From Beautiful Tirzah to Media Manipulation

Today is Monday, June 26, 2017. Day 21,655. Seven days until our July 4 holiday.

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” ― Pearl S. Buck

The word of the day is beatinest, an adjective meaning, “most remarkable or unusual.”

Today is Please Take My Children to Work Day. I just like that because it’s funny. And certainly makes sense!

For what it was, it was an okay weekend. After church, yesterday, we stopped by Los Molcajetes for lunch, then Sonic for drinks. After we got home, we put together a grocery list, then I went to the store. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon playing Fallout: New Vegas, which helped me to relax, both physically and mentally. Playing a video game, for me, is a lot like watching a good movie. I am able to totally lose myself in the world of the game, and pretty much forget about anything else.

Back to work today, and band practice tonight, so it’s a long day. It’s our last practice until August, though, as our Independence Day shindig is next Monday night, and we have the rest of July off.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. 
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

Psalm 71:8-9
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. 
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

Psalm 88:1-2
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.
Psalm 3:8
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

John 16:12-16
The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! 
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 
Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 
His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

Psalm 97:1-6

(From Practice Resurrection)

As Eugene Peterson was growing up, his understanding of church was that of “a badly constructed house that had been lived in by renters who didn’t keep up with repairs.” When he became a pastor, he assumed that his job “was to do major repair work, renovating it from top to bottom.” This understanding was acquired from years of listening to pastors that served at his childhood church. Unfortunately, they never lasted very long.

One of his favorite texts, that was preached by virtually every pastor he can remember, was from the Song of Solomon, chapter 6, verse 4. You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners. “This was a favorite text in that long-ago Montana culture to refer to church.” The image of the church was that she was this “beautiful Tirzah,” and that she was an awesome army with banners. His pastors filled this metaphor out with “glorious imagery.” Says Peterson, “For at least thirty or forty minutes our shabby fixer-upper church with its rotting front porch was tansformed into something almost as good as the Second Coming.”

He compares those sermons with the picture on the front of a jigsaw puzzle box. You see the pictures, you have a thousand pieces spread out before you, and know that, if you keep at it long enough, those pieces will finally fit together to make that beautiful picture. Turns out his pastors weren’t that patient. Perhaps they decided that some of the pieces were missing. Maybe they finally decided that this particular church was “too far gone in disrepair to spend any more time on it.” But it seemed like they bounced from church to church, never spending much time at any single one.

Peterson never forgot that metaphor though, and when he became a pastor, at first, he was unable to abandon this romantic vision of church. Eventually, the illusion became delusion, but it didn’t last long. He soon found out that the popular imagery had changed into a “new and fresh imagery . . . provided by American business.” There was a new generation of pastors that were reimagining the church. Tirzah had been scrapped. The replacement was an “imagery of an ecclesiastical business with a mission to market spirituality to consumers to make them happy. Simultaneously, campaigns targeted outsiders to get them to buy whatever it was that was making us happy.”

The church was no longer considered to be something that needed repair, but, rather, “a business opportunity that would cater to the consumer tastes of spiritually minded sinners both within and without the congregation.” There was no longer a need for “fantasy sermons,” based on what the church should look like. “Media manipulation” became the tool to get people “to do something they were already pretty good at doing: being consumers.” The pictures of Sodom and Gomorrah and Golgotha were removed from the walls. God was depersonalized and “repackaged as a principle or formula,” and “people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms.”

Yes, this all sounds kind of harsh. But there is truth to it, and I have observed the same truth over the decades that I have been in church, and I have been in church since I was an infant. I don’t remember much about those days. But I have to confess that I fell into the consumerism trap, right along with many others. But I embrace Eugene Peterson’s vision at this point, which is why I’m re-reading this book. And it’s not all so harsh, because he soon gets into the teaching of Paul on what we should see, and how God works in and through the Church.

Father, teach us to step away from the consumerism mentality in your Church. There should never have been any place for this, and I pray for forgiveness for all who drove her into that mentality. Show us what the true Church should look like, as we interact with one another in Trinitarian community. Teach us your was, that we may walk in your truth and in your kingdom.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Steadfast Love and Faithfulness

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther

The word of the day, from, is transmogrify. Yes, that’s really a word. I seriously thought Calvin made it up! It means “to change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.” Here’s a quote from Don Quixote, written in 1755: “How strangely can that miscreant enchanter, who is my enemy, transmogrify things to thwart me? Know, Sancho, that it is a very easy matter for necromancers to make us assume what shapes they please; and the malicious wretch who persecutes me, envying the glory I should have gained in this battle, hath doubtless metamorphosed the squadrons of the foe, into flocks of sheep …”

Today is Please Take My Children To Work Day. Hahahaha! I got a good laugh out of this one!

We had a pretty good day, yesterday. Our worship gathering went really well, I believe. I had a good time playing, even though one of these songs was brand new to me, and another one, I hadn’t played in a very long time. The pastor’s message on prayer was a good one, as well. It was all about trusting God with our prayers.

C didn’t do much of anything, other than rest, which is good. We watched some TV, then some baseball. C went to take a nap, and I fired up the PS4 and played The Evil Within. I finished Until Dawn on Saturday. Very interesting game, and I probably should play it again, someday, and see if I can get a different ending.

It’s Monday again. I have band practice tonight, the last practice of the summer. Our July 3 concert is this coming Sunday night. I will link to it tomorrow. The power just flickered, which shut off my computer, and I had to wait for it to reboot. Now I’m a bit behind, so I need to get on to the devotional.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant:
‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah.

Psalm 89:1-4

“Steadfast love” and “faithfulness” — what two better phrases/words to be the central focus of a song? This is “God’s relationship with his creation.”

“O God, within the sometimes puzzling experiences of this pilgrimage, I will gratefully sing of your steadfast love and your faithfulness which, despite my stuttering steps and recurrent doubt, steadily develop a redeeming purpose in my life. Amen.”

Father, as I go through this day, may I be constantly aware of your steadfast love and your faithfulness. May they be the driving forces of my life today.

Come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

God is Good! All the Time!

Good morning. It is Monday, again, June 29, 2015. Only one more day left in June.

Today’s word of the day, from, is piebald. This is an adjective, meaning, “having patches of black and white or of other colors; parti-colored.” I’ve seen that word before, and always wondered what it meant. Now I know.

Today is Please Take My Children to Work Day. I think there should be extra emphasis on the “Please.” PLEASE take my children to work. This day is for stay-at-home moms who never get a break.

Yesterday was a really good day, although extremely busy. It started with Christi and me driving to Southlake to get this!
Yes, we got one! It’s a very beautiful Bach 42TG with a Thayer valve. Very nice horn. The slide is amazing, the tone is very nice, and it plays nicely, too. I can’t wait to play it at our band practice tonight.

On the way home from Southlake, we stopped by the tire place, where we picked up Christi’s car. We had taken it there on Saturday, to get four new tires, but they didn’t get it ready before we had to go to church, so we told them we would just pick it up on Sunday morning. After that, it was off to the grocery store to get groceries for us and for Christi’s mom and stepdad. We had a few minutes to sit and rest after that, before taking Tessie, the dog, up to Petsmart for her regular check up and shots. She is such a joy to take up there! She actually seems to enjoy the experience. Yesterday, they had some cats there for adoption, and Tessie was calmly sniffing at their cages, and they were calmly sniffing back. When the vet came out to talk to us, she told us that Tessie doesn’t know she’s a Corgi. We replied that she probably thinks she’s a cat, as that is what she has grown up around.

After all of those errands, we finally had some time to sit and relax. We ordered food form Tony’s Pizza and Pasta, and sat down to watch TV. After a couple hours, I got up and came back to the study to play on my new trombone for a bit, working on some of the music for Friday evening’s concert. Good times!


Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!
For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.
Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!

Psalm 79:6-9

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

In today’s reading, Katie Ganshert writes of a ministry “on the outskirts of Nairobi,” called Beacon of Hope, where, every morning, “a man with a smile a mile wide would spread his hands and declare, ‘God is good!” The people with him would respond, exuberantly, with “All the time!” The man would raise his arms even higher and shout back, “All the time!” They would respond, “God is good!”

Many of us who attend church on a regular basis have experienced this same routine. And, how often do we see Internet or Facebook updates declaring “God is so good,” along with some good news that people are celebrating?

The reason I chose to include this in my blog today, is that, I have experienced what the author has experienced. She states that, after reading some of those Internet updates, it caused her to pause and reflect. “What about when bad things happen? What about when life feels disappointing or hurtful? Isn’t God good then too?”

We know the answer, don’t we? But do we declare it as exuberantly? “Perhaps it’s in the valleys when our declarations of God’s goodness mean the most.” And don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about putting on a show to the outside world. It is during those times that we need to declare the goodness of God to ourselves! Because it is those “low times when we need to cling to the truth of God’s goodness all the more fiercely.”

One of my strongest recollections of will be of my family declared this to each other during the days immediately following my father’s passing.

“Because God is good! All the time!”

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Father, you are good, all the time! This is not just a cliche that we repeat to make ourselves feel better. It is truth. You are good when miraculous plane landings save hundreds of people’s lives. But you are also good when those planes don’t land miraculously and hundreds of lives are lost. We don’t understand, necessarily, but it is not up to us to understand. We are not you. I trust you, Father, and I trust in your grace, mercy, and justice. I know that you are just, and in your justness, you are good, all the time! You make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike, and in that, are even good to those who deny your very existence. In the end, your goodness will shine brighter than the largest star in the universe. I so long for the day when I will praise your goodness in person, before your face! Maranatha, Lord Jesus!

I pray for this day. I pray for safe and smooth travel to work and home again. I pray for Christi’s day at work, that it will go smoothly for her. For my work, I pray that we will not have overly heavy days, leading up to our day off on Friday. Give Stephanie a vision of your great love for her, today. I pray for Rachel and Justin, that you will draw them to your heart, and show your love to them. For my mother, I pray that you will continue to hold her up, provide for her, and protect her. We look forward to some time with her, this weekend.

May your grace and mercy rain down on us all today.

I also lift up Vickie, a cousin of a friend, that you would be with her during her heart surgery today. I pray for steady, sure hands for the surgeon, and acute vision that can see everything that needs to be done. May her healing and recovery be quick.

You are good, all the time!

It’s not just a clever phrase that we repeat to each other, although it can become that. It should be something that we declare to ourselves and to each other, even in the darkest of times.

God is good! All the time!


Grace and peace, friends.

Setting My Mind on Things Above

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, June 25, 2013. It’s our second morning to wake up in Galveston. Last night, I took a walk down the seawall, just looking at and listening to the ocean. I am fascinated by the ocean. It’s both beautiful and terrifying all at once.

We went to the Galveston Pleasure Pier yesterday, after breakfast at Miller’s Seawall Grill. We did this:
And this:

Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel

Christi did this:
and flirted with a pirate,
Then we all got fake tattoos



Christi played with a dragon
Christi and the deragon
Christi and the dragon

Last night, during my walk, I took this picture from out in front of our condo. My camera has pretty amazing zoom. You can barely see that Ferris Wheel from our condo.
Pleasure Pier at night
Pleasure Pier at night

Today, we’re going to go have a late breakfast, then we plan to go to The Strand for some shopping and whatever. Later, this evening, perhaps around 6pm, we will head out to an area of the beach and relax on the beach for a while, play in the water and sand, and avoid getting sunburned. (This is why we plan to do it later in the evening.) There is nothing else planned for this day.

Today is “Please Take My Children to Work Day.” HAHAHA! I like that “PLEASE take my children to work!!” Yeah.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1279 BC, the man who inspired the famous Percy Shelley poem became sole ruler of ancient Egypt. He reigned for 66 years, with absolute power. We know him as Ramses II. However, he had many names, “one of which was Usermaatre, corrupted over the millennia to Ozymandias.” Ramses inherited the throne form his father, Seti I, when Seti died. He was undoubtedly a great builder, as there remain in Egypt four gigantic statues of Ramses. It is these which Shelley mocks in his poem, but they had more meaning than simple self-glorification. They believed that a soul could survive only if the body survived, hence their practice of mummification. But some also believed that the soul could survive through an image of the body. Ramses died in 1213 BC, nearly 100 years old.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Today’s birthday is George Orwell, born on this date in 1903. Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair, and was an English novelist. Most of us have had to read at least one of his novels in school, either Animal Farm or 1984. Interestingly, those appear to be the last two books he wrote. Orwell died young, in 1950, of tuberculosis.

Honorable mentions go to Carly Simon, 68, June Lockhart, 88, and Angela Kinsey, 42.

By the way, I have just learned that Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, have both passed away.


Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. Psalm 107:23-32
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! Psalm 119:10

Father, I do, indeed, give you thanks for your steadfast love, this morning. Your works are truly wonderful, faithfully exemplified by the vision of the mighty ocean outside my window this morning. I pray that you would open my eyes this morning, that “may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Let me seek you with my whole heart.

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Setting Our Minds on God.” This begins the second part of the section on the discipline of meditation. The scripture reading is Colossians 3:1-2.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

This portion of the study of this discipline will focus on setting our minds on things above, learning how to shut out the noise of daily life to hear the voice of God as he speaks to us in various ways. This type of “meditative prayer” can be very challenging, especially at first. Our minds are full of garbage that we get in during everyday life. We are too easily distracted, especially in our culture of doing everything and getting everything quickly. True, effective prayer takes time and patience. It is also difficult to find a place where we will not be distracted. I pray on the way to work every morning. Believe me, there are plenty of distractions while doing that! Yet, I still manage to get my praying done. But this type of prayer, combined with meditation, needs to be the sole activity while it is going on. We can choose words or phrases to try to keep our minds focused on God during this time. Many people, over a long stretch of time, have found the “Jesus prayer” to be helpful. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” Brennan Manning has also recommended the simple phrase, “Abba! I belong to you!” Madame Guyon writes, “Be assured that as your soul becomes more accustomed to withdrawing to inward things, this process will become easier. There are two reasons that you will find it easier each time to bring your mind under the subjection of the Lord. One is that the mind, after much practice, will form a new habit of turning deep within. The second is that you have a gracious Lord!” (Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ) It might even be helpful to keep a journal detailing insights that the Lord brings during these times. One thing is sure, though. Always, always use scripture as the final test on any “insight” received during any kind of meditation activity. Any insight that we receive that contradicts God’s word is obviously not from the Holy Spirit.

Father, I pray that you help me to keep my mind focused on things above. Help me set my mind on you, at least for a brief time each day, but ideally, as time goes on, and I grow deeper with you, for all of my day. Even through the daily drudgery of activity, I pray that I might be able to keep my mind focused on you and “things above.”

I thank you for the lessons you are showing me through the ocean this week. It is beautiful and terrifying, just as you are beautiful and terrifying. It is not safe; it is risky, just as you are not safe and risky. It is mighty and powerful, much more so than man. You are mighty and powerful, infinitely more so than man. I thank you that you have drawn me to this place, and pray that I will have many more opportunities in my lifetime to reflect on your power and majesty at the shores of the mighty oceans.

I pray for this day, as we go out to enjoy our time here. Keep us safe, and keep us mindful of the blessings that you have lavished on us in your grace and mercy. Thank you for the rest and relaxation being received this week.

Your grace is sufficient.

I find that settings like the ocean help me to focus on “things above.” What helps you?

Grace and peace, friends.