Today is Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Day 21,958.

Three more days until our next Night of Worship!

Gina Torres (Firefly/Serenity) turns 49 today. She said, “My view of myself doesn’t change. I know who I am. I’m Cuban American; both my parents are Cuban – one was a little browner than the other one. That’s who I am. I feel sorry that it’s taken so long for the film industry to figure it out and to catch up.” BrainyQuote

The word for today is velitation, a noun which means, “a minor dispute or contest.”

The Red Sox lost their third consecutive game, last night, dropping it in the bottom of the tenth inning on a Curtis Granderson home run. They lost 4-3 to Toronto. Their record is now 17-5, and they are three games up on Toronto in the AL East. The also hold on to the best record in MLB, one game up on the D-backs, who won last night. The Sox play the Blue Jays again tonight.

The Rangers lost to the Athletics, 3-2, so they are now 8-17, 8.5 games behind the Angels in the AL West. They play the A’s again tonight.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3

Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, 
the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. 
They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! 
  But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! 
Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name! 
  Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:14-19

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:6

In today’s Daily Guideposts reading, Rhoda Blecker writes of a morning session at her computer. It was springtime, and she had the windows open, enjoying all of the activity of nature around her back yard.

When she heard the beautiful sounds of a song-bird, she began looking for the bird, thinking it must be sitting right outside her window. When she couldn’t find it, she grabbed her binoculars and began looking around. Finding nothing on the neighbors’ roofs, she finally looked more closely at some blackberry vines on her fence. “In the shadow of a curving stem was the tiniest brown bird, throat feathers ruffling as it gave out its huge, lovely song.”

The point, here, is that we often have to look deep on the inside to see the beauty. And I’m probably reading more into it than Rhoda intended when I say that, when you encounter someone who seems grumpy on the outside, take some time to reflect on what’s inside. Obviously, you can’t see what’s on the the inside. But there may be some deep hurt in there that is causing what is appearing on the outside. We never know the complete story behind someone else’s attitude/behavior. Therefore, we should treat everyone with kindness, as much as is possible.

The other side of this is that it is up to us to maintain the inside, or as John Ortberg would put it, “keep our souls.” We are the “keepers of our souls.” Many of us spend way too much time preening the outside, so we look sharp or pretty. While there is certainly nothing wrong with looking sharp, what is on the inside is much more important. I would much rather be a solid follower of Christ, full of the joy of the Lord, than have the appearance of a model.

Always take time to look on the inside. It’s much more important than the outside.

Father, help me to be a good keeper of my soul and maintain what is on the inside. Help me to heed the warnings of Jesus concerning the Pharisees when he said that they were like whitewashed tombs, clean and pretty on the outside, but inside, full of dead men’s bones. I want my inside to be alive, not dead, so help me to keep it that way.
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.

Thank You For My Father

“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” – Lucille Ball

The word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is MacGuffin, which means, “an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance.”

Today is Fudge Day. This should be a national holiday! You know, so we can all go to Buc-ee’s and get some fudge!

There’s seriously nothing going on, right now. Life is humming along, pretty normally. We are planning to go see my mother Saturday, and then R & J will be coming over on Sunday for Father’s Day.

The Southlake Community Band has a concert appearance coming up on July 3, Sunday evening. We will be playing at the annual Stars & Stripes event According to the schedule, the Swing Band will play at 6, and the concert band will play at 8:15, followed by the fireworks at 9:30.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.

They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:8-19

The people of God are not delicate flowers, “withered in a day by a merciless sun,” or trampled by a “careless boot.” We are the branches of a vine, “tough, tenacious, planted by God,” in spite of any persecution and/or judgment brought on by the world. And we are “brought to final fruition in Jesus,” when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5).

“Enter my present trouble, God of strength and compassion. Protect me from despair and from faintheartedness. Encourage me with hope. Make me strong in Christ, ‘the one at your right hand’ (Psalm 80:17). Amen.”

(From Daily Guideposts 2016)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1

Carol Knapp writes of taking her mother and a neighbor (called Bubbles) to share a meal with their friend Marybeth. Marybeth lived in an assisted living community. Bubbles was ninety, and suffered from macular degeneration. Marybeth was one hundred, and shared the same affliction. During the meal, Marybeth asked Bubbles, “Do you ever get surprises when you eat?” You see, they often couldn’t quite tell what was on their plate.

During the conversation, however, Marybeth said something that profoundly struck Carol. Marybeth, having mostly lost her sight, and being widowed twice, said, “You can never be grateful enough until it’s gone.”

We always try to be deliberate in our thanksgiving, remembering our blessings and thanking God for them, “to appreciate and savor them.” But Marybeth opened Carol’s eyes that day to a piece of gratitude that she had not considered . . . grief. “Far from distancing me from God or showing a lack of faith, grief is a deep expression of thanksgiving for something or someone I am missing.”

When we grieve, we acknowledge the good that God has given us.

A year later, both Marybeth and Bubbles are gone. Carol and her mother miss them both. But they express their gratitude through their grief.

With Father’s Day coming up, this reading strikes a chord in me. While the grief is not quite as heavy as it was, there are still moments of profound sadness, as well as moments where reality doesn’t quite set in. I’m still grieving, though, having lost my father 14 months ago. And in my grief, I thank my God for the years that I had with him, and all that I learned from him.

Daddy and Me--Autumn 1961 back porch

Heavenly Father, I thank you for my earthly father. I miss him, as do my mother, wife, and kids. Not to mention all the friends that he had in his life. In that missing, in that grief, we thank you profoundly and deeply. Help us to be more thankful for things and people that we still have in our lives.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Domain of Drudgery

“The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” – H. L. Mencken

The word of the day, from, is iatrogenic, means, “(of a medical disorder) caused by the diagnosis, manner, or treatment of a physician.”

Today is Smile Power Day. Smile at people today. Make them wonder what you’re up to.

Did I mention that C got a raise? I can’t remember. That happened Monday, I think. It’s a nice one, too.

C’s step-dad is going to be moving, soon. I think the move is scheduled on June 25. He’s moving to a place that is closer to his son and daughter-in-law, and will have some assistance for him.

This is also palindrome week. It’s a little more than a week, as it actually began last Friday. A palindrome is, of course, a word or phrase (or in this case, dates) that is the same forwards and backwards. For example, “a car, a man, a maraca.” Obviously, punctuation does not have to be the same, just the letters. “A nut for a jar of tuna.” “Aibohphobia” (the fear of palindromes). Anyway, the reason this is palindrome week is that, from June 10, 2016 to June 19, 2016, the dates, in mm/ff/yy format, are palindromes! 6/10/16, 6/11/16, 6/12/16, and so on.


(From Praying With the Psalms)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:1-7

From the very beginning of creation, when God said, “Let there be light,” to the end of Revelation, that says, “They will see his face, . . . And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light,” we see the mighty acts of God “under the image of light, his shining forth in creation and redemption.”

“‘Light of light, enlighten me, now anew the day is dawning; sun of grace, the shadows flee; brighten Thou my Sabbath morning; with Thy joyous sunshine blest, happy is my day of rest’ (Benjamin Schmolck, ‘Light of Light, Enlighten Me,’ translated by Catherine Winkworth). Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

Get a Move On

. . .make every effort to supplement . . .
2 Peter 1:5

In verse 4, Peter tells us that we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” Chambers says that we now need to “screw your attention down and form habits, give diligence, concentration.” We are not born with habits; “we have to form habits on the basis of the new life God has put into us.” The exciting thing about this, to me, is that this is what the spiritual disciplines are all about. The timing of these readings, this year, is spot on. I am right in the middle of beginning to study and develop these disciplines in my life.

You see, we aren’t supposed to be illuminated all the time. We are to be “the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God. Drudgery is the touchstone of character.” We tend to look for these grand things to do, but we need to focus on being obedient in the routines, the drudgery, of life. “Learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God.”

“The tiniest detail in which I obey has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it.”

Father, make me obedient in the domain of drudgery. Help me to develop the habits in the disciplines, habits that will make my life, my common, ordinary life exhibit the marvel of your grace.

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.

Balancing Inner and Outer

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 4, 2015. Independence Day in the U.S.

Today’s word of the day, from, is more of a phrase than a word, and it is Latin. It is e pluribus unum. It seems that there are a great many people who have forgotten what this motto of the United States of America means. It means, “out of many, one.”

Today is Hop A Park Day. And I have a feeling that a lot of people will be doing exactly that, since there will be many outdoor events celebrating Independence Day today.

Last night was tremendous, in so many ways. We had a great trip, picking up my mother, in the afternoon, and stopped at Pastafina, in Mineral Wells, for lunch, before heading back to Fort Worth. We had a few minutes to sit and relax, before heading to the Southlake Town Square for the event. We got to the Town Square at around 5:30, and the traffic and parking were already pretty bad. However, we were blessed (I don’t believe in “luck,” you know) to find a woman walking from a store toward the parking lot we were in. Miraculously, we were the only car following her. She went to a car, got in, and the car left, leaving a perfect parking space for us! We unloaded everything (three canvas chairs, a folding chair, a music stand, a trombone, and my bag of mutes and music), and headed for the pavilion.

When we first got there, we found a place that looked good for Christi, Mama, and Stephanie to sit. It was in the parking area, on the asphalt, but looked like a good vantage point for the concert. I went on up to the stage, where the Swing Band was preparing for their performance, which started at 6:00. I set my gear down, and went back for the stand. When I got there, Stephanie was the only one there, with one chair. She said that Christi had found a place close by, that we under a tree! And under a tree it was, as we had to kind of duck to get in there, but it was a beautiful spot to watch the concert from one side of the pavilion! For the next hour and a half, we listened to the Swing Band, walked around the area, and just had a nice time.

Just after 7:30, the Swing Band finished, and the Southlake Community Band took the stage. Around 8:00, we played “The Stars and Stripes Forever” to kick off the evening’s celebrations. The mayor talked for a little bit, a plane flew over, a lovely young lady with a magnificent voice sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” the plane flew over again, Tony Lopez from KLTY talked a little, and then we got to play the rest of our concert. It was great fun, and, a few times, quite emotional for me. The most emotional moments came when I remembered that my mother was out there listening to this concert. We wound up having to cut three numbers, due to time (we were fully prepared for that), and finished up with a wonderful fireworks display.

The exit from the event was not bad, either. The Police Department did a magnificent job of traffic management, and people were NICE, stopping to let others in, when there were lines waiting! Sure, it took a while to get out of the parking lot and to an area where traffic flowed smoothly, but it could have been so much worse!! I have been at events where it took an hour just to get out of the parking lot (coughcoughDALLAScoughcough).

On the way home, we went through a Jack In the Box drive-thru and got a very late dinner (it was, I believe, after 11:00 before we got home). We had some nice conversation (albeit, very sleepy) as we ate our dinner, after which we promptly went to bed. I slept very well last night!

Today, we have our church picnic, which I believe we are calling a “Family Feast,” at 5:00. After that, we will take my mother back to Mineral Wells. I believe Rachel and Justin might be coming over tomorrow for some game time.

On this date in 1776, the U.S. declared independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was not signed, however, until August 2. In 1863, the Confederates surrendered Vicksburg. On this date in 1826, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. And in 1885, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published.

Today’s birthdays include Nathaniel Hawthorne (American writer), Stephen Foster (American songwriter), Calvin Coolidge (30th President), Rube Goldberg (American cartoonist), Mitch Miller (American entertainer), Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers (American advice columnists), Leona Helmsley (American hotel operator), Eva Marie Saint (American actress), Neil Simon (American playwright), Gina Lollobrigida (Italian actress), George Steinbrenner (American businessman/Yankees owner), Bill Withers (American singer/songwriter), Geraldo Rivera (American reporter), John Waite (English singer), Pam Shriver (American tennis player), and Becki Newton (American actress).

John Waite was born on this date in 1952. He has been lead singer for The Babys and Bad English, as well as having a solo career. Here is one of the songs by Bad English, “When I See You Smile.”


They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:16-19

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

“If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary.” Thus begins a section called “The Integrity of Prayer.” I love that sentence, too. It is so full of truth. And so many of us make the mistake of giving priority to the outer life, even those of us who call the name of Jesus! We are so uncomfortable with solitude and silence. I rather like both of them, myself, but not for very long. But when we prioritize the outer life, we are also extremely uncomfortable with self-examination and have a short attention span when it comes to reflection. We try to project this sense of confidence (even spiritual confidence), while being full of “self-doubts, anxieties, self-pity, and old grudges.” Ouch.

“In short, unless we put a priority on the inner life, we turn ourselves into hypocrites.” Ouch, again. Keller quotes John Owen:

A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

“To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular.” I don’t know if I can finish this section. We want to be seen as humble; do we spend time confessing our sins before God? We want to be seen as positive and cheerful; do we spend time thanking God for all we have? We talk about being blessed, and about how our faith is true and how much we love the Lord, but if we are prayerless . . . can it really be true? What we profess in public needs to match up with how we are in private.

Jesus told us, via his instructions to the disciples in Matthew 6, that the “infallible test of spiritual integrity . . . is your private prayer life.” Lots of people pray when called upon in cultural or social settings. Some even pray when they are filled with anxiety over circumstances. “Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so.”

Let us not make the mistake, however, of thinking that having an inner prayer life means that we can do it alone. “Knowing the God of the Bible better can’t be achieved all by yourself.” We must have the community of the church alongside us, the act of corporate worship to go along with private devotion, and public Bible instruction to go along with silent meditation. It is possible to ascertain someone’s private prayer life by listening to their public prayers. Do they pray as though they are trying to impress people around them with their theological prowess? Or do they pray as someone who is used to having conversations with God?

“The depths of private prayer and public prayer grow together.”

Father, I pray that you would help me with prioritizing my inner life properly, and balancing the inner devotion with the public worship life. At times, I feel like I have this down fairly well, but then I read statements like the one above that shine the light on where my mind goes when no one else is around, or when I am not being compelled to think about anything in particular. I am also reminded of how my mind and spirit react in certain circumstances, primarily revolving around work situations. Father, I need humility, and I know how dangerous it is to pray for such things. Yet, I know I need it. May your Spirit move me to humility, to a more sanctified inner life, and to better knowledge of you through prayer.

I pray for this day, that we will be safe in everything we do. May the rest of our time with Mama be blessed and simply a good time. Thank you so much for the great time and blessings we experienced last night! I praise you for music and for bringing me back to it.

Your grace is sufficient.

We simply must balance our inner and outer lives. I don’t believe that we truly desire to be hypocritical.

Grace and peace, friends.

With What I Have Left

Good morning. It is Friday, July 3, 2015. We are observing our July 4 holiday from work today. Our neighbor is outside my window, mowing his yard. At 7:30 AM.

Tough choice for today’s word of the day, but I’m going for the one from, which is quixotic. It’s an adjective, which means, “extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable,” “(sometimes initial capital letter) resembling or befitting Don Quixote,” or, “impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.” I fancy myself to be somewhat quixotic, but that may be a delusion. But hey, wouldn’t that make me even more quixotic?? 😀

Today is Compliment Your Mirror Day. “My, but you’re looking reflective, today!” Seriously, though, here is the description from the web site, in case you don’t care to click on the link. “Take a step back, and examine your reflection. This is you, the only you, and the best you there is. Compliment Your Mirror Day encourages you to recognise your own inner beauty, and to give yourself a great face-to-face prep talk!” (Huh. I guess I didn’t “realise” they were British.)

Just as expected, we had to work late, yesterday. Really late. In fact, it was almost 7:00 PM before we got out of there! At one point, I was pretty upset, but my wonderful wife helped me, yet again, with this message: “Deep breaths. Let the peace of God reign over you and rain on you.” See? That’s how we roll at the Bickleyhouse!

While I was on my way home, Christi ordered pizza for us, which arrived moments after I did. We had a nice dinner, watching TV and relaxing. We didn’t stay up as late as we would on a normal Friday night, but, then, it wasn’t Friday night, was it? But we were very tired, and needed to be up at a reasonable time for today’s adventures.

In a while, we will be driving to Mineral Wells to pick up my mother and bring her back here so she can come with us to Southlake, where I will play with the Southlake Community Band in their July 4th festivities. On July 3rd. But I like that they are doing that. Because our church is having a July 4 picnic tomorrow, and it allows me to participate in both events. Mama will be staying for the picnic, and then we will take her back home. Sunday, outside of getting groceries, will be our crash and relax day. In all honesty, though, tomorrow won’t be that bad, as I have little to no responsibility in the church event. I might help get things set up, but that would be pretty much it.

It looks to be a great three-day weekend.

On this date, in 1863, Pickett’s Charge occurred on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1890, Idaho became the 43rd U.S. state. Potato-lovers everywhere rejoiced. On this date in 1981, the New York Times made the first mention of a new disease that would eventually be known as AIDS.

Today’s birthdays include George M. Cohan (American actor, director, singer, and dancer), Franz Kafka (Czech-German writer), Betty Buckley (American actress), Dave Barry (American humorist and author), Jan Smithers (American actress), Montel Williams (American talk show host), Laura Branigan (American singer), Tom Cruise (American actor), Andrea Barber (American actress), and Edinson Volquez (Dominican baseball player).

George M. Cohan was born on this date in 1878. How appropriate, since he composed some of our favorite patriotic songs, such as “I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag.” Here is a medley of some of his songs.


The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.
It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.

Psalm 80:10-15

(From Daily Guideposts 2015)

Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
Joel 3:10

Today’s reading is one of the rare selections with a title, and that title is “Making Music.”

Elizabeth Sherrill writes of attending a concert at Avery Fisher Hall, in New York City. The concert would feature famed violinist Itzhak Perlman. They knew, from reading about him, that he had been crippled, at age four, by polio, similar to a flute-playing friend of mine. However, this knowledge could not prepare them for what they witnessed when he took the stage. ” . . . nothing prepared us for his awkward, lurching walk across the stage, supported on crutches. He reached the chair beside the conductor’s platform, lowered himself into it, laid down the crutches, unhooked the brace-clasps on his legs, and picked up the violin from its case on the floor.”

As the orchestra began playing a Beethoven violin concerto, Perlman’s “high, sweet solo line soared above the rest.” Suddenly, there was “an ear-piercing ping!”

The conductor stopped the orchestra. In the ensuing silence, Perlman looked at his violin, and the broken string. After a moment, he nodded to the conductor, “and put the violin back beneath his chin. The orchestra resumed playing; the solo voice sang out, plaintive and angelic.” The author sat in amazement, wondering what kind of transposition and inventiveness was required to successfully perform the concerto on only three strings!

“At the final note, all of us were on our feet, cheering, clapping, shouting for the sheer joy of the performance we’d witnessed.” After the applause was over, Perlman “fastened his leg clasps, picked up his crutches, stood up, and said with a bow to the audience and a smile, ‘Sometimes we have to make music with what we have left.'”

This reading could not have come at a better time for me. I’m 57 years old, this year. Music has been a major part of my life for most of those years. I don’t remember when I started piano lessons, but I’m thinking it was somewhere around third grade. For five or six consecutive years, I took piano lessons from the same lady, who lived within walking distance of our house. Somewhere during that time, my father began teaching me how to play guitar. In seventh grade, I began playing trombone. I played trombone for fourteen straight years in school bands, brass choirs, and trombone choirs, as well as multiple solo recitals. I played piano and guitar in church, as well as singing. Suddenly, it all stopped for a while. I put down the trombone, somewhere around twenty years ago. I’m not sure why, other than opportunities to play were not abounding, and time seemed to be a factor. For most of those twenty years, I was extremely active in church music, in many cases, being the music and/or worship leader. Then, a couple of years ago, that stopped, too.

I still feel that God had a purpose in all of this. I firmly believe that he had a hand in the stopping. Because during that cessation of music activity, I was learning to pray. I mean really learning to pray. So there was a reason. But now, I just as firmly believe that it’s time to begin making music again. The spark was provided by the ETSU Band Reunion, during the first weekend of June. What an experience that was, and proof that, yes, I still had those trombone chops. Now I have a new (used) trombone, along with a community band to play in. I am making music again.

And I will continue making music “with what [I] have left.”

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!
Psalm 57:7
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High!
Psalm 92:1

Father, I thank you for the music that you have placed in my life. I also thank you that you put it in my heart to use that music to praise you. I pray that I will continue to make music with whatever I have left. I will sing and make melody to you, because my heart is steadfast. You have made it that way. You created my heart, and you give it strength to keep beating for you. I pray that you unite my heart to fear your name as you teach me your ways. Continue, however, teaching me to pray! I do not believe that I have to stop learning to pray in order to continue to make music. In fact, I firmly believe that my music can be prayer! So let me pray to you through music, through the trombone, through the keyboards, and through the guitars, as well as with my voice. More anything, though, help me to know you more. This is more important than the praying and the music.

I pray for this day. Keep us safe as we travel to Mineral Wells to pick up my mother and bring her back. I pray for this evening’s events, that everyone will have a safe and good time through all of it. Help me to play my best, during the concert, and bring me more opportunities to play music. I pray that all will have a safe July 4th holiday, this weekend.

Your grace is sufficient.

psalms 57 7

Grace and peace, friends.

Taking Hold of God

Good morning. It is Thursday, July 2, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from, is dragoman. Careful, there. Notice I did not spell “dragonman.” Dragoman is a noun, meaning, “a professional interpreter.” It is a word with roots in the East, from the Arabic word tarjuman.

Today is World UFO Day. Keep your eyes on the skies . . . 🙂

Did I mention that Christi hurt her leg while she was bowling, Tuesday evening? I can’t remember. Well, anyway, it seems to gradually be getting better. It was something in the back of her left thigh that kind of popped or something.

I had an opportunity to get in some good practice, last night. I think I practiced for about an hour, working on a good portion of Friday’s concert music. As I was warming up, I noticed that some of the routine exercises I do were coming much easier to me, and sounding pretty darned good! This makes me very happy. A couple of things I’ve noticed, though; my left arm gets really tired, after a bit, and my lung capacity is still nothing like it used to be. I need to figure out some ways to increase my air capacity, so I can play longer passages. And I need to do some dumbbell lifting, or something, with my left arm. That’s the arm that has to hold up the heavy portion of the horn, while the right arm moves the slide. Sure, the back end of the trombone rests on my shoulder, but there is still a weight that falls on the hand and arm. Also, the new horn is significantly heavier than the other one.

Today is Thursday, but will be like Friday for us, as we have tomorrow off for the holiday. I will likely have to work late, this evening, which will be somewhat of an inconvenience for us, since tonight is Christi’s Huddle night. But we don’t have to get up early tomorrow, so we can stay up later tonight.


You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.

Psalm 80:8-9

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

I kind of stopped in the middle of a section, yesterday, due to time. Timothy Keller is writing about Paul’s prayers for the people he loved. In Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prays, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Paul desires that the Spirit would give these people the ability to grasp the entirety of the benefits received “when they believed in Christ.” Sure, we know these things . . . in our minds. A lot of people have memorized a lot of Scripture verses, over the years. But this prayer is deeper than simple head knowledge. “It is to have a more vivid sense of the reality of God’s presence and of shared life with him.”

It is apparent that Paul considers these things to be more important than changing circumstances. If we do not have a firm grasp on the reality of God’s presence in our lives, good circumstances could lead to “overconfidence and spiritual indifference.” After all, how many people do we know who only come to God in times of anxiety, stress, and panic, or in times of health and financial crises? “Who needs God, our hearts . . . conclude, when matters seem to be so in hand?” On the other hand, bad circumstances can lead to despair and discouragement if we do not have a firm grasp of the reality of God’s presence. His love, in this case, is nothing more than an abstract thing. “Therefore, knowing God better is what we mast have above all if we are to face life in any circumstances.”

Paul shows us that he believes that the “highest good is communion or fellowship with God.” This comes through a vibrant prayer life. You see, prayer is not simply just a way to “get things from God but . . . a way to get more of God himself.” Isaiah 64:7 speaks of taking hold of God. Think of it in terms of embracing someone you love deeply.

Unfortunately, most people today “base their inner life on their outward circumstances. Their inner peace is based on other people’s valuation of them, and on their social status, prosperity, and performance.” And the sad thing is that Christians are as guilty of this as others. Remember that triangle I posted last week? The “identity triangle?” It illustrates how we are supposed to get our identity from God in Christ, which then fuels our obedience to his commands. Too many times, we try to do it backwards, getting our sense of identity or significance from what we do or who we know. “If Christians do not base their lives on God’s steadfast love, then they will have ‘to accept as success what others warrant to be so, and to take their happiness, even their own selves, at the quotation of the day. They tremble, with reason, before their fate.'” (The quote within the quote was from Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa.)

Father, help us to know you more. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Your Spirit has guided me, and I am, in some ways, in a place where social status means nothing to me. My identity is not wrapped up in my job or my social circle. I am content to be part of the body of Christ. In fact, it is a joy to celebrate the Supper with my fellow believers each week. But I still long to know you more, that your presence in my life would complete drive out any “foreign” influences that would distract me from my relationship with you. I want to know you more. Let my prayers become more of a “taking hold” of you, more of getting more of you than getting things from you. As I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, may I echo Paul’s prayers for the believers in his life, asking your Spirit to draw them to a place where they are developing a deeper life with you through prayer.

I pray for this day, that our drive to work and back will be safe. I would pray that we might not have to work too late, this evening. Your will be done, though, and I will quietly accept what must be. Help me to display your Kingdom in all that happens during this day. Help me to abide in Christ more consistently. May Christi’s pain be healed, Father. And may her day be free from stress and drama. I pray that Stephanie will draw closer to you today, and that Rachel and Justin would have whatever they need, as you provide daily bread for us. May my mother know your presence today, as your Spirit abides in her and she in you.

Your grace is sufficient.

The verse in Isaiah 64 is a tragic verse. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. May that not be true of us today. May we “rouse” ourselves to “take hold of” God. He has not hidden his face from us, and is freely accessible in Jesus. May we take advantage of that today.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Eyes of Our Hearts Enlightened

Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Hump Day. Welcome to July.

Today’s Word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is notaphily. On might, if one couldn’t spell, think that this word was designating the gender of a horse. However, it is a noun, meaning, “The study or collection of banknotes.”

Today (besides being Canada Day) is Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day. Every time we go to the store, it seems that Ben & Jerry’s has come out with a new flavor. My favorite is still Phish Food, though. I do enjoy the Birthday Cake Sunday, though, from Braum’s, which features blue, birthday cake flavored ice cream. Okay, now I’m getting hungry. I’d better stop.

I get free lunch today! Yes, it’s true. Our company is cooking (well, the “company” is not actually cooking . . . one of the managers will cook) burgers and hot dogs for us, for lunch today. I saw them loading watermelons and a bunch of other stuff into one of the company’s industrial fridges, yesterday afternoon. I’m looking forward to it.

Last night’s Huddle meeting was good. One thing that happened, in the course of the meeting, was that, while we were discussing the learning circle, I talked about how much Christi has helped me when I get to the “discuss” portion of the circle. She has “talked me off the ledge” numerous times, when I was considering various courses of action. A couple of the guys expressed desire to have that kind of relationship with their spouses, one even calling me “lucky.” I replied that I don’t believe in luck. “Then you’re blessed,” he said. “That’s true,” I said, “but it also takes work.” I didn’t elaborate much more than that, last night. You see, some of these guys wouldn’t like my explanation, being somewhat “ultra-conservative,” but Christi and I treat each other as equals in this marriage. And I firmly believe that’s what has kept us together for almost 30 years. You can preach “head of the family” at me all day long, but we make decisions together. We discuss things together as equals. Sometimes I make the decision, and sometimes she makes the decision. The majority of the time, we agree, at the end. There have been times when one of us has had to go along with something we weren’t quite sure about, but that’s what compromise is all about. Another thing that has made this marriage so great is that I treat my wife with the utmost respect. I do NOT talk down or condescend to her. How could I “talk down to her” if we are equals? I do not EVER criticize my wife in public, and I rarely criticize her to her face. We love each other tremendously, and that’s how we treat each other.

Today, or tomorrow, I need to go find a black folding chair. I have to have one for the July 3 concert for the Southlake Community Band. Makes sense, I guess. We have to bring a black music stand and black folding chair for the concert. The band doesn’t actually own any equipment, I guess. I’m not sure about the percussion. Perhaps we borrow it from the school where we rehearse? I don’t know. Don’t really need to know.


To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:1-7

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Today, I’m beginning chapter two, “The Greatness of Prayer.” It begins with Ephesians 1:15-19:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.

If we look at similar prayers, in other epistles, we see that this is a typical Pauline prayer for those he was close to. I pray this prayer, on a daily basis, for significant people in my church life, as well, along with one in Colossians. In the NIV, which Keller quotes, Paul says, “I keep asking that . . . you may know him better.”

One thing that is notable in all of these prayers is that Paul never prays for changes in circumstance. These people lived in dangers and hardships that we don’t even imagine, in our culture. “Yet in these prayers you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal.”

This, of course, does not mean that we are wrong to pray for such things. After all, Jesus instructed us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread,” and “deliver us from the evil one.” In 1 Timothy 2, Paul even directs his audience to pray for “peace, for good government, and for the needs of the world.” So, in prayers like this one in Ephesians, Paul is not giving us a model prayer. Rather, he is showing us his heart. This is how he prays for the people he loves. He prays for what he believes to be most important.

And what is most important is “to know him better.” The language he uses is beautiful. “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” In our culture, we conceive of the heart as the center of the self, controlling our “feeling, thinking, and behavior.” If we have “the eyes of our hearts enlightened,” means that truth has penetrated us deeply and gripped us to the point that it “changes the whole person.”
(pp 19-20)

Father, may Paul’s prayer be true for all of us. I pray that you would enlighten the eyes of my heart, gripping me deeply and firmly with your truth. Most days, at some point I pray my life verse, teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I pray for others that I know, Father, that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened, as well. This is a serious and sincere prayer, even though I sometimes rush through it. Help me to be more faithful to pray with clear thought, unhurried and sincere, Lord. Let me not rush through prayers for believers who are friends and loved ones, but pray with thoughtfulness, with their spiritual well-being at the front of my heart.

Father, you are good! I pray for today’s travel, that it be smooth and safe. I pray for today’s work, that it, also, would go smoothly. Lift us above our circumstances, that we might abide in you throughout the work day. I didn’t do that very well, yesterday. Keep us aware of our surroundings, always seeking the ways that you are speaking to us, even in seemingly simple circumstances. I pray that you show yourself mighty to Stephanie today, giving her a glimpse of how much you love her. I pray that you provide for and protect Rachel and Justin, as well as my mother, keeping them strong and drawing them closer to you at all times.

I pray that our marriage might be an inspiration to others, Lord. I am so very grateful for this relationship and your place in it.

Your grace is sufficient.

Ephesians 1-18

Grace and peace, friends.

“Come To Me”

It’s Sunday morning, August 19, 2012! That means that Stephanie is 19 today!! Happy birthday to our girl! It is also the birthday of our son-in-law, Justin. How weird is that? Happy birthday to Justin, too!

Today is “National Potato Day.” I love me some potatoes! Just about any way I can get them. Except “sweet.” Don’t like sweet potatoes. Except in a pie…but I’d rather have pumpkin pie.

On this date in 1909, the first race was held at the Indianapolis Speedway. (Pay attention Stephanie…all of this stuff happened on YOUR birthday!) Louis Schwitzer won that race. (Not to be confused with Nick Swisher.) On this date in 1964, The Beatles kicked off their first U.S. tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. On this date in 1946, Bill Clinton was born. On a not so good note, on this date in 1934, Adolf Hitler became president of Germany.

Also born on this date are Ben Carr (Family Pastor at The Exchange), Orville Wright, Coco Chanel, John Stamos (Stephanie did you know you shared a birthday with HIM??), Matthew Perry, Ginger Baker (drummer for the rock group Cream), Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), and Kyra Sedgwick (we already miss you, Brenda Lee!!).

We had a really good day yesterday. Transporting Grandmother and Don from west Fort Worth to our house went very well. Lunch was good, and we got to visit with the owners of Fogata’s for a few minutes. You see, we haven’t seen them since January, and it was good to visit with them to explain that they didn’t do anything to make us mad. They were thrilled to see our weight loss progress and encouraged us to stay with it. Then they gave us free dessert for Stephanie’s birthday. They do this thing with sopapillas…I’ll just show you.

Of course, we shared that six ways, so it wasn’t too bad for us. Afterward, we came home and had strawberry cake that Stephanie and Christi made together. It was quite good. Today, in about an hour, we head to Mineral Wells, for lunch with my parents (aka Grandma and Grandpa), and the cookie cake that we will take with us. We won’t be losing any weight this weekend. :p

Father, I pray that you would reveal something new to me this morning, or refresh something old. Give me a glimpse of you as I look into your Word today.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 80. Another psalm from Asaph, this one is a prayer for restoration.
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
(3, 7, 19)

Verses 17 and 18 seem to be speaking of the Davidic king, and, ultimately, the Messiah.
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!

My Utmost For His Highest
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

God’s desire for us is that we live a life that is fully immersed in Jesus Christ. However, there are times, when we are attacked from the outside, that we fall into a sort of introspective mode, and become self-conscious. “Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling.” It is not a sin. There are are multiple circumstances that may produce self-consciousness. “It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him.” Anything that disturbs this “rest in Him,” must be dealt with immediately. It is not a case of “ignore it and it will go away,” (not a quote from Chambers), but must be dealt with by coming directly to Jesus Christ. “If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.”

I must beware of anything that threatens to divide my life in Christ, no matter what it is. “The great solution is the simple one–‘Come unto me.'” The verse above provides the simplest of answers, “Come to me.” The answer to every problem we have is, ultimately, “Come to me.” Yes, that sounds overly simplistic. But, “The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words.” Will I argue, rather than come? To the degree that I am not “real,” I will dispute.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer speaks against the idea of reading bits and pieces of Scripture in the corporate setting. He is a supporter of the idea of lectio continua, or “consecutive reading.” “The Holy Scriptures do not consist of individual sayings, but are a whole and can be used most effectively as such. The Scriptures are God’s revealed Word as a whole.” (p. 60) His response to the objection that people can’t retain and comprehend large portions of Scripture readings in one sitting is this: “If it is really true that it is hard for us, as adult Christians, to comprehend a chapter of the Old Testament in its context, then that can only fill us with profound shame.” (ibid) He states that, if this is the case, we must admit that the Bible is mostly unknown to us. And I believe this to be true in the modern church. I believe with all my heart that, if we were to take a poll of Biblical knowledge among churchgoers today, the result would be dismaying. “Mature Christians keep on learning it and learn it better and better; and as they read and hear it on their own, they will never finish this learning.” (p. 61) I know this to be true from personal experience. The Bible is a living book…I learn more from it every time I read it (if I’m truly reading with any comprehension, that is). In his argument against reading single verses out of context, he says this: “The Scripture is a complex unity, and every word, every sentence, contains such a diversity of relationships to the whole that it is impossible always to keep track of the whole when listening to an individual portion of it. Therefore, it appears that the whole of Scripture as well as every passage in it far surpasses our understanding.” (ibid)

On the subject of consecutive reading, he says, “For those who want to hear, reading the biblical books in a sequential order forces them to go, and to allow themselves to be found, where God has acted once and for all the salvation of human beings. The historical books of the Holy Scriptures come alive for us in a whole new way precisely when they are read during worship services. We receive a part of that which once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we too pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie, but holy, divine reality. We are uprooted from our own existence and are taken back to the holy history of God on earth. There God has dealt with us, and there God still deals with us today, with our needs and our sins, by means of the divine wrath and grace. What is important is not that God is a spectator and participant in our life today, but that we are attentive listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the story of Christ on earth.” (p. 62)

Father, while I certainly believe that it is most definitely important that you be a participator in my life, I also believe that it is more important that I be a participator in what you are doing, which is truly, “the sacred story.” May I be an attentive listener to all that you would say to me. I am inspired, my conscience is pricked by what Bonhoeffer has written. I will purpose to read more complete portions of Scripture in my devotional times. I cannot do anything about the lack of Scripture reading in worship (other than pray that you would inspire our pastors to include more reading of Scripture), but I can do something about what I read on my own. Show me yourself as I read. Show me, through your Word, through the history, the great salvation that you have worked for us! I will listen! I will participate!

And when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. Wow…I don’t know where that came from. Well, maybe I do. As soon as I typed “And when,” those words immediately came to my mind, and I have to assume that the Spirit put them there. (I know…it’s a worship song from, like, the eighties or something.) But that is the main theme of my devotion today, as I see the answer to all things being the words of Jesus when he says “Come to me.” When circumstances threaten to divide my life, to divide my unity with Jesus, that is what I must do, come to him. Too often, I panic. Or I spend hours meandering around, looking for some answer in the wrong places. Whatever is going on in my life, I will bring it to Jesus. As the old hymn says, “Tell it to Jesus alone.” Too simple for some, I’m guessing. But, Father, I’m a big fan of simple. And I believe that we have been guilty of complicating your grace much more than necessary. May we, your people, find a way back to the simple grace that you have provided on our behalf. May we truly come to you when we are overwhelmed. May we learn to abide in you.

I pray for this day. Give us safe travel to Mineral Wells, now, and a good time of fellowship with my parents as we celebrate Stephanie’s birthday some more. I pray that she have a wonderful day today. And I pray that you show her how much you love her today.

Your grace is sufficient. May it overflow in our lives.

Whatever is distracting you or afflicting you today, come to Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.