A Time To Slow Down

Today is Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Day 21,972.

Four days until Mother’s Day!

Billy Joel turns 69 today. He said, “Most people are satisfied with the junk food being sold as music.” BrainyQuote
I have to say I agree with him.

The word for today is plethora, a noun which means, “overabundance; excess.” What I did not know is that it used to mean, “a morbid condition due to excess of red corpuscles in the blood or increase in the quantity of blood.”

The Red Sox lost to the Yankees, last night, 3-2. It was definitely an intense game. Severino, the Yankees pitcher, was on fire, striking out eleven Red Sox batters. The winning run came for the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh inning, just minutes after the Sox had tied the game. Hembree was credited with the loss. This puts the Red Sox and Yankees in a tie for both first place in the AL East, and the best MLB record. The series continues tonight with Porcello on the mound for Boston and Tanaka for the Yankees. The Red Sox season record is now 25-10, as they became the last team to lose ten games.

The Rangers lost to the Tigers, 7-4, making their record 14-24. They remain in last place, nine games behind the Astros.

The Baltimore Orioles have taken over the worst in the MLB spot. The O’s, Reds, and White Sox have yet to win ten games.

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

If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, 
if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, 
then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, 
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. 
I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. 
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. 
His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. 
Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah.

Psalm 89:30-37

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

In today’s Daily Guideposts reading, Patty Kirk reminds us that we need to slow down and listen. In her reference, it is about jogging and running and noticing the sounds around her. She then takes that and relates it to our lives and how we listen to God.

In our world, things are going increasingly faster. It often seems to me that there is no way this world could get more fast-paced. I have come to believe that this is a bad thing. We go so fast that we cannot possible be listening or looking for God.

This underscores the importance of at least two of the spiritual disciplines: silence and solitude. In order to get away and practice solitude, one must not only slow down, one must STOP! And in order to truly listen, one must practice silence.

Even our churches are afraid of silence, anymore. Time and time again, I have had pastors ask me to play some music during the prayer. Why?? Why are we so afraid of silence?? I think the answer lies in the above premise that we are moving too fast. Television has decreased the attention span of all of us to somewhere around fifteen seconds. That’s the length of the average TV commercial now. We are inundated with sound bites and tweets, which can only consist of 120 characters. You can’t say very much in that amount of space.

If we allow silence to prevail, people will lose interest, so we insist that some music be playing. The problem with that is, if it is music that has well-known lyrics, people will be thinking about the lyrics instead of what is being said and prayed.

The point is, we need to re-introduce ourselves to these disciplines. Solitude: get alone, get away. Just sit. Silence: don’t say anything for a period of time. Try to listen. It’s okay to pray, but try not to do it out loud. And try to spend more time listening.

There is a time for everything, including a time to slow down.

Father, help me to follow my own advice and find a time and place to practice solitude and silence. I desperately need more of these in my life. I need to spend more time listening to you and less time talking. I pray that my lips would only be loosened in order to speak encouragement and edification.
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.

Prayer is Hard Work

Good morning. It is Monday, September 7, 2015. Labor Day holiday in the U.S.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is ampersand. This noun is a word designating the symbol “&.” The actual definition is, “a character & that is used for the word and.” It looks like they didn’t finish the sentence. 😀

Today is Buy A Book Day. Now here is a case of getting holidays backwards! Yesterday was Read A Book Day, but today is Buy A Book Day. Shouldn’t we buy the book first? Unless, of course, you check it out at the library . . . And, if you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you already have a veritable plethora of books, so it is not necessary to buy another one in order to read one.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time going on about yesterday’s accomplishments, as I don’t feel it proper to boast in things we’ve done. We will just leave it at saying that yesterday felt like a very good day. We were very busy for most of the day, but the “busyness” was for good purposes, and we feel like we did some good things. Hopefully, we did, at least.

Today, we have nothing planned. Christi is cooking a roast in the crock-pot, and she has already put the algaecide in the pool to try to clear up our green water. We took a bottle of water to Leslie’s Pool Supply yesterday, and they told us that, plus some shock, was what we needed to fix this problem. So, we shall see if this works. We also just discussed the possibility of going bowling today. So we might do that.

I think my “go-to” app for history is missing a few things today. So I’m heading to History.com’s This Day In History page.

It was on this date in 1813 that the U.S. nicknamed Uncle Sam. In 1896, an electric car, built by the Riker Electric Motor Company, won the first auto race in the U.S. Second place was also an electric car. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty that would give control of the Panama Canal back to Panama in the year 2000. In 1953, Maureen Connolly won the U.S. Open, becoming the first woman to win the Grand Slam of tennis. And on this date in 1785, William Fox headed up a meeting, at Paul’s Head Tavern in London, that would result in the formation of the first Sunday School Society for Britain. Its purposes were as follows: “to prevent vice; to encourage industry and virtue; to dispel darkness and ignorance; to diffuse the light of knowledge; to bring men cheerfully to submit to their stations; to obey the laws of God and their country; to make that useful part of the community, the country poor, happy; to lead them in the pleasant paths of religion here, and to endeavor to prepare them for a glorious eternity.”

Today’s birthdays include Queen Elizabeth I of England, Grandma Moses (American painter), David Packard (American businessman, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard), Arthur Ferrante (American pianist, Ferrante and Teicher), Peter Lawford (American actor), Buddy Holly (American musician), Gloria Gaynor (American singer), Julie Kavner (American actress, voice of Marge Simpson), Chrissie Hynde (American musician, The Pretenders), Susan Blakely (American actress), Corbin Bernsen (American actor), and Evan Rachel Wood (American actress).

Arthur Ferrante was a concert pianist who teamed up with Lou Teicher as part of a magnificent piano duo. Ferrante was born on this date in 1921 and passed away in 2009, at the age of 88. Here are Ferrante and Teicher performing their hit, “Exodus.”

John Greenleaf Whittier, J.P. Morgan, Jr., Warren Zevon, Bud Fisher, Kirsten Flagstad, Keith Moon, and Joe Cronin are among notable deaths on this date.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 102:16-24.

For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;
he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days.
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!”

Calvin hits on one of the great mysteries of prayer in his commentary on this passage. “It is worthy of notice, that the deliverance of the chosen tribes is ascribed to the prayers of the faithful. God’s mercy was indeed the sole cause which led him to deliver his Church, according as he had graciously promised this blessing to her; but to stir up true believers to greater earnestness in prayer, he promises that what he has purposed to do of his own good pleasure, he will grant in answer to their requests. Nor is there any inconsistency between these two truths, that God preserves the Church in the exercise of his free mercy, and that he preserves her in answer to the prayers of his people; for as their prayers are connected with the free promises, the effect of the former depends entirely upon upon the latter.” (p 141)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

I’m moving on to chapter nine in the book, titled “The Touchstones of Prayer.” The purpose of the current section is moving “from theory toward practice by listening to the main insights on prayer given to us by some of the great teachers in the history of the church.” Of course, these principles intersect each other, as Calvin wrote from a more theological perspective, Luther from a more practical point of view, while Augustine, not surprisingly, focused more on “the motives of the heart.” In this chapter, Timothy Keller will attempt to “distill what we have learned from our master teachers,” calling the results “touchstones.” He defines a touchstone as “a small rock containing silica that was rubbed against a piece of gold or silver to test its degree of purity or genuineness.” It is important to note that this is “not a set of rules that merit or trigger God’s response in some magical or mechanical way.” There are too many Christians who do not understand that our Father cannot be manipulated in this way.

The first group of touchstones is headed “What Prayer Is.” The first touchstone is “Work–Prayer Is a Duty and a Discipline.” Keller begins by saying, “Prayer should be done regularly, persistently, resolutely, and tenaciously at least daily, whether we feel like it or not.” Our prayers should go on, even if we don’t feel as if we are getting anything out of it.

Consider two roommates, one of which never speaks to the other. When questioned, the reason is given that one just doesn’t get much out of talking to the other. Regardless, it is simply rude not to speak to someone. “Of course rudeness is far too weak a word to use for a failure to directly address your Maker, Sustainer, and Redeemer, to whom you owe your every breath.”

We must be persevering in prayer. It is striving, which means that we must stick with it, “through the ups and downs of feelings.” Do not fail to pray because you don’t feel like you are “in the spirit.” Rather, pray until you do feel it. Consider, also, those who spend hours gazing at great works of art, constantly finding new things to appreciate in them. “How much more should we give this kind of patient attention to prayer?” Is there a painting that is even minutely as great as our God?

“Prayer is always hard work, and often an agony.” There are times when we must wrestle in prayer. We all know, I’m sure, those instances when it is time for our prayer session, and everything around us seems to conspire to prevent it. Sometimes we must wrestle in order to concentrate. “No Christian outgrows the need to struggle and persevere in prayer.”

Father, keep me involved in this hard work of prayer. Yes, I have experienced mornings where it was almost impossible to concentrate or focus enough to succeed in prayer. Sometimes, I have to abandon my list of needs and simply focus on you and a verse that spoke to me that morning. Other times, I simply fail. I pray for more consistency in this work of prayer. Please continue to teach me about it, theologically, practically, and existentially.

I pray for the day ahead of us. May we have a fun day of relaxation and play, if we choose to do so. Give us good rest for the remainder of the week ahead, and prepare us to display your kingdom to those around us as we work.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Prayer is hard work. We must struggle and strive through it, even when we do not feel like it.

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.
Romans 15:30

Grace and peace, friends.