypocrisies.”

Does our belief in Christ spill out into our lives? It is my belief that the separation of “sacred” and “secular” is a myth. I cannot compartmentalize my life. If I can be “Christian” on Sunday, at “church,” but can act like a heathen at work, or treat my family terribly at home, my “Christianity” is not real.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; 
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 
Against you, you only, 
have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; 
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 
Surely I was sinful at birth, 
sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; 
you taught me wisdom in that secret place. 
(Psalms 51:1-6 NIV)

The prayer word for today is “life.” What a powerful word, full of meaning!

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
(James 4:14 NIV)

“Life” is fragile. As we have observed, so many times in our past, a loved one is “here today, gone tomorrow.” We are described, in Scripture, as a breath, a mist, as grass, that is here one minute and burned in the fire the next.

We don’t really notice this, as children. When we are children, life is forever, and the main goal is fun. As young adults, we think ourselves indestructible. But as we grow older, the frailty becomes reality. Death is imminent. We think about it more.

May God help us to treasure this thing called “life.” The good news is that it doesn’t end here. But the time here is, by comparison, short, just a breath, a wisp of smoke.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Father, what beautiful reminders, this morning, of the beauty of life with You! Yes, I am dust, and to dust shall I return, assuming Jesus does not return before my physical life on this planet ends. But “life” as we know, does not end at that point. We will carry on, in some form which we know not, for eternity, in our lives with You.

I pray for all who are embarking on a Lenten journey today. As we “celebrate” Ash Wednesday, whether we get cross-shaped smudges of ash on our foreheads or not, may we remember the truth that we are only dust. Help us all to accomplish whatever “fast” You have put on our hearts today. For me, I ask that You strengthen me, more for the elimination of judgment and criticism than candy, although I desire success in both realms. But, to me, the criticism is the more important aspect. Help me to “take captive” those thoughts as soon as they enter my brain, and not to entertain them, and especially not to let them escape through my mouth or fingertips.

So, Lord, I just realized that I’m focusing on what goes in my mouth and what comes out my mouth. That’s rather ironic.

I also pray that my faith always works itself out in reality, and is not something hidden, that no one else can see. It must be, in order to be authentic. It is not private, and I cannot separate “sacred” and “secular.” My life is in You. All of it, every aspect of it. Christ must be all and in all.

Glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Surrounded

“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Today is Tuesday, the first of March, 2022, in the eighth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

February is finally over. For the shortest month of the year, it sure seems like it lasts a long time. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, it is my least favorite month of the year, and has been for well over thirty years. It’s not all because of the fact that we get our harshest “winter” usually during February.

As I mentioned yesterday (I think) today is “Fat Tuesday,” otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It is the traditional day where people indulge their desires before starting the long “fast” of Lent on Ash Wednesday. I haven’t thought a lot about Lent, yet, this year. Which means that I also don’t know if I’m “giving up” anything for the forty day event. I should probably give up candy.

The electrical service went well, yesterday. They arrived on time, if not a little early. It was a bit pricey, but they were very professional and got the job done. The light fixture did not have to be replaced, so we have one to return to the store. It turns out that we had a “loss neutral” (I think that’s what he said) between the panel and the light switch. He was able to locate the place and fix it without having to run any new wiring. He did have to dig into one other switch and two outlets to find it. Based on what he found, I believe it to be an issue that has existed since the house was built, and it just finally got to a point where it “broke” Saturday night. Anyway, the light works, now, and he replaced two switches and outlets, and installed the new ceiling fan in the bedroom. All of this wound up costing almost $800.

C is working from home today, which, it turns out, is good, because her stomach was bothering her a bit, last night. The A/C guy is supposed to come over today, between 12-1 to talk about options for our heating/cooling systems. I didn’t hear from him, yesterday, though.

I work this evening, from 4:15-8:15, and will be back tomorrow at 9:15, as this is my “heavy” week at the library. I may be driving to Mineral Wells on Thursday to bring Mama here for another stay. We aren’t sure about that, just yet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that ceiling fans and light fixtures are working properly
2. for the writings of Catherine Marshall regarding a critical nature
3. that I am surrounded by You
4. that You make all things beautiful in Your time; help me to trust Your timing
5. for the upcoming season of Lent, and its help in preparing us for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday

It seems only fitting that my progression in the book, Spiritual Classics, has brought me to the section on the discipline of fasting, as we begin the month of March, and as the season of Lent begins tomorrow. The first of four chapters on fasting examines a selection from Catherine Marshall, from A Closer Walk. In this excerpt, Catherine writes about fasting from criticalness.

Right off the bat, she cites Matthew 7:1-2.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)

She speaks of getting an “assignment” from God. “For one day I was to go on a ‘fast’ from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”

Her typical objections: “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

She strongly felt the Lord telling her to obey Him without question, “an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

My first thought was to think how silent Facebook would be if all of us were able to accomplish this for even an hour.

The encounter has humor to it. For the first half of this day, Catherine speaks of feeling a void, “almost as if I had been wiped out as a person.” And, she observed, as she had lunch with her husband, mother, son, and secretary, her comments about issues discussed were not missed at all. No one seemed to notice that she wasn’t talking. They were all too busy talking, themselves. “The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.”

As the afternoon went buy, though, Catherine began to see what this was accomplishing. She had been praying for a young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. “Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it – joy.”

It turns out that her critical nature, while not fixing one single thing with which she had found fault, had stifled her own creativity “in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing.”

The word translated “judge” in most translations of Matthew 7 could easily be rendered “criticize.” “All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens.” Following are five things that Catherine summed up that God showed her through this.

  1. A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
  2. A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
  3. A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
  4. Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
  5. Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Here is the prayer that Catherine Marshall found herself praying: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

I am deeply moved by this selection, today, as a judgmental or critical nature is something I have struggled mightily with, throughout my life.

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

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, while not directly addressing the above topic of criticism, seem to lend themselves to a similar interpretation.

Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. . . . Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it.  
(1 Timothy 4:12-13,15-16 MSG)

Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane.
(Titus 2:2-8 MSG)

In the words of Eugene H. Peterson, “This is essential reading because ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership causes much damage in souls.”

The reason I compare this to Catherine Marshall’s writing on a critical nature is that this is what I’m seeing, right now, in our culture, and it is largely coming from my generation, as well as the generation or two directly behind me. Nothing but criticism, and all negative, with no positive reinforcement. In other words, all complaining with no solutions, other than ousting the current administration.

And this “ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership” is driving young people away from the church (lower-case “c”) in droves.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.”
(Psalms 75:2 NIV)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “surround.” I like this one. The quoted Scripture verse is:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
(Psalms 34:7 ESV)

“Encamps around” = “surrounds.”

The writer of today’s reading, the ubiquitous “Bob,” writes of using this word as he prays over family members each day. His grandchildren were attending a new school, fresh with new challenges. “Surround,” he prays over them as he drops them off.

“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Immediately, I am reminded by a worship song that I learned a couple years ago. “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You. . . . This is how I fight my battles.”

Our Father surrounds us every day. Whether we are aware of His presence or not, He is there. How much sweeter it is when we are aware of Him!!

Father, again, there is a lot to take in, this morning. I am moved beyond description at Ms. Marshall’s writing on the critical nature. While it may not be the particular “fast” you are calling me to this Lenten season, I believe that You have been and continue to call me away from this nature. I pray desperately that You would remove any form, any remnant of the critical nature from my heart, my soul, and my spirit, Father! I literally hate that aspect about myself. I know that it does not come from You, and that it does not in any way resemble the nature of the Savior in whose steps I am supposed to walk. So please remove it.

I praise You that You surround me. That truth brings me great comfort whenever I remember it and focus on it. I know that You always surround me, but when I know it and acknowledge it, it is so much sweeter and comforting. I thank You for Your presence, Father, and I pray for my entire family, that You would make Your presence known to them. Surround them all, Lord. “Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Grace and peace, friends.

Moments Charged with Hope

Good morning. Today is Monday, the twenty-eighth of February, 2022, in the eighth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,363

Today’s header image is provided by photographer Paul Militaru. Please check out his other photos at the link provided.

It’s been a busy morning, already. I’ve got two loads of laundry going, I’ve already vacuumed the floors (okay, so the robot did that), and I’ve scheduled an electrician to come to the house between 11-2 today, to check out the light fixture that quit working and install a ceiling fan in the bedroom. That quit on us a couple weeks ago, and it appears that the motor just finally gave out. That ceiling fan is also as old as the house, having been installed when the house was built in 1999.

So, now, I’m finally getting around to my blogging. As for what else is planned for today, nothing, at the moment. I don’t even know what I’m having for lunch. Still drinking my coffee.

Tomorrow, our A/C tech is supposed to stop by and discuss possible system replacement for our house.

We could potentially be spending a boatload of money this week. But, as I told the A/C tech last week, we have no plans to leave this house anytime soon. It’s our home, not an investment.

Yesterday, I got us tickets to see the production of Oklahoma! at Bass Hall in June. I’ve been wanting to see this, and it says that it has been “reimagined” for the twenty-first century. That would scare me, but it also said that none of the words have been changed. Should be interesting. That will be on Sunday, June 26.

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.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that strong tower, where I can run and be safe
2. that because of the work of Christ (and ONLY that work), I am considered "righteous"
3. for the example of the "prayer of prayers" that Jesus gave us, a complete prayer that covers everything we need
4. for the promise of the second coming of Jesus and the hope that it gives us
5. for sunshine and mild temperatures

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

As Simone Weil’s treatment of the “prayer of prayers” comes to a close, she looks at the final statement in the older translations, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (or “from the evil one”). The bit about “Yours are the kingdom,” and so on, was added later on.

So we have contemplated, through this prayer that Jesus gave us, God’s name, His kingdom, and His will. We have petitioned for our “daily bread,” both physical and spiritual, and we have been purified from evil through forgiveness of sin. Now, says Simone, “the soul is ready for that true humility which crowns all virtues. Humility consists of knowing that in this world the whole soul, not only what we term the ego in its totality, but also the supernatural part of the soul, which is God present in it, is subject to time and to the vicissitudes of change.”

Okay, so I had to look up vicissitude. I am familiar with the word, but what, exactly, does it mean? “A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.” And it is true. Our soul must be ready to accept the fact that not everything is always going to be “okay.” Yet, on the other hand, everything is always “okay.”

“The Our Father contains all possible petitions; we cannot conceive of any prayer not already contained in it. It is to prayer what Christ is to humanity. It is impossible to say it once through, giving the fullest possible attention to each word, without a change, infinitesimal perhaps but real, taking place in the soul.”

I find myself in full agreement of these words. And it makes sense. If Jesus gave us this prayer, telling us to “Pray then like this,” (whether we are supposed to pray it verbatim is, in my opinion, irrelevant), then the prayer must be quite perfect, right?

I would highly recommend the practice of repeating this prayer slowly, paying attention to each word or phrase, letting it sink into the soul. And then, after learning it more deeply, take the daily requests that you have to pray and work them into the phrases of the “prayer of prayers.”

In Symphony of Salvation, in the chapter on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, entitled “Taut & Joyful Expectancy,” the theme seems to center on one of the most distinctive details of the Christian faith, that being the second coming of Christ. “From the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of his return. He told them he was coming back. They believed he was coming back.”

We continue to believe this today. Peterson highlights this passage from 1 Thessalonians.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 MSG)

“The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus, there is little room left on the screen for projecting our anxieties and fantasies.”

One word of caution, though. It is my opinion that this passage eliminated entirely the popular concept of “rapture.” I have not believed in the “rapture” for at least a couple of decades, now. I don’t believe the Bible teaches the idea at all, that a group of living people will be taken away from the earth before any kind of “tribulation” occurs. And this passage in 1 Thessalonians seems to validate that. The dead in Christ will be resurrected before any who are still living are “caught up.” It is my opinion that this is the second coming of Christ, and that there will not be a separate event called a “rapture.”

So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.
(2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 MSG)

Father, I am grateful for the promise that Jesus gave to His disciples (and to us, by default), that He will return. I am thankful for the words of Paul, regarding His return, words that give us hope, especially in times like these, when the world seems to be falling apart in front of us.

I pray for the insanity that I see in this world, right now. Madness in Europe, as well as insanity in my own home state and others around it. I pray for wisdom in leaders and elected officials. I pray for Your intervention in scenarios where people’s lives are threatened. And I pray that Your people, Your Church, would rise up and provide compassionate relief to the downtrodden and hopeless, rather than shoveling hatred and judgment on people who need hope and love. Help us, O God, to live and walk in the words and steps of The Word, The Way, The Truth, and The Life, Jesus Christ.

I thank You for the prayer that Jesus gave us, and ask that You give me more understanding and wisdom around it. Help me to remember that this prayer can be the basis of anything for which or about which I need to pray. Help us to live in prayer, and to, as Paul admonishes us, “pray without ceasing.” To me, what this means, is that I need to be praying like I breathe, constantly being aware of Your presence around me and my need for Your grace and mercy in my life.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Today is Sunday, the twenty-seventh of February, 2022, in the eighth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Day 23,362

While this week begins in Ordinary Time, the season of Lent begins Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday, March 2. Which, of course, makes Tuesday, March 1, Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday.”

Our heater is now working properly. The tech showed up late yesterday evening (I felt kind of sorry for the guy, but he remained in good spirits) and replaced the circuit board. However, he showed me the one that was replaced and pointed to a black spot on it, indicating that this was where the fan relay was on the board, meaning that the blower was putting out too much amperage, which eventually fried the board. Again, indicating that the blower would likely be going out soon, or, even worse, fry another circuit board.

We have him putting together some estimates for us. It would cost another $700 to replace the blower assembly. But C and I talked with him about replacing the whole system, and he will come up with some estimates for us on that. We have a meeting scheduled on Tuesday afternoon, to look into that possibility. It would probably be wise, being that the internal heating system is as old as the house (built in 1999), and the external A/C unit is at least ten years old. The label on the unit says it was manufactured in 2005, but we don’t think we have had it that long. Unfortunately, I can’t find the receipt from when it was installed.

So we will be making that decision soon. And, in the meantime, when I turned on the light over the breakfast nook table, it flashed and then went completely out. The heater tech was still there and looked at a few things for us, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the switch, and the breaker did not trip. The only thing we can think is that there may be a fuse in the fixture, itself. Fortunately, it’s not a light fixture that we use frequently.

This morning, we have our church gathering, and we will be meeting at the host’s home. And, we have scheduled a Night of Worship for March 12. I can’t remember if I mentioned that, yesterday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
The LORD is gracious and merciful, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
The LORD is good to all, 
and his mercy is over all that he has made. 
All your works shall give thanks to you, 
O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 
(Psalms 145:8-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sunshine and warmer temperatures today
2. for forgiveness of sin, which is purification from the evil within me
3. for the steadfast love of the Lord, new every morning
4. for the admonition/encouragement to slow down and be still and listen to the Lord
5. for the privilege/responsibility of prayer; Lord make me more faithful

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

Continuing in this examination of the “prayer of prayers,” today I come to what may be the hardest phrase in the prayer. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” As most are aware, some translations use the word “debts” and “debtors,” rather than sin. But this doesn’t really change the meaning.

Simone Weil’s writing on it is a bit cryptic, but there is one thing that she says that I definitely like. “To have forgiven our debtors is to have renounced the whole of the past in a lump.” This is good. And I believe it gets to the heart of what Jesus is teaching us, in this prayer, and the words that He says immediately afterward.

Because, you see, it is worth noting that this particular phrase is the one that is singled out, after the prayer is given, for further commentary. The forgiveness of others is so significant to Him that He adds this at the end.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

Weil finishes this segment with these words: “The forgiveness of debts is spiritual poverty, spiritual nakedness, death. If we accept death completely, we can ask God to make us live again, purified from the evil in us. For to ask him to forgive us our debts is to ask him to wipe out the evil in us. Pardon is purification.”

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

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalms 100:5 ESV)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “slow.” That’s ironic, because that’s how I seem to be moving today. It’s almost time to leave the house and I’m still typing, here.

Author Nicholas Sparks is quoted as writing, “Strange, what being forced to slow down could do to a person.”

Some of us have a really hard time slowing down. There is a tendency, especially in U.S. culture to be always on the go, always moving, always accomplishing something. The word “slow” can come in handy here.

Two years ago, something happened that caused the whole world to slow down. People in the U.S. kicked against that harder than anything I’ve ever seen. But God calls us to slow down. It’s not in the Bible, but perhaps “Stop and smell the roses” should be. What is in the Bible, though is this:

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him
(Psalms 37:7 ESV)

Father, help us to slow down, to be still, to know that You are God, and to stop and listen to You. I pray that You help us to know Your steadfast love, that endures forever, and to embrace the plans that You have for us, even when, and especially when, they do not line up with our own plans or desires. Make Your desires my desires.

Thank You for Your forgiveness and cleansing. Please help me to remember that this must be passed on to others when they have sinned against or offended me. More than seventy times seven.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Wilderness

Today is Friday, the twenty-fifth of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,360

We never did get any snow, here. I honestly don’t know if there was any snow in the DFW area at all. It’s still cold, though, and, contrary to the initial forecast, never got above freezing, yesterday. In fact, I don’t think it got above 30 degrees. I ventured out for Sonic drinks around 4:30 PM, and it was, I think, 29 degrees. Currently, at almost 8:00 AM, it is 21 degrees.

As far as I know, the library is scheduled to open at regular time, this morning, so I will be there, ready for my day in the Computer Center. There may be some shelving on the side, but that depends on if any of the regular shelving people show up to make up lost time from yesterday. If they do, I may just be sitting at the computer desk all day, which is also fine with me.

As for the weekend, at this point, there are no plans. I assume we will have our little congregation gathering on Sunday morning. Some good news, I suppose. We have begun planning for a Night of Worship on March 12, two weeks from tomorrow. This will be the first one in well over a year, I believe . . . possibly two? I can’t remember if there has been one at all since the pandemic began. We haven’t discussed location, but, as far as I know, this one will be at the usual host’s home, which is also where we meet on Sundays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! 
Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
(Psalms 33:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sunshine
2. for the joy of the Lord
3. for the fingerprints of God all over my life
4. for wilderness and desolate places in my life
5. that God always brings me back from those

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

Yesterday, we looked at the request, “Your will be done,” and today, the follow-up phrase, “On earth as in heaven.” As we associate our desire with the will of God, it extends to spiritual things as well as physical. While these things have to do with “the other world,” they are also “events that take place here below, in time.” We discussed, yesterday, this idea that we must be okay with the things that have happened in the past, as they must, in some way or shape, be within God’s will. We must extend this into the future, as well.

One way a former pastor of mine used to frame this statement was to consider the state of things in heaven. We know from Biblical promises that there will be no tears in heaven; we know that there will be no pain in heaven; we know that there will be no sickness in heaven. Therefore, when we pray this prayer, we are, in a sense, asking for those things to be true on earth, as well. We know that God’s ultimate will is to eradicate pain and sickness and poverty and hunger. And this is why we pray this prayer. We long for these things to come to pass, “on earth as in heaven.”

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

God can do anything, you know—
far more than you could ever imagine
 or guess or request in your wildest dreams! 
He does it not by pushing us around 
but by working within us, 
his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Glory to God in the church! 
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! 
Glory down all the generations! 
Glory through all millennia! 
Oh, yes! 
(Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG)

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

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
(Jeremiah 18:5-6 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “wilderness.” The Scripture reference is Luke 5:16:

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
(Luke 5:16 NLT)

The ESV calls it “desolate places.”

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
(Luke 5:16 ESV)

Time is short, so I must move one. Wilderness seems to have a bad connotation, but it doesn’t have to. In the case of Israel, it was a place of correction, perhaps punishment, as they wandered around in wilderness for decades, after refusing to go into the Promised Land as directed.

But it was also a place of healing. In Jesus’s case, it was place to be alone. “Desolate” means, ” deserted of people and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness.” The purpose for this is to avoid distractions. If there are no people, there are no demands. If there is “dismal emptiness,” there is nothing else to distract one’s attention from God.

So we need those times of “wilderness” in our lives, in order to get our attention back on the Lord.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful for times of wilderness and desolation in my life, in my past. But I am also grateful that You have always brought me out of those, stronger than before, with eyes focused more on You. Help me to be more focused on You and on Your will in my life and in this world. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as in heaven. I pray for all things to come to pass in perfect time and in perfect order, even if some of those things are not pleasant, or don’t seem to be what we desire. Help us to mold our desires to fit Your will and not to try to get You to do the opposite.

Your will is supreme, no matter what it causes us in this world, and we must, we simply must be okay with that, as Your children. This is something that the world simply cannot understand.

At the same time, this does not release us from our obligation to do the things that Jesus told us to do to and for “the least of these.” Help us to have more compassion for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the hungry, the sick, the naked and homeless, and all of those kinds of people. Give us the love and compassion of Jesus for those, and the willingness to share our resources with them.

I thank You, Father, that I can see Your fingerprints all over my life. I pray that this never stops.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Will Be Done

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the twenty-fourth of February (did I almost just type “July??”), 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today.

Day 23,359

Well, there is no snow on the ground, this morning. At least, not yet. It is cold, currently 22 degrees outside. And there is a very fine sort of mist in the air, so there is moisture out there. I could feel it, but couldn’t see it. Why was I out there, you ask? I was mailing a confirmation form for S, to the SSA office in Austin. We have a doctor appointment on March 22, for an evaluation in their ongoing effort to determine if she is still eligible for disability benefits.

We received word, last night, that the library will be closed today. I got text messages from both my manager and the circulation manager.

I know that I indicated at the end of yesterday’s blog that we had heat by that time. I’ll give a little more detail, here. We have to get a new circuit board for our heating unit. The tech indicated that he thought the blower motor might be going out in the near future. It might last another five years, or it might not last the rest of this year. One of those scenarios. He also kind of suggested that we might be better off replacing everything. Outside unit, inside unit, the whole shebang. We’re talking seven to eight grand to do that.

Now, let me say that I do not think this was a money-grabbing effort. From previous experience with this company and family, I trust them, highly. There was no pressure at all, just a suggestion. At this time, though, we are only going to replace the circuit. However, we are aware that 1) the heating system in the attic is as old as the house, almost 23 years old; 2) the outside A/C unit is at least fifteen, possibly seventeen, years old. So there’s that. We’ll be spending just over seven hundred for the new circuit board. But that includes yesterday’s visit, the parts and the labor for installation. He is supposed to come Saturday to replace that.

In the meantime, he has hardwired the system, bypassing the board, so that the heater will work. The blower is on, non-stop, because of that, but that’s not that big a deal.

C is working from home, today. She came home early, yesterday, which was good. I was nervous, the whole time she was on the road, and was quite relieved when she walked in the front door. The roads were mostly dry, but there were isolated spots where the early morning sleet had accumulated, one being a small bridge between our house and the next major intersection.

So we are all safe and warm, this morning. Unless, of course, the madman in charge of Russia, right now, decides to nuke us all.

I have no agenda for today, other than finishing this blog and writing a book review blog. Oh . . . I just remembered . . . I’m supposed to start soup for dinner. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Gratitude Is the Way, by Daryl Madden

Gratitude is the way
That the heart remembers
Thoughts of kindnesses
Loving, glowing embers

Everyday blessings
Cherished interactions
Gifts of surprise
Acts of compassion

We honor and acknowledge
By remembering
Of the many ways
The ripples these acts bring

Through the soul of others
Of sacrifices giving
Of how we have been shaped
By both the dead and living

This poem was inspired by the following quote from “the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude,” Robert Emmons. “Gratitude is the way the heart remembers––remembers kindnesses, cherished interactions with others, compassionate actions of strangers, surprise gifts, and everyday blessings. By remembering we honor and acknowledge the many ways in which who and what we are has been shaped by others, both living and dead.” As you know, gratitude is something that I have stressed and tried to live for a number of years, now. Every day, I share at least five things for which I am grateful. This is not to appear “super-spiritual.” It is, hopefully, to inspire gratitude in others, because, “Gratitude Is the Way.”

Please take a look at more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all the saints who try their best to live by this scripture passage
2. for the ultimate will of God in all things that happen in our world
3. for the good things that happen when we sing
4. that, just like the wind, though we cannot see God, we can see the effects and results of His working
5. for the freedom I experience in Christ; freedom from sin, freedom to love unconditionally

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

Today, in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin, I’m continuing to look at the “prayer of prayers,” as examined by early twentieth-century mystic, Simone Weil. The phrase today is “Your will be done.” I have believed, for many years, now, that this is the safest prayer to pray.

“Your will be done.” It is the one prayer that we can pray that is sure to be answered 100%.

Simone Weil makes some bold statements about this phrase. “We are only absolutely, infallibly certain of the will of God concerning the past.” I agree with this. As fallible, faulty, sinful humans, we cannot be certain of what God’s will is, going forward. Even regarding our interpretations of Scripture, we cannot be. We fancy ourselves wise, and think we have some things figured out, but we don’t really. Every opinion we have, concerning the future will of God, is based on prejudicial presuppositions. Therefore, we can only be 100% certain of the will of God, looking backward.

Everything that has happened, looking backward, can be said to have been the will of God. This is really tough for us to agree with, because some terrible things have happened in the history of the world. But hear this: if we cannot say that this is true, then God is not fully in control of our world, and our faith in Him is useless.

When we pray “Your will be done,” we are asking for what already is. And we are asking, not for internal realities, such as holiness, and so forth, but for what will happen “in the time order. Nevertheless we are asking for the infallible and eternal conformity of everything in time with the will of God. . . . We have to desire that everything that has happened should have happened, and nothing else. We have to do so, not because what has happened is good in our eyes, but because God has permitted it, and because the obedience of the course of events to God is in itself an absolute good.”

Any objection to the above comes out of ignorance. And trust me, I have been plenty ignorant, over time. This ignorance is necessary, because we are not God. Therefore, all of us, every single one of us, is ignorant when it comes to completely understanding the ways of God in this world. Because we are not Him.

We will still pray for things according to our own desires and incomplete knowledge. This is inevitable. But we couch these prayers in the caveat of “Your will be done.” And remember . . . Jesus did the same thing in the Garden of Gethsemane. And also remember . . . the cross of Christ, where God, Himself, incarnate died for us, the most horrible event that has ever happened in history (in human eyes), was the will of God.

“When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them ‘in their place.’ The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.” ~ Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, “Free from Within,” the chapter on Galatians

I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:2 ESV)

My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
(Psalms 71:23 ESV)

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.
(Acts 16:25-26 ESV)

Great things happen when we sing.

Today’s prayer word is “wind.” Wind is an interesting thing. You can’t see it. It is invisible, because it is nothing more than moving air, and you can’t see air.

Christina Rossetti, nineteenth century English writer, is quoted as saying, “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”

There is also a quote by Billy Graham that has been used in many places. “I’ve never seen the wind. I’ve seen the effects of the wind.”

Wind can be gentle and comforting, a gentle breeze on a beautiful fall or spring day. Or, it can look like this:

I remember that day. God is a lot like the wind. In fact, the Holy Spirit is described multiple times in the Bible, as wind. But we cannot see God, can we? We can see the evidence and effect of God, but we cannot see God. And, in addition, God can be gentle and comforting, or He can be awesome and destructive, as has been proved many times in Scripture.

The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Barbranda,” says, “The Almighty One reminds me of the ever-moving wind: I can’t see Him, but I know He’s there.”

Incidentally, wind is needed to fly, which was yesterday’s prayer word.

Father, I believe in You, as You know, even though I cannot see You. I am grateful for the many ways that I can see evidence of Your work, in my life, and in this world. I am grateful for the times when Your presence comes in like a gentle breeze, as well as for the times when You rush in like a hurricane. I trust You and Your will implicitly, believing that You will, as Your Word promises, work out all things for our good. This helps me look back on world events that humans see as horrific and trust that, somehow, in the grand scheme of things, they were included in Your ultimate will. I will never claim to understand the workings of these things, though, because I am not You, and Your ways are infinitely higher than mine.

God, wonderful things happen when we sing. Paul and Silas were released from prison, because the earth shook. Other wonderful things happen. Over and over, the Bible depicts Your people singing Your praises after You acted in marvelous ways for them. I pray for more opportunities to sing. I pray for future opportunities for Your people to gather and sing Your praise together and pray together, because great things happen we the saints gather and pray and sing.

I pray for our world right now. Scary things are happening, Lord, so I pray for protection for Your people. I pray for Your hand on the events surrounding Ukraine, right now. I pray for peace. I pray for leaders to have wisdom and mercy. And I pray, “Your will be done.”

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Drop Your Differences

We’re Christ’s representatives.
God uses us to persuade men and women
to drop their differences and enter into God’s work
of making things right between them.
We’re speaking for Christ himself now:
Become friends with God;
he’s already a friend with you.
(2 Corinthians 5:20 MSG)

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,358

It’s currently 23 degrees outside, with “snow showers” imminent. Those are not the kind of “showers” we were supposed to pray for the other day.

It’s 63 degrees in the house, because, when I got home from “work” last night, the heat was not working. I got hold of our usual A/C people, who didn’t have any techs available until this morning. Whoever I was texting with tried their best to help me get it running last night, which involved multiple trips into the attic (and hurting something in my wrist in the process . . . probably a tendon or ligament, I don’t think I broke anything), but to no avail. I couldn’t find the tools I needed to do what is probably a fairly easy fix.

The good news is that our house is “warm-natured” and holds heat quite well. Too well, of course, as it is difficult to keep it cool in the summer. That’s why, after more than twelve hours of no heat, and sub-freezing temperatures, it is still over 60 in the house.

The tech is on his way, though, which is good news, and should be here any minute. Therefore, I am typing this blog on my laptop, in the living room, instead of back in the study. You shouldn’t be able to tell any difference. The difference will be for me, as the laptop has a touchpad, which, try as I might, I have been unable to deactivate, and the slightest bump of it can send the cursor flying off to parts unknown, and has been known to completely eradicate an entire page in a single bound. Wish me luck.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your light shine bright;
You are the light of the world;
Give glory to God!
(Inspired by Matthew 5:14-16)
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn;
 shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 
(Psalms 98:4-6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that our house holds heat really well
2. for the ability to contemplate the presence of God in my life
3. for the message of peace in the Gospel; Jesus really wants us to drop our differences and make things right between us
4. that, in the big picture, God does not play favorites; "the ground is level at the foot of the cross"
5. that, if I delight myself in the Lord, I can "fly;" that is, He will give me the desires of my heart
6. (written at the end) that our heat is on

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

I’m continuing with the treatment of the “prayer of prayers,” by Simone Weil, from Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. Today, I’m looking at the simple phrase, “Your kingdom come.”

In this, we are asking for something yet to be accomplished, something that is not yet here. In one sense, we know that the kingdom of God has been here, ever since Jesus walked the earth. But in another sense, it is not yet here, or not yet fully accomplished. This, in itself, is somewhat of a mystery.

In this writer’s view, this involves the coming of the Holy Spirit. And, while she says we are inviting Him, we should not invite in a specific way, “to visit us or anyone else in particular . . . so that our thought of him is an invitation, a longing cry. It is as when one is in extreme thirst, ill with thirst; then one no longer thinks of the act of drinking in relation to oneself, or even of the act of drinking in a general way. One merely thinks of water, actual water itself, but the image of water is like a cry from our whole being.”

Again, this is the musings of what we call a mystic, and they are, at times, ponderous and confusing. However, I think I get this. It is similar, in concept, to what we call contemplation, in which all we do is think about God, Himself, and do not venture into any specific thoughts or requests.

So, to pray “Your kingdom come,” we are simply inviting God, in the form of His Holy Spirit, to be among us.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
(Psalms 63:1 ESV)

We're Christ's representatives. 
God uses us to persuade men and women 
to drop their differences and enter into God's work
 of making things right between them.
 We're speaking for Christ himself now:
 Become friends with God;
 he's already a friend with you. 
(2 Corinthians 5:20 MSG)

I’m telling you that if anyone comes with a different message than this, they are not speaking for God. God is in the business of reconciling. Yes, I know . . . Jesus said that He would divide even families, and He does. But He also comes, in general, to bring peace. And He demands peace and unity within His Church. He wants us to drop our differences and make things right between us.

For God shows no partiality.
(Romans 2:11 ESV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
(John 15:12 ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:9-10 ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
(James 2:1 ESV)

I could wax eloquently (or maybe not so much) for days on this group of verses. But my main message, through this forum, is exactly this, and springs directly from the verse from The Message above that last purple line. God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek, male and female, and so on. Color of skin or country of origin matters not. And, contrary to current popular belief, the USA does not enjoy “favored nation” status with God! And we, the Church of Jesus Christ have a job. That job is explicitly given in Romans 12, above. Philippians 2:3 also adds to that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 ESV)

I also like the way The Message puts this.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
(Philippians 2:3 MSG)

The prayer word for today is “fly.” Orville Wright (surely I don’t need to tell you who he was) is quoted as saying “If birds can glide for long periods of time, then why can’t I?”

The simple answer is because you don’t have feathers or wings. But that’s not the point of this.

The idea is not so much about physical, literal, flying as it is excelling in something in our lives. Even “excelling” is a suspect word, there. It has to do with ambition and expectation; desire. And it is wrapped up in that little question, “Why can’t I?”

I could personalize this. If Dennis Jernigan can write worship songs, why can’t I? If Dallas Willard could be the quiet, contemplative, peaceful person he was, why can’t I? Of course, we can get carried away with this. There are some things I don’t want to do. Be president, for example. No thank you.

Here are the things I want to do:

  1. Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength
  2. Love my neighbor as myself
  3. Love the community of saints as Jesus has loved us
  4. Spark a love revolution

Why can’t I? The only person holding me back is me.

Father, why can’t I do these things? It certainly isn’t You holding me back. It is me, of course. If I cannot accomplish any of these things, it is because I am holding myself back. However, I do believe that I have made significant progress in these ventures, in the past couple of decades. I thank You for that.

I pray for Your Church today. I pray that we can succeed in doing what Jesus is asking of us, specifically, dropping our differences and making things right between us. Help me to be a leader in this, Father. And that goes back to my list of desires, doesn’t it? For, in order for those things to happen, I have to practice what I preach and “love one another,” unconditionally, the way You love us.

And, Father, help me to get back into the habit of daily praying for Your kingdom to come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.