God and Love are Inseparable

Today is Sunday, the sixth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,369

Later this morning, I plan to attend the 11:00 service at Living Word Lutheran Church with my friend, former pastor, and fellow blogger, Jacob Seay. I’m looking forward to the new experience.

Yesterday was a good day, although it seemed rather long. I remember looking at the clock at around 2:30, thinking “We still have three and a half hours!” But, as usual, things picked up during the last hour. C brought Mama up to the library just before my lunch break, so I was able to spend a little time introducing her to my friends/coworkers that were there, yesterday. Since it was Saturday, and there were no extra programs going on, we had a smaller staff, yesterday.

After work, I cooked our standard dinner for Saturday, which is burgers and fries. C only had fries, and Mama had some leftover food from lunch at Boston Market, so only S and I had burgers.

Today being Sunday, we will, of course, have Applebee’s for lunch, I’m sure. I may invite Jacob to have lunch with us. C may or may not go to the service with me. At this point she is still undecided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan:
Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations;
and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us,
let each one find you mighty to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen."
(Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the First Sunday in Lent)
By wisdom a house is built, 
and through understanding it is established; 
through knowledge its rooms are filled 
with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for an opportunity to attend a worship service outside my "comfort zone," this morning
2. for the way love is intricately associated with God
3. for the promise of God's love and His help for me to love others
4. for the promise that, if I seek Him, I will find Him
5. for the zeal of God to accomplish His purposes

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV)

I just ran across this in my daily reading plan, and thought it worth contemplating. Everyone would do well to consider this instruction.

“The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God. . . . The basic and biblical Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related. If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated.”

Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love.
(2 John 1:6 MSG)

Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
(1 John 4:15-16 MSG)

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
(1 John 2:15-17 MSG)

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

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)

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)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”
(Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live;”
(Amos 5:4 ESV)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “zeal.” This word, especially in today’s society, tends to have a negative connotation. However, the definition of the word is strictly positive. “Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.” Now, whether one’s cause or objective is positive or negative can certainly be debated.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:7 ESV)

Some synonyms we might hear for “zeal” are passion, intensity, hustle, and determination. These have a tendency to be intimidating. The truth is, though, that God does not tire or grow weary. His throne will be established “from this time forth and forevermore,” and it is “zeal” that will accomplish this. “God’s zeal flows from His heart – inviting me along for the ride. Inviting me to trust Him.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I want to add that, in my opinion, there is no cause worthy of my own zeal, other than the cause of Christ. This includes many of the “causes” that well-meaning Christian people assign the majority of their zeal toward. I may mildly get behind a “cause” that I agree with, but as far as expending major energy in that direction, the majority of my zeal goes to Christ and His kingdom.

Father, I pray for Your zeal for Christ to overtake me and consume me. I want no part of any human cause or objective, but only Yours. I also pray for Your zeal to accomplish great things in me, to accomplish whatever You desire in my life.

The words above, about love, always convict me. I have long been aware of the importance of love, and know that any true thoughts about the subject must contain thoughts about You. As Peterson stated, we cannot love truly without dealing with You, and we cannot deal truly with You without loving. Show us how to love, Father, how to truly love, selflessly, setting aside our own pride and prejudices, setting aside our selfishness and arrogance. Teach us to love.

I also pray for help in constantly seeking You. You have given us plenty of instruction and admonition to seek You while You may be found. You have let us know that there will come a day when You will not be found by those who refuse to seek You now. I cannot pretend to understand how things are going to play out at the end of days. I believe that You will have enemies who will fight against You. And I do believe that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. But I don’t know how the ending “judgment” will look, and strongly believe that anyone who claims such knowledge is delusional. Just give me faith in seeking You, Father, and help me lead others to You through Christ.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Spirituality On the Fly

Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of February, 2022, in the sixth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,348 (the number of days since I was born)

Today’s header photo is by Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his other photos at the link provided.

It’s a little humorous. I’m sitting here trying to decide what to type. S and I had a good appointment at the eye doctor, yesterday. Her eyes had changed a bit, one more than the other, so we are getting new glasses for her. Mine, on the other hand, had changed hardly at all. In fact, one eye was pretty much exactly the same. So I’m not getting new glasses. However, I have possession of my prescription in case I need new glasses within the next year. S’s will be ready within the standard seven to ten business days.

It’s a big weekend for some. The Super Bowl is today, between two teams that I would consider “underdogs.” If it weren’t for the commercials, I’m guessing that not nearly as many people would watch the game. Some folks, though, just as in baseball, love the sport so much that they will watch a football game, regardless of who is playing. I’m not even that way with baseball. I love a couple of teams, and I do love the sport, but if neither one of my teams is playing, I’m simply not that interested. As for football, it would be impossible for me to care any less than I do. I did indicate, yesterday, who I hope wins, though, so I supposed I could possibly care slightly less.

And tomorrow is the big day pushed by greeting card and candy makers, world wide. It is Valentine’s Day, the day when a bloody massacre is celebrated by being romantic.

Wait, what?

Never mind. As I stated yesterday, C and I hardly even acknowledge that the day exists.

Speaking of C, I think she might be feeling better. She has been coughing less, and has slept pretty well the last couple nights. So well that I think she is still in bed at 10:00.

Speaking of 10:00 AM, we are not having our worship gathering, this morning. Good thing, I guess, since I haven’t even started the “spiritual” portion of the blog. The host’s daughter is at a Disciple Now event at a church close to them, and they are going to attend the service at that church, along with her. I think they were inviting any of us to tag along, or giving the option to Zoom. But since C wasn’t feeling well, I said we would just stay at home, this morning.

That’s enough personal rambling, I think. I’ll be talking to Mama later today, as I typically call her on Sunday afternoons. I’m sure there will be discussion on when she might be coming back over here, and, of course, we are ready whenever she is. We have also ordered a new bed, one just like the ones we got for S and for Mama’s room, except it is a “split King” bed. Split so that C and I can adjust the settings independently of one another. Ours should arrive by this coming Friday, and won’t be, hopefully, interrupted by a winter storm.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Christ, on our behalf,
before the presence of God,
appeared, once for all.
(Inspired by Hebrews 9:23-28)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, 
and do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge him, 
and he will make straight your paths. 
Be not wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 
It will be healing to your flesh 
and refreshment to your bones. 
(Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am not wise in my own eyes, but I seek the wisdom of the Lord
2. that I am learning to not lean on my own understanding (which, admittedly, is sometimes quite lacking)
3. for the easy yoke and light burden of following Jesus
4. that God remembers that we are dust
5. that the Holy Spirit works in real time

The prayer word for today is “almost.” I find that interesting. “Almost” is not a word that can have many meanings. It is pretty single-minded. It means the same thing as “nearly.”

This is the day that the LORD has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalms 118:24 ESV)

Admittedly, this verse is speaking about the verses immediately preceding it.

The stone that the builders rejected 
has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD's doing;
 it is marvelous in our eyes. 
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

It is most definitely a good thing to rejoice in that day, the day that Jesus became the “cornerstone.”

But is it wrong to consider every day that I live as “the day that the Lord has made?” And is it wrong to “rejoice and be glad in it?”

I think not.

How does this go along with the word “almost?” In the context of the reading for the day, written by someone identified only as “Roberta” (I confess that, in my mind, this is a flaw in the concept of the book, because it makes me doubt the authenticity of the stories contained, therein), it means that we need to be sure and make time to do whatever we feel the Spirit leading us to do, and not be “almost followers” of Christ.

I’ve been there. There are plenty of times when I have “almost” followed what Jesus was, I believe, telling me to do. And when that happens, “almost” is synonymous with “not.” In other words, “almost” doing something is the same thing as “not” doing it. Period.

We’ve heard it said, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” “I almost helped that hungry, homeless, jobless person.” No. I didn’t help. There is really no such thing as “almost.”

There is no better illustration than sports for this concept. Almost winning is losing. I once read somewhere, “Second place is first loser.” Now, of course, this is balanced out by phrases such as, “The best thing in baseball is winning the World Series. The second-best thing in baseball is losing the World Series.” So “losing” is not always the worst thing that can happen. But it’s still “losing.” “Almost winning” is “losing.”

So, “almost following” is “not following.”

I think I explained this for way too long.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

It does occur to me that the concept above could be taken to such extremes that life would be meaningless (or at least futile). The above verse is at the heading of today’s Daily Guideposts reading. Contained in the reading is the content of a church’s revised mission statement.

Connecting All to Christ. Would others know that I follow Jesus if they spent time with me today? Did I thank God today? Did I extend Christ’s kindness today?

To Become Healthy in God. Did I actively seek ways to grow spiritually today? Did I obey the teachings of Jesus today? Did I open my life to be changed by Christ today?

And Courageous in Love. Did I see every person as a child of God today? Did I make someone’s life better today? Was Christ my priority as I used my time, talents, and treasures today?”

I’m not going to bother pointing out the grammatical inconsistencies with those three points. I would have, though, had I been on their “committee.”

While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those questions, trying to live one’s life by those three components and their sub-questions would surely lead to a life of legalistic frustration. I do not believe this is what God wants from us. I mean, Jesus told us to come to Him and find rest! He said His burden is light and His yoke is easy! When well-meaning people work so hard to come up with “mission statements” like that above, they create heavy and hard burdens for people.

Yes, I need to intentionally grow, spiritually. I need to be thankful every day (I, personally, do that on a daily basis in this blog, and I post those points of gratitude on social media, as well . . . not to show people how “spiritual” I am, or how holy I am, but, hopefully, to inspire them to be grateful and positive about life, as well). I need to always try to see people as God’s children and extend kindness.

But there are going to be days, like yesterday, when I fail to do that. I had an encounter with a grocery delivery person yesterday that did not go well. It ended okay, but my reaction was probably not great. I’m not going into details, but it wasn’t really the delivery person’s fault.

But here’s the thing. We can’t go through life beating ourselves up over things like that. We are going to mess up. There are going to be days when we “almost” win; when we “almost” follow Christ (meaning we simply just fall short). And Jesus knows this. He will not be surprised (and, more than likely, not disappointed, either, considering that He already knows all of this, right?).

For he knows our frame; 
he remembers that we are dust. 
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in that little verse.

So have I just contradicted myself, today? I don’t think so. I think what has happened here (and I quite enjoy when it does), is that I have worked through something, IRL (in real life), or in real time. I think I learn more when this happens. I’m not just regurgitating things that I have learned or believed for most of my life. Rather, I am thinking through some concepts “on the fly,” as it were. And I believe that the Holy Spirit works in this process.

Father, I thank You and praise You, first of all, that You remember that we are dust. You, above all, are aware that we are imperfect creatures. Not because You created us that way, but because, at some point in the existence of humanity, we chose to take that step of disobedience that made us so. But the point is that You are aware of this. Therefore, You are not surprised when we “almost” succeed at following You and Your commands.

I pray that You help me to not be an “almost follower.” But I also pray that concepts like those written above do not become legalistic measures that lead us down a path of futility and anxiety. Help us to embrace the easy yoke and light burden that Jesus spoke of when He invited us to follow Him. We have made ourselves weary; we have burdened ourselves with heavy loads. Jesus is trying to lighten that for us, and we seem to mess it up, constantly, by trying to create more rules and more burdens and heavier loads to “follow.” We seem to have learned nothing from the Pharisees, it turns out.

Thank You for Your compassion and understanding. I thank You for Your wisdom, too, and the admonishment/encouragement to not lean on my own understanding, but to seek Your wisdom and trust in You with all my heart, and to love You with my whole being. Life would be so much easier if we could simply succeed in those “little” things.

In these tumultuous times, Lord, I pray for “peace, love, and understanding.” I pray that Your people could step back from opinions that might be, in large part, irrelevant, and love, not only one another, but our neighbors, as well, unconditionally, the way that You love us. We need a love revolution, Father.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

“Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Today is Saturday, the twenty-second of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,326

Tomorrow, we finally get to see Hamilton! Our show is a matinee show, beginning at 1:30 PM. We will likely head straight over to Bass Hall from our church gathering. Since I have seen the original cast in the movie presentation that is on Disney+, it will be interesting to see someone else’s interpretation of the different historical figures in this story. Of course, I have no idea who is in the cast, nor would I likely recognize any of their names.

Today is another full day at the library, in the circulation department. Several hours of that time will be spent at the front desk, but will be broken up by an hour or two doing different tasks, such as clearing the external and internal book drops and processing new material that is coming in. Processing is probably my favorite task when I’m working circ, because I get to see what new books are coming into the library.

I don’t want to run out of time, like I did, yesterday, so I’m getting right to the matter at hand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
 I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; 
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I can walk without pain (most of the time)
2. that I have all of my senses (even though sometimes I act as though I have no sense at all)
3. that I have trusted in the Lord from birth (Psalm 22:9-10)
4. that I know that I'm never too old to stop learning or gaining wisdom, and that You are still teaching me
5. that You have given us ample resources, along with the willingness to share them; please show us where we can share them

In Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson’s chapter on Proverbs is called “The Art of Living Skillfully.” He points out that many people mistakenly believe that the majority of the Bible has to do with “getting people into heaven.” Having grown up Southern Baptist, I can say that this is not inaccurate. There are a lot of folks out there whose main thrust in life is getting to heaven when they die, and taking as many people with them as they can, willingly or not.

I confess that that statement was typed with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

But there is a measure of truth to it. In fact, there are a lot of people who care nothing whatsoever about what kind of life they lead, once they say “that prayer” that they believe automatically gets them into heaven. “Fire insurance,” as it were.

We would do well to remember that line in Jesus’s model prayer. You know the one . . . it’s the title of today’s blog. “On earth as it is in heaven.” The Scriptures are concerned with “living on this earth – living well, living in robust sanity.” This might also be called “wisdom.” “Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such.” (italics mine)

Just because one has a college degree does not guarantee that one has wisdom.

The ways of right-living people glow with light; 
the longer they live, the brighter they shine.
 But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker— 
travelers can't see a thing;
 they fall flat on their faces.
(Proverbs 4:18-19 MSG)

I’m going to quote a more lengthy passage, here, because, well, I certainly can’t say it better than Eugene did.

“Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.”

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; 
don't try to figure out everything on your own. 
Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; 
he's the one who will keep you on track. 
Don't assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! 
Your body will glow with health, 
your very bones will vibrate with life! 
Honor GOD with everything you own; 
give him the first and the best. 
Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. 
But don't, dear friend, resent GOD's discipline; 
don't sulk under his loving correction.
 It's the child he loves that GOD corrects; 
a father's delight is behind all this. 
(Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG)

And here may be the most important statement in this entire book.

“In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.”

Proverbs is more concerned with the here and now than any other book of the Bible. Some of them are quite humorous; others are downright frightening. But they all come together to give us that thing called “wisdom.”

And honestly, going back and re-reading that paragraph about what constitutes wisdom, I’m not so sure that I have very much. But I also fully acknowledge that I’m not through gaining it, either. One thing I know . . . you are never through learning and never through gaining wisdom, no matter how old you are.

"I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; 
Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street. 
The Fear-of-GOD means hating Evil, 
whose ways I hate with a passion— 
pride and arrogance and crooked talk. 
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; 
I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out."
(Proverbs 8:12-14 MSG)

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
(Luke 3:11 ESV)

"And now, O sons, listen to me: 
blessed are those who keep my ways. 
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 
Blessed is the one who listens to me, 
watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 
For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, 
but he who fails to find me injures himself; 
all who hate me love death." 
(Proverbs 8:32-36 ESV)
"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, 
or thirsty and give you drink? 
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, 
or naked and clothe you? 
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 
And the King will answer them, 
'Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, 
you did it to me.'"
(Matthew 25:37-40 ESV)

I’m sensing a firm direction in prayer today.

Today’s prayer word is “twist.” The referenced verse is Luke 1:30 from The Message.

God has a surprise for you.
(Luke 1:30 MSG)

Yes, the context has this spoken to Mary, by the angel, Gabriel. But let’s step back a bit. While we don’t ever want to attempt to build “theology” by taking Scripture out of context, I think there are times when we can take such a line in the Bible and apply it to ourselves.

Remember Isaiah 43? That passage popped up a number of times about three weeks ago.

"Forget about what's happened; 
don't keep going over old history. 
Be alert, be present. 
I'm about to do something brand-new. 
It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! 
I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)

God is constantly in the business of doing “new things.” He is full of surprises, and anyone who has truly followed Him for any length of time can attest to that. I know I have been surprised by God countless times in my almost sixty-four years on this planet.

That is not necessarily, however, the full meaning of this word, “twist.” It might mean that we have to intentionally “twist” to look at something. We might have to bend over and get uncomfortable for a moment to see something that God is doing. In other words, it’s not always going to be right there in front of us, in plain sight.

I might have to (GASP!!) inconvenience myself!

Father, as I walk through this day (and every day, for that matter), remind me that I have to look around, that I have to keep my spiritual eyes (and my physical eyes, too) open, watching to see what You might be doing around me. Help me to see what You are doing and enter into that, whenever applicable. You have gifted me with abilities, talents, resources. These are not to be hoarded. I have too many coats. Show me someone who needs one. We have plenty of food. Show me someone who needs some. We have plenty of money. Show me someone who needs help. I’m going to seriously begin to pray for You to point these things out, and then ask You to make sure that, when You do, I’m paying attention. And make me willing to go out of my way, sometimes, to help someone. And, above all else, give me wisdom to live on this earth. Make me fully aware that You are the most important subject for me to consider, and that my most important job is to love You. However, when I am doing that right . . . if I am loving You, then I will be loving others, too.

Please help us all be aware that the most important thing in life is not necessarily getting into heaven when we die. Help us to live in Your Kingdom, on earth as in heaven. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

Whoever Is Wise, Let Him Attend to These Things

Today is Sunday, June 17, 2018. Day 22,011. Father’s Day.

17 days until July 4!

150 days until Fallout 76!

The word for today is paragon, “a model or pattern of excellence or of a particular excellence.” My father was a paragon of what it means to be a father.

As noted, today is Father’s Day. For some, that is a happy, fun day. For others, it is a sad or sombre day, as their fathers have “moved on,” or, perhaps, they are fathers whose children have passed on before them. For even others, the day brings uncertain feelings, as they may be estranged from their fathers for one reason or another. Even though my own father passed from this life three years ago, I still have joy when I think about him, because our relationship was good. I’m not going to prattle on about it. I said what I wanted to say in the example sentence for the word of the day.

The Red Sox lost a close one to the Mariners, last night, 1-0. Their record is now 48-24, and they are one game behind the Yankees. They will conclude this series this afternoon.

The Rangers broke their seven game losing streak by beating the Rockies 5-2. Their record is 28-44, and they remain 19 games out in the AL West. They will also conclude their series this afternoon.

We had a great day, yesterday! R & J came over, and we went, as promised, to Pappadeaux’s for lunch. It was my first time at Pappadeaux’s, and let me tell you, I was absolutely not disappointed! We had baked crab meat mac and cheese, and shrimp and crawfish “fondeaux” for appetizers. Both were great, but that fondeaux . . . simply amazing. I had Pasta Mardi Gras for my entree, which was linguine with crawfish, shrimp and Andouille sausage. I brought half of it home. C had some catfish, and J had a combination of catfish and crawfish. Both of theirs were served over “dirty rice.” R had lobster bisque and salad. S had the baked crab mac and cheese, and a crab cake.

After we got home, we watched Thor: Ragnarok on Netflix, as C and I had not seen the movie. R wanted to watch it with us. It was delightful! I had no idea it would be so funny and silly. Cate Blanchett was spectacular as Hela the Goddess of Death. Good times!

This morning, as usual, we are getting ready for our worship gathering. We worship with The Exchange Church, which meets at the Northpark YMCA, at 9100 N. Beach Street, in Fort Worth. Our worship gathering begins at 10:15. For the next few weeks, I will not be playing as we are “simplifying” things a bit. The Pastor is calling the series “A Sabbath of Sundays.” Or something like that. The music will be all acoustic and unamplified during this series, and set up will be much more simple.

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

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, 
a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. 
He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 
And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; 
they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. 
By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. 
When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, 
he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; 
but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. 
The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth. 
Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 107:33-43

We can see the evil inhabitants of the land getting rivers and springs turned into desert and “thirsty ground.” Then we see the “hungry” getting desert and parched lands turned into pools and springs of water. Note, though, that it is not “righteousness” that causes the Lord to do this, but hunger. The Lord cares deeply for the poor and the widows and the orphans. The Lord cares deeply for those we might call “refugees.” And when “they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes.” We had best pay close attention to how we treat people. All people; not just people from our own country, state, or city.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

Father, I am grateful today; Grateful for many things. I am grateful that I had a father who knows you, and who imparted his love for you to me as I grew up. I am grateful that I still have a mother who continues to love and serve you however she can. I am grateful that you called me into your kingdom. I am grateful that you have lavished your blessing upon me and my family. Now, let us turn that blessing around into praise. Let us see the hungry, poor, and needy and be generous with those blessings. Let us not be guilty of oppression, evil, and sorrow toward the refugee and the widow and the orphan. Let us love others as you have loved us. And may you give us wisdom, that we can understand “the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Hold On Loosely

Today is Thursday, June 14, 2018. Day 22,008.

Three more days until Father’s Day!

153 days until Fallout 76.

The word for today is defenstration, “a throwing of a person or thing out of a window.”

We went to the Y again, last night, and I worked out on the recumbent bike again. It went well, but the fronts of my thighs are quite sore. We’re going to take a break tonight. Perhaps we will go back tomorrow night.

The Red Sox completed a sweep of the Orioles, yesterday afternoon, beating them 5-1. The Yankees lost to the Nationals, so I think the Sox are ahead by a game. But the Yankees have a higher percentage, by .002. This is confusing. Anyway, the Sox are 47-22, and well on their way to become the first in the MLB to win fifty games. The Orioles still have yet to win twenty. The Sox begin a series in Seattle tonight. Late games. Ugh. I do have two Facebook friends who will be attending some of those games.

The Rangers lost the second of two games with the Dodgers, 3-2 in extra innings. Their record is now 27-43 and they are 18 games behind Seattle. They have tonight off.

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

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 
for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 
Psa 107:15  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 
Psa 107:16  For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Psalm 107:10-16

I’m breaking this Psalm down into shorter passages because of the nature of the text. In today’s passage, a group is in “darkness and in the shadow of death,” but it is because of their own rebellion. Yet, when “they cried to the LORD in their trouble,” he “delivered them from their distress.” Even when the trouble I am in is of my own making, if I cry out to God, he will be faithful to deliver me! Indeed, may we give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love, “for he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron!”

A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
Proverbs 29:7

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
Ephesians 4:28

In this single verse, Paul gives us the reason why we work. It’s not so we can save up for retirement. In truth, Scripture knows nothing of the modern man’s concept of retirement. It’s not so we can provide for our children when we’re gone. Hopefully, by the time we’re gone, our children have figured things out. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and that’s a whole different conversation.

Why do we work? So that we may “have something to share with anyone in need.” The western world, especially the USA, has severely lost this concept. Even the “Christians” in the USA are, for the most part, greedy and stingy. The very idea of sharing their hard-earned cash with someone in need makes them bristle up, even get angry. Personally, I think this makes Jesus sad. We need to be more generous with what we have. We need to consider “the rights of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7). “Get a job” is not always the immediate answer. As one who has been unemployed, I know that is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to accomplish.

Yes, we are supposed to work. But I think we have lost track of the reason. Do honest work, but do it with the goal of having something to share with anyone in need. Oh, and to intensify this truth a little bit, here are some of Jesus’s words: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

“Yeah, but . . .”

No. There are no “buts.”

Father, I am grateful for my job, and for C’s job. You have blessed us with much. Give us a heart to be more generous with what we have. You have, in recent weeks, begun to drive that desire within us, and I am also grateful for that. I pray for your children all over the world, and especially in our greedy, selfish nation, that you would cause us all to heed the words of Paul and Jesus when it comes to sharing with others. Make us less stingy; open our fists so that we don’t hold on to our stuff, money, and time so tightly.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31

Grace and peace, friends.

Good Things

Today is Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Day 22,007.

Four days until Father’s Day!

154 days until Fallout 76 releases.

And, for the record, if the Lord says so, too, in four months, we will be enjoying the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” ~ Eric Hoffer, 1902-1983, BrainyQuote

The word for today is antigodlin, “lopsided or at an angle; out of alignment.” I bet you thought it had something to do with being an atheist.

We went back to the Y, last night! I spent thirty minutes riding the recumbent bike, and the only pain I had was in my lower legs, afterward, just from the muscle usage. The back didn’t bother me, at least not any more than it has been, lately. I believe we will try to go back tonight.

The Red Sox beat the the Orioles by the score of 6-4, to improve their record to 46-22. Unfortunately, the Yankees also beat the Nationals, so they remain in a virtual tie in the AL East. The Yankees remain the only team that has not yet lost 20 games! And the Orioles remain the only team that has not yet won 20 games! I can’t help but wonder if Buck’s days are numbered.

The Rangers lost badly to the Dodgers, 12-5. Their record is 27-42, and they are 17 games behind the Mariners.

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

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble 
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. 
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; 
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. 
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 107:1-9

I’m a fan of this Psalm, as it goes through a number of groups who dry out to God and are delivered. But it begins with a great praise, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Yes, he is good. Even when things aren’t going the way I think they should, the Lord is good! And verse 9 is beautiful and true. He does, indeed, satisfy the longing soul, filling the hungry soul with “good things.”

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Proverbs 26:1

Father, I praise you for your goodness; that which satisfies our longing souls and fills our hungry souls with good things. Satisfy my soul today. Rather, perhaps, I should pray, cause my soul to be satisfied with what you have provided. Let me be aware of that steadfast love today, and be grateful for it all day long! Show me your presence today; open my eyes that I might see your goodness all around me!
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Grace and peace, friends.

The Cry of the Poor

Today is Friday (finally!), June 8, 2018. Day 22,002.

Nine days until Father’s Day!

“There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” ~ Will Rogers, 1879-1935, The Quotations Page

The word for today is whelm, a verb which means, “to turn (something, such as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect.”

The Red Sox and Rangers both lost, last night. The Sox to the Tigers, 7-2, and the Rangers to the Astros, 5-2.

Time is getting away from me, this morning, so I need to move on.

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

Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold, and there was none among his tribes who stumbled. 
Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. 
He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night. 
They asked, and he brought quail, and gave them bread from heaven in abundance. 
He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. 
For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 
So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 
And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 
that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 105:37-45

“Egypt was glad when they departed.” Indeed, at least the people were. The Pharaoh, as we know, changed his mind. But I’m sure those people were truly glad to get those Israelites out of there. So glad that Israel was able to plunder Egypt on their way out.

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:13

Father, you have been gracious and generous to us, blessing us beyond what we ever imagined. We certainly still have needs, but you have met all of our needs through your provision in our lives. Help us to remain faithful and to have faith in your future grace to meet any needs that will arise. And in that faith, help us also to be attentive to the “cry of the poor” around us. Show us how we can help and who we can help.
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.

Slow To Anger

Today is Wednesday, June 6, 2018. Day 22,000! I am 22,000 days old today!

Eleven days until Father’s Day!

“In modern America, anyone who attempts to write satirically about the events of the day finds it difficult to concoct a situation so bizarre that it may not actually come to pass while the article is still on the presses.” ~ Calvin Trillin, The Quotations Page

The word for today is superluminal, an adjective which means, “appearing to travel faster than the speed of light.” Is that even possible??

I had the best night of sleep, last night, since I injured my back. It’s still not completely well, though, as walking to the kitchen and standing to wait for coffee to make was a little painful, still. But I believe it’s getting better every day. It would, no doubt, be very helpful if I stayed home from work and just sat all day. Sadly, that is not happening.

The Red Sox beat the Tigers 6-0, last night, improving their record to an MLB best 42-19. They also remain one game up on the Yankees in the AL East.

The Rangers came back from behind to beat Oakland 7-4. Their record is 26-37, and they are 13.5 out in the AL West, which is now topped by, of all teams, the Seattle Mariners!!

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

When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, 
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 
His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; 
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. 
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; 
he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, 
to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom. 
Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. 
And the LORD made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes. 
He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.

Psalm 105:16-25

It is at this point that we realize (some may have already) that this is a “mini-history” of Israel. In this passage, we see how God was working to prepare the land for what was to come. While Joseph went through some harrowing days, God was preparing him, Egypt, and Israel for what was to come.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11

Father, I pray for good sense. I confess that I still find myself getting angry too quickly over trivial things. Give me good sense and make me slow to anger. Help me have the patience and wisdom to overlook offenses.
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.

He Was There All the Time

Today is Saturday, June 2, 2018. Day 21,996.

It’s the birthday of Jerry Mathers (Leave It To Beaver), who said, “I had a very special family life. My mother and father made sure when we were home, we were part of the family, not a TV star. And the other thing: my father was fully employed while I was doing the series.” (BrainyQuote)

The word for today is mansplain, a verb which means, “(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner.”

We have our church picnic this afternoon at 1:00. For now, the forecast high is in a range from 100 to 103. There is a heat advisory in effect. No kidding. We will be bringing a bunch of sodas and water. And maybe a bucket of fried chicken. Because how can you have a church picnic without fried chicken?

Well, another not so good night in baseball. The Red Sox lost another one to the Astros, 7-3, this time. Chris Sale took another loss in this one. Their record is 39-19, and, while they have won more games than anyone else, they are a half game behind the Yankees, who beat Baltimore, last night. The Sox play Houston again tonight.

The Rangers got shut out by the Angels, 6-0, so their record is 24-36, and since the ‘stros beat the Sox, the Rangers are back to 13.5 out in the AL West. They remain six spots away from being the worst in the MLB. They will continue their series in LA tonight.

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

He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 
You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. 
The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 
When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. 
Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. 
O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 
Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. 
There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. 
These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 
When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 
When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:19-30

I like verse 24. “In wisdom you have made them all.” God knew what he was doing when he created the earth and all the creatures therein. Could it be that God made creatures, such as “Leviathan,” for no other reason than to play in the sea? May we take to heart verse 28, which says, “when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” May we receive the “good things” from God; good things that are far better than what we can find in the world.

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
Proverbs 15:1

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. . . . It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

In today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2018, Ashley Kappel writes of summer Saturday afternoons at the community pool. “Every neighborhood kid over thirteen is here alone, being cool at the snack bar and diving off the high board.” But there are also many young families, with their children, enjoying the pool.

Ashley, herself, has a young one that needs to be held, and a two-year-old who is a quick mover. Olivia wears her water wings, so she is able to move around without her mother’s help. One afternoon, however, she wound up in a position where she realized her mother was not right next to her, and was not in her line of sight. Immediately, she panicked. Ashley, of course, could see the whole thing, and tried to call out to Olivia to let her know she was there, she could see her, but in her panic, Olivia could not see her.

We find ourselves getting overconfident in our lives. We strap on our “spiritual water wings,” and, before we know it, we’ve motored on out into the middle of life. Suddenly, we can’t see God. We panic. We splash about, and if we didn’t have those “water wings” on, we might even drown. The truth is, however, that God never left our side. We cannot get anywhere that God isn’t. Psalm 139 says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (7-12)

God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. We might, momentarily, not be able to see him, but as soon as we start looking again, we will find that he was right there, all the time. There is great comfort in this truth. And on days when I remember to look for God’s presence, I experience the most glorious reality that he is with me all the time. He is around me, above me, below me, beside me, even within me. He is present in the very air that I breathe. I cannot escape him.

If we would be remember this truth, there would never, ever be anything to fear in this life, and we would understand, as Dallas Willard has said, that “this world is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Father, thank you for this truth. Thank you for the promise of your presence. Forgive me for the times when I run off ahead and lose sight of you. I pray that I will always have the knowledge of your presence in my life, and that I will always seek your face. Thank you for your constant provision and protection over me and my family. Thank you for being our shepherd and filling our lives with good things.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:22

Grace and peace, friends.

Prudence

Today is Friday (it sure doesn’t seem like we only worked four days this week), June 1, 2018. Day 21,995.

“A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.” ~ Mark Twain, 1835-1910, The Quotations Page

The word for today is concupiscent, an adjective which means, “lustful or sensual.” Also, “eagerly desirous.”

It seems like I’m feeling a bit better each morning, but it fluctuates, during the day. Yesterday, around lunchtime, I felt terrible, and almost didn’t eat my lunch. But later in the afternoon, I felt better. I still didn’t go work out, though. C went ahead without me, last night, which I certainly did not mind. I felt bad for not going the other nights, but I’m glad she didn’t let me stop her from going last night.

The Red Sox lost to the Astros by the score of 4-2, last night. Their record is now 39-18, still the MLB best by a game and a half. The Yankees did not play last night, which is the reason for the half game. They continue their series in Houston tonight.

The Rangers couldn’t pull off a sweep over Seattle, losing 6-1, but I believe they won the series. That’s always good. You keep wining series, you will move up in the standings. They travel south tonight to play the Angels in LA. Their record is 24-35. They are 12.5 out in the AL West, and sixth from the bottom in MLB standings.

We are having a church picnic tomorrow at a park in Keller. Last weekend, the forecast high for tomorrow was 107-108. As of this morning, we are seeing anywhere from 97 to 103. Still really hot. I plan on spending most of the time sitting in the shade.

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

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; 
they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 
Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. 
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 
and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. 
The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 
In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. 
The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.

Psalm 104:10-18

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
Proverbs 14:15

Father, as I ponder the words above this prayer, I ask you that I will always be prudent in considering my steps. Let me not be considered among the simple, who believe everything that gets posted on Facebook or any other social media. May I always give thought to what I accept or believe and, most especially, weight it in light of your holy words. Let my life be a beacon of goodness and compassion in the spirit of Jesus, walking in your kingdom minute by minute, always looking for your presence, wherever I go.
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.