Of Whirlwinds and Storms

Today is Monday, May 14, 2018. Day 21,977.

Six days until Pentecost Sunday.

“It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.” ~ Robert Anton Wilson (The Quotations Page)

The word for today is lollapalooza, a slang noun which means, “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance.”

We had a nice day yesterday, not doing much of anything, once we got home from our worship gathering. The gathering went well, and we had a good crowd, including some previous members that we had not seen in at least a couple years. Our pastor gave a good message, which was not about mothers, but about how we feel guilt in our modern society. It was mostly about the difference between feeling “guilty” for not reading my Bible in the morning, as is my habit, versus feeling guilty because I have more than enough food in my refrigerator while people quite close to me might not have enough to feed their children today. It was a tough sermon, and I will probably listen to it again on the podcast, when it becomes available. Instead of our usual blessing, at the end of the gathering (which is the one I sometimes paste in at the end of this blog), our pastor wrote a special one, which, in my opinion, did an excellent job of covering all of the women in all of the various phases of motherhood, including women who have never had any biological children. It had me in tears at the end.

After we got home and unloaded my keyboard and stuff, I headed to Kroger to pick up our Click List order. That was the last time anyone left the house, yesterday. C rested in the bedroom, watching TV, while I played video games, until it was time to cook potatoes and steaks, which I did for us between 2:30 and 4:00. Over all, I would say it was a great and restful day.

The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays again, 5-3, taking the series. The Yankees, however, beat the Athletics again, so they are still tied for first place in the AL East and best in MLB, with records of 28-12. The Sox take on the Athletics tonight, which always seems to be a tough series.

The Rangers lost to the Astros, again, 6-1, making their record 16-26, now ten games out in the AL West. They appear to have the day off, and will be traveling to Seattle to play the Mariners.

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

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:4-7

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. 
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! 
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 
that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; 
but you, O LORD, are on high forever. 
For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered. 
But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. 
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. 
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. 
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 92

(From The Finishing Touch, Charles Swindoll)
Storms

His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
Nahum 1:3b

Today, Charles Swindoll reminds us that God is present in the whirlwinds and storms of life. This is a much-needed truth in today’s world. If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, mostly every day there is some kind of disruption in life that could be at least categorized as a whirlwind. Many times, they are strong enough to be considered a “storm.” But God is always there. Swindoll offers up more than just this somewhat obscure text in Nahum.

. . . all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:35

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 115:3

. . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice.
Moses in Deuteronomy 4:30

Says Swindoll, “Life is filled with God-appointed storms.” There are two things in which we can take comfort. “First, we all experience them. Second, we all need them.”

Take a moment to process that while your brain rejects the notion that you “need” storms in your life.

Storms and whirlwinds accomplish at least two things in our lives. One is that, if we have strayed from the path, they guide us back to God. The other is that they “smooth us and humble us and force us to submit to the role He has chosen for us.”

Swindoll then offers the example of William Cowper (1731-1800). After passing through a great crisis in his life, he decided to end it all. He took poison. The attempt to take his life failed. Later, he hired a coach, traveled to the Thames River, with the notion of throwing himself off of the bridge, but he was “strangely restrained.” The next day he tried falling on a knife. The blade broke. He tried to hang himself, but was found, unconscious, but still alive. Eventually, he found a Bible, read the book of Romans, “and was gloriously saved.”

Cowper later wrote these famous words:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Go back to that verse in Nahum. “His way is in the whirlwind and storm.” Remember that today, when the whirlwind, or even the storm approaches. Knowing this, we can face the storms without fear, understanding that God is present, and will guide us through them.

Father, thank you for the storms in my life, and what you have taught me through them. Perhaps I have not yet learned what I should have from some of them. Therefore, teach me patience and humility in all that comes about. You are present in all things. Teach me faith (trust), death to self, and love. Then show me how to live in total dependence upon Christ and contentment with whatever I have in you.
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.

You Are My All in All

“There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement.” – E. B. White
(BrainyQuote)

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is vox populi. I know. That’s two words. It means, literally, “the voice of the people,” and also means, “popular opinion.”

Besides being French Fries Day, today is also Embrace Your Geekness Day. So go ahead. Let your inner geek come out and play!

The first night without C was a mixed bag. I didn’t get finished cleaning up the study, but I made some good progress. I made some room in the filing cabinet, but now I have a couple of stacks of files on the breakfast table. I plan to move those tomorrow. Not tonight, because we have our Anchor Prayer gathering tonight. I think we still have another file cabinet out in the garage. If we don’t have that any more, I’m going to have to get a box somewhere. The majority of the files are from back when S was in school, and were dealing with the ISD over her autism. Then, I realized we had tax files in this file cabinet from as far back as 1998. I don’t think you need twenty years of tax files. Ugh. Anyway, I’ll get finished in here, either tomorrow night or over the weekend. I should have realized it would take longer than I expected. I even emptied the shredder twice. And it’s almost full again!

I didn’t sleep very well, as expected. My Fitbit says I was restless 14 times. I got up and got the animals fed and all that stuff. C arrived safely in Indianapolis, and we talked for a few minutes at around 7:30. She had found her hotel and was about to get some food. She doesn’t have to be at the bowling center until 9:00 this morning (8:00 in our time), so that’s not too bad. When they go to the convention, she usually has to start doing stuff by 6:00 AM, and since the convention was in Nevada, that’s 4:00 AM CDT!

So today is Wednesday, and, as mentioned, we will have our Anchor Prayer Gathering tonight at 7:00. I’m looking forward to it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Psalm 92:12-15

“The life of faith does not deteriorate or wear out.” What a simple, yet profound statement! The longer we praise and worship our God, the stronger we get! In contrast to a lot of other things in life, our praise of God should reach its peak in our later years.

“O God, as I receive new energy each day from you, may there be juices of love and hope flowing through my veins, bringing fruits of righteousness to my praising and loving, through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

The Price of Vision

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord . . . Isaiah 6:1

There are many times in our lives when God has to remove someone important to us and put himself in their place. How many times have we experienced, not so much the loss of a close friend, but their moving away, or simply drifting away, to the point that we no longer see them regularly, if at all? Uzziah was very important to Isaiah. He was one of the good kings. And in the year that he died, what happened? Did Isaiah give up and quit? No! He saw the Lord, high and lifted up!

“My vision of God depends upon the state of my character.” This is important, because, until we are firmly walking in his Kingdom, we “see” God only in line with our prejudices.

And all of these popular phrases about the place of God in our lives . . . “I am second,” and so on . . . “It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever.” It sounds cold, and it doesn’t mean that we ignore important people in our lives. But they cannot take the place of God in our hearts and lives. He must be all that there is to us. He must be our all in all.

Father, be all in my life. Do not let me allow others to take your place in my life. Yes, I will love my family, and I will love my friends, and I will love my neighbors as myself, but may I never allow any of them to take the place in my life that you and only you should occupy. Be my all in all.

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.

Me or Us?

“Loved. You can’t use it in the past tense. Death does not stop that love at all.” – Ken Kesey
(BrainyQuote)

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is campestral, which means something close to what I though when I first saw the word, “of or relating to fields or open country.”

Today is Different Colored Eyes Day. Do you know anyone who fits that description?

Today is the day that C travels to Indianapolis. She won’t be leaving until after work, but we won’t see her this evening. She will be returning next Monday. I’m not totally sure, but this may be the longest she’s been away from us. We will, of course, be praying for safe travels and return, as well as success in everything that is supposed to happen on this trip.

I didn’t watch it, but apparently Giancarlo Stanton won the Home Run Derby last night, crushing a record-breaking 61 home runs. He hit 20 of them in the final round. That’s pretty amazing. Of course, you have to realize that they get made-to-order pitches for this thing, thrown by a pitcher of their choice.

Tonight is the All-Star Game, which I probably won’t watch, either. I’m just not a big fan of the “Mid-Summer Classic.” I’m not sure what I will do, tonight, since C will be gone on her trip. I have these grand intentions of being wise with my time, and not just sitting in front of the PS4 the whole time she is gone. There are a few more important things that I could be doing, one of which is getting in some prime practice time on trombone, guitar, and keyboards. I need to spend some time cleaning up in my study. I could also spend the time studying, reading, or beginning to arrange my life around the practice of the spiritual disciplines. It all begins tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;
but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.
But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
Psalm 92:5-11

There are times when we seem to be completely oblivious to causes and consequences. But if we would keep our eyes open, we would see evidence of God all around us. And when we observe with our minds, as well as our spirits, we find “ever new materials for praise.”

“Give me a quickness of mind to see your hand in all things, O God–your gracious acts in creation and your steady purposes in redemption. I do not want to be among those who grope in the dark but with those who walk in your light. Amen.”

(From My Utmost For His Highest)

The Spiritual Society

. . . until we all attain . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

What we are after is Chambers’s definition of rehabilitation: “the putting back of the whole human race into the relationship God designed it to be in.” This is what Jesus began in Redemption, and it is the Church’s job to continue that, working alongside Jesus in this venture. But when the Church attempts to develop its own organization, it fails to be a “spiritual society.” It is interesting to note that in the early days of the Methodist Church, the individual churches were not called “churches,” but “societies.” The goal is “the realization of Jesus Christ in corporate life as well as in individual life.” I am not here to only develop my own spiritual life or to seek “spiritual retirement.” My purpose, along with all other believers and ministers, is “so to realize Jesus Christ that the Body of Christ may be built up.”

This brings me something to think seriously about in my pursuit of the spiritual disciplines. Am I praying, fasting, practicing solitude, simplicity, and all of these other things solely for my own benefit? If so, then I am missing the point. “Am I building up the Body of Christ, or am I looking for my own personal development only?” My personal relationship with Christ is important. I need to know him. That has to happen before anything else can. And I need to be completely abandoned to him and his purposes. However, if I am only seeking things for myself, my relationship is distorted. The purpose of all of my work needs to be for the building up of the Body of Christ. Us, not just me.

Father, drive this home in my spirit. I think that, in my heart, I understood this truth, but I need to make sure that I fully understand it. Let all of my spiritual exercises be for the building up of the Body, as well as my own spiritual growth. May I not be seeking growth for just me, but that I might work to increase the body (not just in numbers, here, but in spiritual growth). I have been placed in a position of assisting the pastors of our church in spiritual formation. I need to learn all I can about these things, that I may accomplish this purpose, Father, so teach me, and work in me to make me less selfish and more giving.

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.

Not Duty, But Joy

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” – John Barrymore
(Eduro)

The word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is tweedle, which means, “to lure by or as by music.” The example given is, “The Pied Piper tweedled the children into following him.”

Today is International Town Criers Day. The Facebook of the olden days.

We had a good worship gathering, yesterday morning. Our pastor spent a few minutes, at the beginning, to have a prayer time for everyone affected by the tragedies from the previous week, praying for the victims’ families and friends, as well as those involved in the various shootings. It was a very moving time. The worship went well, and we concluded our series on prayer. We ended by giving the youth a chance to talk about their experiences at camp over the previous week. Sounds like they had a great time, and some of them had some authentic, life-changing encounters with God.

The Rangers lost the series to the Twins, 3-1, losing the final game 15-5. They have slumped their way into the All-Star break. Hopefully, the break will rejuvenate them, and they can come out swinging for the second half of the season. In the meantime, the Red Sox swept the Rays in their series. Unfortunately, the Orioles and Boo Jays both won yesterday, as well, so no ground was gained. They remain two games out, in second place. In spite of their slump, the Rangers remain the best team in the AL, and tied for third-best, with the Nationals, in MLB.

It’s Monday again, so back to work. C leaves for Indianapolis tomorrow after work. 😦

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Praying With the Psalms)

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92:1-4

Giving thanks to God should not be something we do out of duty, or begrudgingly. It should be “an exuberant explosion of delight.” It is not something that we do just to be polite, but is “the songburst of joy.” Every day we live, we should have new reason and new opportunities to proclaim our Father’s praises and give him thanks. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord!”

“Dear God, I will greet morning as a rising of the light of your love upon me; I will kneel at evening and receive your benediction. In between I will use every tune I know to carry a song of praise to you. Amen.”

Father, help me to know you throughout this day, and to know the presence of Christ in my life at every moment, that I might be constantly giving you thanks and praise in all things. Let each circumstance throughout this day be one in which I can acknowledge your presence and pray to you. I want to realize Jesus Christ in all things, not myself or the work that I do.

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.

Listen For the Spirit

Good morning. It is Tuesday, August 18, 2015. Post-Monday. Last day that Stephanie is 21.

Today’s word of the day, from dictionary.com, is festinate. It means “to hurry; hasten.”

Today is Mail Order Catalog Day. It is the anniversary of the first Montgomery Ward catalog in 1872. I used to love getting the Ward’s, Sears, and J.C. Penny’s Christmas catalogs in the mail each year. I would spend hours looking at all of the toys and games in them, wishing I could have probably at least half of them.

Our band practice last night was short, but productive. We played over a lot of music in an hour and fifteen minutes! It seems like most people were there, too. That should be the only time, for a while, at least, that we have to deal with a school activity interfering with our rehearsal. It seems that school is starting up next Monday. I was somewhat surprised, but we haven’t had to be concerned with that for three years, now. Huzzah!!

I will be skipping Huddle tonight. They don’t know that, yet, but Stephanie wants to start her celebration tonight, and I don’t want to deny her, so we will be going to the mall to pick up her birthday cookie cake, and maybe even eat dinner in the food court. We haven’t done that in a long time. Christi’s Huddle doesn’t meet this week, because at least three-fourths of the group has some kind of back-to-school activity that night. Again . . . has no effect on us. So not only do we have Wednesday off, we will also have each weeknight together to celebrate Stephanie’s birthday week. She doesn’t know about Thursday yet.

What will we do tomorrow? The whole day isn’t planned, yet, but we know it will involve Krispy Kreme, pedicures, and, most likely, Fogata’s.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Today’s Bible reading will be Exodus 2-3 and Matthew 24.

Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 92:4-15.

For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;
but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.
But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

“It is with the purpose of leading us into a proper discovery of the Divine judgments which are not seen in the world, that the Psalmist, in making mention of the majesty of God, would remind us, that he does not work according to our ideas, but in a manner corresponding to his own eternal Being.” (p 231)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

The final section dealing with the letters of Augustine and Luther is called “The Preaching of the Holy Spirit.” The advice Luther gives, here, is not so much a step to take, or even a practice to engage, but, “rather something to be kept in mind while going through all prayer and meditation. He calls praying believers to essentially keep a lookout for the Holy Spirit.” Luther instructs us that if, while meditating or praying, “‘an abundance of good thoughts comes to us, we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.'”

We certainly don’t find this advice in many other treatises on prayer. “Luther expects that we will hear god speak through his word.” Rest assured that Luther does not assume that these “inner impressions are revelations from God.” He does expect, though, that, during prayer and meditation, the “Spirit will fill our hearts with rich thoughts and ideas that feel poignant and new to us, even when we are thinking about a test or truth that we may have heard hundreds of times before.” Perhaps he speaks of Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:18, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened. When this occurs, “things we know with the mind become more fully rooted in our begins’ core.”

Finally, Keller summarizes Luther’s letter. “He tells us to build on our study of the Scripture through meditation, answering the Word in prayer to the Lord. As we do that, we should be aware that the Holy Spirit may begin ‘preaching’ to us. When that happens, we must drop our routines and pay close attention.”

Father, attune my heart to your Word, most importantly, but also make me aware of when the Spirit might preach to me through the meditations of your Word. Open the eyes of my heart as I meditate. Slow me down. This is, perhaps, the most important thing. I’m always in a hurry to get to the next thing. While I have legitimate cause to be somewhat hurried during this devotional time, my drive to work should have ample time for me to achieve this state of meditation and prayer, all the while paying close attention to what the Spirit might be saying to me. Then, later, when I read lengthier portions of Scripture, cause me to take time to read with understanding, not to just hurry through them so I can put a check mark next to them. Your Word is worth more than just a check mark.

I pray for this day. May we have safe travel to and from work, today. I pray for Christi’s work day, and mine, as well, that we will be productive and anxiety-free. May we trust in you for our day, and call upon your Name if anything threatens our peace. May we know your joy and peace today. I pray for Stephanie, as well, that she would know your joy, along with your great love for her. She gets very excited about birthdays, so I pray that these next few days go very well for us as we celebrate with her. I pray that Rachel is getting some well-deserved rest from her studies, and that you would show your great love to her and Justin. May you wrap your arms around my mother today, that she might experience your presence, especially as she fellowships with her sisters at their Bible study.

Father, several needs were expressed, during the night, from Christi’s ladies group. I pray that you would hold all of them close. Bring healing where healing is needed, and peace where peace is needed.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we be faithful to listen to the Spirit during our times of meditation and prayer. If he interrupts, may we be faithful to put down our lists and pay attention.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praying Through the Lord’s Prayer

Good morning. It is Monday, August 17, 2015. Two more days until Stephanie’s birthday!

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is refractory. This is an adjective, meaning, “1 : resisting control or authority : stubborn, unmanageable,” “2 : resistant to treatment or cure,” or, “3 : capable of enduring high temperatures.”

Today is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Here is our favorite black cat, “Screamer.”

2014-05-10 21.52.19

We had a fine day, yesterday. We got the groceries done (after waiting 25 minutes for a small order from Sonic!), and Christi went to get a massage, thinking that it might help some with her calf muscle pain. She says it’s better this morning. It still hurts, but she has more movement capability, this morning. So maybe it did help some. Her neck and shoulder are sore, but they feel more loose, as well.

My band practice doesn’t start until 7:45, this evening, due to “Band Camp” at the middle school where we practice. So I’ll have time to come home and eat dinner before practice, tonight. Supposedly, we are still going to get finished at 9:00.

This is a truncated week for us. Actually, we decided we are having a two-day week, with a day off, and then another two-day week. 🙂

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

I just realized that I forgot to read my Bible reading yesterday. So I may double up today. We’ll see. It’s certainly not the end of the world if I don’t finish it in exactly a year.

Today’s Psalm, from Heart Aflame, is Psalm 92:1-3.

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.

“We need to be disentangled from all cares if we would seriously apply ourselves to the praises of God. The Psalmist then would teach us that the right observance of the Sabbath does not consist in idleness, as some absurdly imagine, but in the celebration of the Divine name.” (p 230)

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

In a section called “Spiritual ‘Riffing’ on the Lord’s Prayer,” Timothy Keller continues to give us insights from Martin Luther’s letter on prayer. Before launching into “free-form” prayer, Luther suggests that we “should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalizing each one,” using our own personal needs. Keller compares the prayers to “musical riffs–improvisations on a theme.”

For example, on the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread,” Luther says, “‘I commend to thee my house and property, wife and child. Grant that I can manage them well, supporting and educating them.'” Luther strongly advises that we not recite his words verbatim, but that we should personalize it, as it would be “‘nothing but idle chatter and prattle, read word for word out of a book.'” It would also defeat the purpose. In fact, Luther insists that he would not even paraphrase it the same way, two days in a row. “‘I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending on my mood and feeling.'”

What are the values of this exercise? One thing it does is address a major difficulty that I have in prayer, and that is “distracting thoughts.” “Ordinary prayer, which is either completely extempore or based on a list of prayer needs, often cannot draw the mind’s attention fully away from what occupied it previously.” Another thing it does is to improve our prayer language. (And by “prayer language” I am not speaking of some mystical mumbling of nonsense syllables in “prayer.”) If we are left to our own devices, we will likely pray about only what is troubling us at the moment. However, if we force ourselves to pray through the Model Prayer, we are led to pray for the advance of the Gospel in our community and world, as well as in our relationships. We compel ourselves to accept things that God has allowed, by praying “Your will be done.” We find ourselves in confession mode when confronted with sin when we pray “forgive us our debts.” This portion also forces us to look at whether we are holding grudges. “Praying the Lord’s Prayer forces us to look for things to thank and praise god for in our dark times, and it presses us to repent and seek forgiveness during times of prosperity and success. It disciplines us to bring every part of our lives to God.”

The last thing of value that is mentioned here is that, unlike meditating on a Scripture verse, praying through the Lord’s Prayer is actually prayer. It addresses God, and it has the authority of the words of Jesus Christ, and it is the perfect way to segue into the things that are pressing on our hearts. It could take only two to three minutes, or it could “catch fire” and last for quite a while.

So to summarize Luther’s advice: We should first meditate on some Scripture, then we should paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer to fit our personal lives, and then we should pray from the heart. “This full exercise, he adds, should be done twice a day.”

Father, as you continue to teach me to pray, I am grateful for the advice of those who have gone before, and who have labored much longer and harder in prayer than I probably ever will. I pray that I might take this advice to heart and employ what can fit my needs and practices. May these things permeate my being, making my prayer to you more personal, more effective, and more fervent. Keep teaching me, Lord, for I will never have learned it all.

I pray for this day ahead, that our travel will be safe and smooth. May our work day go well today, and may we focus on your grace and mercy, regardless of the circumstances. I pray for Stephanie today, that she would know your love and mercy in her life, and that you would grant her wisdom and understanding. Show her meaning for her life, Father. I pray for Rachel, asking that she was able to get everything finished for the final submission today, and that she can breathe a sigh of relief, that her most intense laboring is over. Help her find the right path for her future. I lift up my mother, that your grace would surround her today.

Your grace is sufficient.

Some good advice from Martin Luther on prayer today. I will seek to follow it this morning.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Joy of Knowing God

Good morning. Friday has finally arrived. And this is a long weekend! Today is Friday, August 31, 2012. Today is “Eat Outside Day.” Okay…does that mean “take your meal outside and eat it day,” or “go outside and eat whatever’s there day?” I think I would go for the former, because you never know what’s out there.

On this date in 1955, William Cobb demonstrated the first solar powered car. I see how well that caught on.
On this date in 1888, Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim, a prostitute named Mary Ann Nichols. He was never caught.
On this date in 1949, the American Gigolo, Richard Gere, was born.
On this date in 1928, The Threepenny Opera premiered in Berlin. It was composed by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. I love Threepenny! Here is a clip of Raul Julia and Bill Nighy performing “The Army Song” in a movie that I didn’t even know existed!

On this date in 1959, Sandy Koufax struck out 18 batters in a single game, setting a National League record.


All that happened in Christi’s doctor appointment yesterday was a referral to an orthopedist. So we had to pay for a doctor’s visit for that? Nothing else much happened yesterday, at least that was worth talking about. The work day was a bit stressful, but I think I handled it okay. Today should be interesting. The manager is taking a vacation day (so as to have an extra long weekend), and my direct supervisor won’t be in, as he is working tomorrow (Saturday) to cover our holiday Saturday deliveries. I’ll be by myself, pretty much. It’s not the first time…things should be fine. Oh, and there’s no work Monday.


Father, I pray that you show me a glimpse of yourself this morning, and fill me with your Spirit as I look into your Word today.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 92. Again, there is no composer listed; it is simply called “A song for the Sabbath.” It is, indeed, “good to give thanks to the LORD.”
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!
(1-5)


As I continue to read Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I stumbled across this line in the chapter on service. “Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to get our own way?” (p. 96 of the version I’m reading) That little sentence shouts volumes across the centuries. In fact, I’m thinking that the entire book could be summarized by that one line. “Life together” works best if one adopts that philosophy. It is better to serve my neighbor, to serve my brother or sister, than to get my own way. May we all remember this, and may we all pray for the Spirit of God to infuse that attitude into our spirits!


My Utmost For His Highest
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

Oswald Chambers says, “It is an insult to use the word happiness in connection with Jesus Christ.” Jesus never spoke of “happiness.” While I realize that the TEV translation (Today’s English Version) of the Bible uses the word “happy” in the Beatitudes, that is quite an oversimplification. One must remember that the TEV has a vocabulary of only about 5000 words. It was translated with the idea of being understood by someone whose first language was not English. Here, Jesus speaks of “joy,” both his joy and our joy. We must never confuse “joy” with “happiness.” “The joy of Jesus was absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.” Jesus prayed that our joy would be the same as his joy.

What should bring me joy in my life? It is not physical health (important as that may be, and I’m certainly still working on improving that). It is not in “external happenings.” In fact, the most joy should not even come from seeing God’s work succeed, according to Chambers. Rather, the “full flood of my life is…in the perfect understanding of God, and in the communion with Him that Jesus Himself had.” That is the goal of my life. It is the sussing out of external circumstances that will hinder this joy. The cares of the world choke out God’s word.

Again, Chambers speaks of being “rightly related to God.” “Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water.” That sounds familiar…just yesterday, right? Chambers cuts to the chase: “Stop being self-conscious, stop being a sanctified prig, and live the life hid with Christ. The life that is rightly related to God is as natural as breathing wherever it goes.” (Emphasis mine) Think about it…”The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.”

We must find our joy in our relationship with God in Christ, and in no other place. If I can manage that, then those “rivers of living water” will begin to pour through me, and then out of me onto anyone who gets around me. Isn’t that the kind of joy that all of us should desire?


Father, I pray for this kind of joy; the joy that finds itself simply in the relationship with you, for that is the single most important thing in my life. My health and weight are not important (not ultimately…it is true that my quality of physical life has improved as I have been more active and lost weight, and I intend to continue to do so); my “happiness” is truly not important. It is joy that is of utmost importance, and that joy being the joy that comes from knowing you. I pray that I would be “rightly related” to you, so that rivers of living water would flow out of me. May I be a channel of that living water, Father! Make me a blessing! Make this joy as natural as breathing to me. But, here’s the catch. I also pray that I would unconscious of being a blessing to people. Sure, it’s nice to hear it…I won’t deny that I enjoy comments on this blog that tell me that I have blessed someone. But I don’t want to walk around thinking, “Watch out, I’m about to BLESS YOU!!” No. This is why I pray for the characteristics of the Beatitudes to be manifest in my life every day. Meekness, poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness. I pray for all of these in my life every day. Keep me humble, Father. In this joy, may I also find humility. Give me perfect understanding of you and communion with Jesus Christ.

I also pray for the attitude described by Bonhoeffer…let me be more desirous to serve my neighbor than to have my own way. My way is not important. It is your desires that should be the desires of my heart, and you commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we should, even more so, love each other as Christ has loved us. This requires me to set aside my own way. So my goals for this day are that I would find joy in being rightly related to you, and that I would make service to others a priority.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray for relief for Christi, that she might not continue experiencing this pain. I pray that her work day will be stress free and smooth. I pray that my work day will be smooth, as well, especially as there is potential for carry over from yesterday’s issues. If issues arise, may I look to you to keep me calm. May I not allow my external circumstances to cast a shadow on my joy. I also pray for Stephanie on this day, that she would have a good day and that her thoughts would be drawn to you. I thank you for her sweetness to her mother yesterday evening that helped draw Christi out of a funk.


Look for that joy today…the joy that comes from knowing God.

Grace and peace, friends.