I Tell You Three Times

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

Today is Tuesday, the third of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,427

So there really isn’t a lot to write about, this morning. Not a lot happened yesterday, and there was no baseball. Okay, there was baseball, sure. But the Rangers and the Red Sox didn’t play, which means, for me, effectively, there was no baseball.

The Rangers play the Phillies today at 5:45 CDT (that seems really early), and the Red Sox play the Angels at 7:10 EDT (a much more normal time).

I work, this evening, at the Hurst Public Library, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. This is probably my favorite activity at the library, because I get to interact with books more than people. Heh. I have a sticker on one of my metal cups that says, “Books are better than people.” I realize God doesn’t agree with that sentiment, and, in reality, I don’t either. However, I would still rather interact with a book than another human.

C is working from home today, which is always nice, and I will venture out into the wild suburbs, in a little while, and get lunch/dinner for us from Subway and Sonic.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Vine Life,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

Keep on
abiding
in Me…

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

Please check out more of this inspiration poetry at the link provided above.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. 
Remain in my love. 
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, 
just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. 
Yes, your joy will overflow! 
This is my commandment: 
Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 
You are my friends if you do what I command."
(John 15:9-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for coffee and breakfast; and chocolate
2. for water to take showers
3. for the peace that comes from keeping one's minds fixed on God
4. that our God is always near
5. that in His presence, there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)
6. that everything that I have (for I truly "own" nothing) belongs to and was given to me by my Father in heaven
7. for the spirit of generosity and sharing that He has placed in our hearts, that we do not hoard any of the aforementioned gifts for ourselves

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
(Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 NLT)

For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
(Job 33:4 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “near.”

Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time.
(Jeremiah 23:23 NLT).

One of the most comforting things about this journey in Christ is the constant nearness of God. There’s a fifty-dollar word we use to describe our belief about God’s presence. It is “omnipresent.” It means pretty much the same thing as “ubiquitous.” He is everywhere, and all at the same time.

At least a decade ago, I started calling God “omnichronological,” as well. The reason being that God also exists outside of time. So not only is God everywhere at once, He is also everywhen at once.

So, considering the truth that God is always near, then I might also consider that God is near me, now and here; God is near me at my birth; God is near me on my deathbed (or wherever I am when that time comes).

Psalm 139 is another Scripture that states this very well.

You go before me and follow me. 
You place your hand of blessing on my head. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 
I can never escape from your Spirit! 
I can never get away from your presence! 
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
 if I go down to the grave, you are there. 
If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
(Psalms 139:5-10 NLT)

“To know He is near–to practice His nearness–is to be filled with the pleasure of God.”

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I abide in Your nearness; I relish and embrace the truth that You are always with me. It brings me great comfort to know that, no matter where I go, I cannot get away from Your presence. And, while it is difficult to grasp or comprehend, I am grateful that You are already with me in my future, whatever it may hold. I am also grateful that You are present in my past, and have been watching over me my whole life. May I always know Your nearness, Father, even when I am not looking for it.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

You are not imagining things. That verse has already occurred in this blog once, up above. And when it showed up in my Daily Guideposts 2022 reading for today, I figured that means it’s important.

To illustrate that verse, Erin MacPherson uses a personal experience with her dog, who, when afraid of something, would keep his eyes on hers, constantly, until the “danger” was past. Her conclusion: “When things are frightening, scary, or just new, I want to keep my eyes trained on the One I can trust.”

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Oh, Father, if we would only learn the truth of these things; if we would only learn that, if we keep our spiritual eyes fixed on You, that we would have unbreakable peace, even in the most unstable circumstances. I have know this peace, but I confess that I have also been nearly shattered by similar circumstances, because I failed to keep my eyes on You. Your Word tells us that You will give us “perfect” peace, if we keep our eyes fixed on You. There is very little in this world that I would consider perfect. Okay, there is nothing perfect in this world. We use the word to describe a lot of things, but, in truth, only You are worthy of that word of description. Only You are perfect, and Your peace is perfect because it comes from You.

James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from” You, and that You never change. Keeping my eyes fixed on You also means that I will never lean on my own understanding of things, but, rather, acknowledge You in all my ways. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use my brain. Heaven forbid! You gave me a brain, and I intend to use it. But when I rely more on my own thinking than on what You and Your Word tell me, then I create trouble for myself. So, help me to keep my eyes fixed You at all times, and to remember that, no matter what happens in my life, You are going to work it out for my good, because You are good and You only do good.

Eugene Peterson continues talking about money in today’s reading. Yesterday’s referred to the stewardship of all things that God has given us, and today singles out the resource of money, which Peterson describes as “holy.” He points out that not everyone believes that money is holy, but states that this is a “Christian and biblical conviction.”

He then begins to discuss the ancient concept of “tithing.” This is a practice that puts the aforementioned conviction into practice. “it is an offering of the firstfruits of our labor to the God who made this world of soil and rock, barley and grapes, silver and gold and tin–up to and including embossed plastic credit cards.”

Traditionally, the tithe was the first ten percent of any moneys received through our labor. “It is based on the conviction that we would have gotten nothing from all our sweat and exertion if God had not first given us ground to use, muscles to work, brains to think, and communities to live in and be employed in.”

Remember–yesterday’s reading asserted that everything that we see (and even things we can’t see) was created by God and given to us to use. And remember James 1:17, quoted in my last prayer, tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. So whatever we accomplish in our work is accomplished using things and resources that we got from our Father. Therefore, we give back to Him a portion of what we receive from that labor.

Peterson maintains that, “if we do not being with giving . . . we inevitably become dominated by the spirit of acquisition: getting and getting and getting. We become obsessed with keeping control of what we have. We scheme and covet. And in so doing, we profane our money. We violate the holiness of our money.” Does this sound or look familiar to us?

“Money offered freely to Christ is given back to us changed in some deep and interior way. It can change us and the world around us. Generosity is our most reliable and useful means for turning what we have into a gift. The act of tithing is like leaven: all our money gets infected with the spirit of generosity and enjoyment. The tithe pulls all our possessions into lives and adoration and celebration.”

We must be careful, though, and remember these words of Jesus:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
(Matthew 23:23 NLT)

Tithing can feed pride. “It can create snobbish elitism. . . . It can develop into self-righteousness that assumes that God is now obligated to take special notice.”

And we all out to rest assured that God is never, NEVER “obligated” to us for ANYTHING!!

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV)

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

A lot of this all boils down to another thought from Jesus, found in Matthew 16.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
(Matthew 16:24-25 NLT)

If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be focused on “things,” and our “right” to possess them. This, after all, is one of our biggest problem areas in today’s culture (I speak only for Western culture). We are all about our rights and what is “mine.” Tragically, even modern “Christians” (for so they believe themselves to be, even though their actions and words contradict that belief) have been loudly proclaiming their rights and ownership of possessions, recently.

But, as A.W. Tozer insists, in The Pursuit of God, this “self-life” is actually my enemy. And if I allow this enemy to live, I will lose everything. This is why I must keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. And this mindset, this way of life, produces a kind of generosity that can change the world, if not the entire world (for what can one man do to change the world?), at least for one or two souls.

Father, I praise You for the spirit of generosity that You have placed within my family. You have created in us a mindset of sharing, of not holding on to possessions, of not hoarding money. Certainly, we do save some, and even that might be an indication of a small lack of faith, but we do believe in being prepared. But we are not hoarding, thinking that it is “never enough,” to the harm of our fellow travelers on this earth. We do ask for discernment, that we might know when a person’s need is truly worthy of our support, if it is legitimate, lest we fall for scammers. But even then, it is the thought in our heart that is most important, and if someone is scamming, they must, in the end, answer to You for misusing resources provided by You.

All that I have is Yours. I have nothing, I “own” nothing that You did not give me. Once again, in the words of Horatius Bonar, my sin is the only thing that I have that can call my own. Everything else comes from You. All praise and glory belongs to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.
(Isaiah 26:3 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

Today is Thursday, the fourteenth of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week. Maundy Thursday.

May the peace of Christ be with you and within you.

Day 23,408

According to a couple of sources, “Maundy” comes from the latin word for “command,” and Maundy Thursday commemorates the command that Jesus gave His disciples, at the Last Supper, to love and serve each other. I did not know this until today. Or at least if I did, I had forgotten, which is entirely possible.

I’m pretty sure my brain is full, so that now, whenever I learn something new, I forget something old. I wonder what I just forgot?

Today will be my second Thursday in the computer center at the library. If it is anything like last Thursday, it will go by fairly quickly, as it was pretty busy, at least busier than my normal Fridays were.

I’ve started another chicken soup (not Italian, but that one was very delicious) in the crock pot for tonight’s dinner. I will have my bowl after I get home, around 8:30.

The library is closed tomorrow, for Good Friday, which, from what I hear, is normal. So I suppose it is a good thing that I switched to Thursdays, so I won’t miss any hours. C is also off tomorrow, but it will be somewhat busy. We are attending a funeral tomorrow afternoon, of the father of one of her coworkers. And then, tomorrow evening, I plan on attending a Good Friday service at the Lutheran church that we went to a few weeks ago. As for Sunday, I’m still not sure what is happening with our house church.

The Texas Rangers had yesterday off. The Boston Red Sox evened up their record, beating the Detroit Tigers 9-7. At 3-3 for the season, they are in third place in the AL East, tied with the Yankees. Today, the Rangers will face Ohtani and the Angels. Dunning will start for the Rangers.

While most of us haven’t been paying attention, the Cleveland Guardians have scored 45 runs, 44 of those in the last four games. In one game, they beat the KC Royals 17-3. They play the Giants tomorrow, so we’ll find out, then, if they are “for real.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, both really good.

Going Before You,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I AM
levelling
mountains

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

This is so true. God goes before us, sometimes levelling mountains we can’t even see before we get to them.

Where God Lives,” by Daryl Madden

And where God lives
We find beauty
His Word of peace
Flows joyfully

And where God dwells
A binding be
So intimate
Of unity

And where God grows
So peacefully
In nourishing
Community

And where God shares
His grace for free
His gift of love
Abundantly

We enter through
Humility
My prayer this day
Come live in me

Yes, Lord, please come live and dwell in me, today. Please show your support to both of these artists by visiting their websites at the links provided.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the prospect of a beautiful day, based on the weather forecast
2. that wherever God lives, I find beauty
3. that God shares His grace with us, freely and abundantly
4. for God's grace and forgiveness that completely erase our past sins
5. for the ability to repent (say goodbye) and follow in the steps of Jesus (say hello)

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
(Acts 4:31 ESV)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “goodbye.” At first glance, I thought it was speaking of saying “goodbye” to a person. But this is not the case.

I won’t share the opening quote for multiple reasons, but it says something about the difficulty of saying “goodbye,” especially succinctly.

There are times in our lives when we need to say “goodbye,” not to people, but to either circumstances or parts of our lives, from which we have moved on, or need to move on. And I think therein lies the crux. There are times when we truly need to move on, but we hesitate, not unlike Lot’s wife, as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. We look back longingly at something, and, oddly, sometimes that something might even be an illness or condition we have suffered from for a long time. It’s like we get attached to that, even though it may have caused us much pain.

For myself, it’s usually more the need to move on and say goodbye to attitudes or ways of responding to certain life situations. My biggest struggle, which I have, I believe, been fairly open about, here, is moving on from being judgmental toward people. And I think more people struggle with that than are willing to admit.

So, perhaps I will spend some time, today, thinking about what I need to say “goodbye” to.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

There is another word for this concept. It is “repent.” I used to think that “repent” meant to turn away from sin with great sorrow. That’s not what it means (even though the dictionary indicates that). The word literally means, in Hebrew, to turn back or turn around; retreat. In the New Testament Greek, it means to think differently or reconsider. So, essentially, “repent” means to change the way one thinks about something. Sorrow and regret may or may not be involved.

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
(John 13:9 NLT)

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
(Psalms 51:7 NLT)

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

When we “repent,” or say “goodbye” to certain things in our lives, and truly let them go, as previously stated, it is like turning around and changing direction. And then, if we were to turn back and look at where we had been, by the grace of God, we can no longer see those tracks.

It’s like walking through a patch of snow and then turning around to see your tracks erased by newly fallen snow. That’s what the grace of God and His forgiveness are like. When we repent, when we change our way of thinking, our past sins are erased. They are not just covered, but it is as though they never happened. And in some, almost “magical” way, it is absolutely true that they never happened. I believe that, while consequences for some actions may always be with us, God can change our past. That is what the blood of Christ does for us, as it washes us “whiter than snow.”

(Gratitude to Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022)

In a reading called “On Religion and Faith,” Eugene H. Peterson addresses the difference between religion and faith. And I find this to be relevant to the discussion on repentance and saying “goodbye.”

“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
(Luke 18:8 NLT)

“Surely he will find religion (institutions, creeds, documents, artifacts, and the like), but he may not find faith. Faith is deeply personal, dynamic, and ultimate. Religion, however, is faith’s expression. For example, religion is concerned about institutions (churches), documents, statements of belief (Bible and theology), and our convictions and moral codes. Religion is important but not ultimately important.

“Religion is a means, not an end. Faith is the only end.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

And repentance happens by faith, not by religion. You can quote creeds and attend institutions and proclaim moral codes all day long, but until you follow Jesus Christ by faith, you accomplish nothing at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. You make life more difficult and miserable for people around you.

Father, we need a fresh revelation on the difference between religion and faith. There is a lot of religion in our world, right now, and many people are running away from the “church” (institution) because of it, in an attempt to actually find faith. Help us to focus more on deeply personal and dynamic faith, and follow in the steps of Jesus. Help us to say “goodbye” to bigotry and prejudice and judgment, and to turn around, repent, and say “hello” to grace and forgiveness.

Thank You for the grace and forgiveness that washes us clean, like freshly fallen snow, and makes it appear that our past sins have been erased. Truly it is said that You cast our sins as far as the east is from the west, which, if considered in a straight line, is infinity. Perhaps we do not consider that enough. Perhaps Resurrection Sunday is a good time for that.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Jesus

Today is Monday, the eleventh of April, 2022, in the sixth week of Lent, Holy Week.

May the peace of Christ fill your soul today!

Day 23,405

We had another wonderful day, yesterday. The trip to Mineral Wells and back went very well, with no delays or incidents on the road. We made it to FBC just in time to get seated for the worship service, which was a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus, and looking forward to Resurrection Sunday. The music included several choir soloists, as well as the handbell choir which played during the Lord’s Supper. I was also glad to get to take the Supper with the saints at FBC.

We picked up burgers and sundaes at Braum’s and took them to Mama’s house for lunch. Then we grabbed as much as we could squeeze into the car and headed back home, listening to the Texas Rangers trounce all over the Blue Jays, 12-6. That was good fun.

The Red Sox also managed to get their first win, beating the Yankees 4-3. In other scores, the Cleveland Guardians (now that’s going to take some getting used to . . . doesn’t sound like a baseball team name at all) jumped all over the KC Royals, 17-3.

After one weekend of play, one team remains undefeated, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers are in third place in the AL West, and the Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East. Houston leads the West, Tampa the East, and the Other Sox lead the Central. Mets, Cubs, and Padres lead the NL divisions. Chicago has two first place teams.

Today will mostly be a resting day as I get ready for one of my alternating “heavier” weeks at the library (working 3.5 shifts, this week). Couple loads of laundry to fold, and dinner to cook. Later, this afternoon, there will be groceries to put away. And I will probably do some practicing, as we are getting ready to have another Night of Worship on April 23. Oh, and I almost forgot, we have the Texas Rangers’ home opener this afternoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Days of Wonder,” by S. Michaels, LightWriters

I Am
remaking
all things

©2022 S. Michaels
Into the Light
(Prophetic Promises Haiku 2-3-2)

The hope of this promise is one of the things that keeps me going through this life. Please check out the beautiful poetry and lovely images that accompany it, at the link provided above.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
(Psalms 149:4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the most wonderful day we had yesterday
2. for the truth that the Lord takes pleasure in His people
3. for the knowledge of God's presence
4. that God works in the "ordinary"
5. that God expects us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in His presence (Micah 6:8)

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 16:19-20 ESV)

“The most extraordinary feature of the gospel is its ordinariness. The fact that the Word that created the heavens and arranges the seasons enters ordinary lives and fashions eternal life in them is truly extraordinary.”

There is so much truth to this proclamation. Even when the miracle of new birth occurs in someone, to all external appearances, they are the same, ordinary people as they were the day before. Yet Scriptures says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
(2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG)

What does all this mean? Is there a “secret ingredient?”

“One of the extraordinary things about Jesus was that he unassumingly took his place among the ordinary men and women around him.” Consider this scene after the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" 
She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" 
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 
Jesus said to her, "Mary." 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
(John 20:11-18 ESV)

The resurrected Christ appeared so ordinary that Mary thought He was a gardener.

Then we have the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:28-32 ESV)

These two travelers just thought Jesus was another pilgrim on the road.

Even the disciples, having gone fishing after the resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus when He called out to them from the shore.

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
(John 21:1-4 ESV)

Until, of course, He did that thing where He told them where to cast their nets and they couldn’t pull the net in, as it was so heavy with fish.

Is Jesus trying to hide Himself from us? “He didn’t make it easy for us to see God in him.” Except, of course, when He was baptized, and then, again, at the Transfiguration.

I have to confess that this puzzles me a little bit. Because I don’t see it as Jesus intentionally making it difficult for us to see God in Him. Rather, I think He tries to make us feel comfortable in His presence.

There is something about the Transfiguration which I had not considered until a few weeks ago, when I heard what was probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the subject. The pastor who was preaching that morning, at Living Word Lutheran Church, in Grapevine, TX, wondered if maybe what the three disciples saw when Jesus was transfigured, that which caused them to be “terrified” (Mark 9:6), was the same vision of Christ that John the Revelator saw.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:12-16 ESV)

Here were these three ordinary fishermen, who had been walking with this “ordinary” guy for a little while, and suddenly, they see this?

Yeah, I’d be terrified, too. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Jesus appeared to Mary as looking like an ordinary gardener, and He appeared to those two travelers as just another person on a journey. If we saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way John the Revelator did, we, too, I’m sure, would fall “at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

So, in between the appearances of Jesus in the New Testament, and His appearance that “every eye will see,” at the end of days (I’m not including the “Rapture” because I do not believe in that as a separate event from the Second Coming), we see Jesus walking in around in you and me. Ordinary people carrying around a miracle in our “jars of clay,” so that, hopefully, other ordinary people will see Him and take note of this great salvation that we have.

But there’s a catch. It’s that pesky bit about “love.” Unfortunately, people aren’t seeing a lot of Jesus in those who are supposed to be carrying Him around, because the hate that they are spewing is louder than the Gospel.

That just needs to stop. Period.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I thank You for all of the “ordinary” that we see in Scripture, especially surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly, He did many extraordinary things, things that drew attention to Him and showed Your might power in this world. But He also appeared so very ordinary, as evidenced by the Scripture passages above. So ordinary that people didn’t realize who He was until He spoke or acted.

I pray for Your children today. We are walking around in our world, supposedly carrying the truth of the Gospel in our “jars of clay,” so that it is evident that we are nothing special, but the message we are carrying is so very special. But that message is getting obscured by a lack of love and compassion in those who are making the most noise.

I pray for them to be either silenced or have a severe, drastic change of heart. And, lest I be misunderstood, by “silenced” I am not praying for You to smite anyone. I’m simply praying for their voices to be drowned out by the prevalent voice of Your love and compassion and mercy coming from the rest of us.

I pray for Your truth to be known. I don’t claim to understand all of Your ways, and know that I will not understand them until the day that I stand in Your presence (or fall on my face, which is more likely). So, in that case, I choose to err on the side of love and mercy, rather than on the side of legalism and judgment. Hopefully, I am not erring at all.

May Your grace and mercy be known in all the world, and may the earth be filled with the knowledge of You as the waters fill the seas. I think that’s a hymn somewhere.

Give us glimpses of extraordinary Jesus, our Savior, as we walk through this ordinary world in our ordinary mortal coils.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Back To the Basics

“Our opinions and arguments on world affairs make nothing happen, but several times a day, we have chances at peacemaking, praying, and loving that implement the kingdom.”

It is Friday, the eighteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be upon you, today!

Day 23,381

Nothing much happened, yesterday, as it was a pretty lazy day for me. I did finish another book, which I will get posted at my other blog, at some point, today.

Today’s my day in Computer Center, which is always nice, and usually pretty laid back. And hopefully, the manager and I can get my PC taken care of, during the day.

There may be Freebird’s for dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Reinvention,” by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

Life is what happens
when new creation
overtakes all doubts

©2022 S. Michaels
Another Springtime
(Haiku 5-5-5)

As always, I encourage you to click on the link, as there is always a lovely photograph that accompanies the poem.

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
(Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing, and I woke up this morning
2. that, by the power of God's Spirit, I have all that I need for life and godliness; I do need to practice the disciplines to strengthen and develop what I have, though, just like physical muscles
3. for my brothers and sisters in Christ, as our faith increases and our love for one another increases (hopefully)
4. that I can practice the presence of God in any circumstance, even cooking and cleaning
5. for the opportunities to practice love and prayer that will come my way today

The prayer word for today is “increase.” This is a word that has some dangerous connotations. For example, it seems to have ties to the almost cultic outbreak of the “prayer of Jabez” a few decades ago. But the idea presented by the reading today is an increase of characteristics such as the fruit of the Spirit.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
(Luke 2:52 ESV)

Note that Jesus did not increase in property, wealth, and territory.

The writer, identified only as “Jeanette,” speaks of needing an increase in patience, only to hear from the Lord that she already has all the patience (along with the rest of the fruit of the Spirit) that she needs, she just needs to “exercise it.”

Could it be that that is how this works?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is a lot like muscles. If you exercise them, they get stronger. You already have all the muscles you are going to have. But, through discipline, you can develop those muscles and make them stronger. So it goes with Christ-like traits. This is why we have the “spiritual disciplines” or practices. So that we can develop and strengthen love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Scripture tells us that we already have all of those that we need.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

One more way I like to use the word “increase.”

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
(John 3:30 ESV)

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:10 ESV)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
(2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

There’s that word again, “increasing.” In this case, it is our love for one another. There is a reason that I harp on love all the time, here. As a general rule, we humans are pretty bad at our performance of Romans 12:10.

Eugene H. Peterson quotes William Blake, who said, “He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars” (Selections from ‘Jerusalem’ [The Holiness of Minute Particulars]).

Peterson considers love and prayer to be among those “Minute Particulars” of which Blake speaks. These are things that we can carry out in our immediate circumstances, regardless of where we are.

“Our opinions and arguments on world affairs make nothing happen, but several times a day, we have chances at peacemaking, praying, and loving that implement the kingdom.”

Read that again. Read it until it sinks in. Remember that thing that Amy Grant said, that I keep going back to? We two jobs . . . love God and love people, and our opinions about controversial matters don’t factor into the job descriptions for either job.

We go through life accumulating debris, stuff we may have needed, at one time in our lives, but need no longer. That debris causes fatigue in our lives. Just like we must occasionally do house cleaning, we need to “get rid of whatever is interfering with who we want to be before God and with each other. Wise Christians go back to the basics.”

Peterson then takes a couple paragraphs to talk about the famous Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, who wrote Practicing the Presence of God. Inspired by a dry, leafless, winter tree, Brother Lawrence decided to let spring come in his life, “letting the life of Christ take root and blossom in his whole being.” He spent the rest of his life “among pots and pans. He cooked meals, baked bread, and swept the kitchen floor, all the while practicing the presence of God.”

The practice of the presence of God is “simple, but not easy. Basic, but not elementary. It takes determined attention to be simple. It takes all the help we can get to be basic.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, help me to practice Your presence today, as I sit in the Computer Center, as I sort books, as I shelve books, and as I assist patrons in doing whatever they need. Help me to set aside my opinions and arguments, things that have absolutely not bearing on world situations, so that I may faithfully practice love and prayer whenever the opportunity arises.

Help me to decrease while Christ increases in my life.

Help me to declutter my life, both spiritual and physical/material.

Help me get back to the basic.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Lessons in Futility

Today is Monday, the twenty-fourth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,328

I’m having one of those “difficult-to-get-going” kind of days. I’ve been up since 6:45, it’s currently almost 9:30, and I’ve just started typing. I have managed to have breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, though.

The big thing today is our Hamilton experience from yesterday. We got to the Bass Performance Hall in plenty of time. There was quite a line going into the building, but it was moving quickly, as they checked for either negative Covid tests or vaccine cards outside the front doors. Everything went really smoothly to get in. We stopped at the merch counter first and got a t-shirt and a shot glass that says, “I’m not throwing away my shot!”

The production was not at all disappointing. The closer we got to the time, the more excited I got and the less worried I was about how it would stack up to the original cast. I had seen one “bootleg” video, made at the Broadway show, and the version that is on Disney+ (edited for a few language places, of course). We both felt that the weakest part was the Schuyler Sisters, but they were still good. The people that played Hamilton, Washington, Mulligan/Madison, and Laurens/Philip were all very good. The guy that played Lafayette/Jefferson was good, but there is no way he was going to be as good as Daveed Diggs, and, in the same vein, the guy that played Burr was also very good, but I don’t see anyone being as good as Leslie Odom, Jr., in that role. Oh, and our King George III was excellent. He played the role a little differently than Jonathan Groff, and that’s okay. It was a great performance, though, greeted by a rousing ovation at the end. And, of course, I was crying at the end. The ending of this show wrecks me every time. I mean . . . how many Broadway productions do you know of that end with A SOB?? It could be argued that Eliza Schuyler Hamilton was really the star of the story.

As predicted, we picked up Applebee’s for dinner (and Sonic drinks, of course) on the way home, watched an episode of Lucifer and chilled for the rest of the evening.

Today, C works from home (and for the rest of the week). Monday is one of my normal days off every week, and I don’t work until 4:15 tomorrow. I have no concrete plans for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Long Winding Way, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

I shall
not tire of
seeking

©2022 S. Michaels
A Waking Season
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please click on the link to see the poem in its best environment, as there is always a beautiful image accompanying the verse.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
 he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 
(Psalms 40:1-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for books, and that I can read
2. that I can pray about anything and everything; really . . . everything
3. for Jesus's question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Luke 18:41)
4. for the way Ecclesiastes teaches us the futility of trying to find meaning without God
5. for God, the Source of all things
“You will guide our feet into peace”
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 
And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 
They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 
And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 
"What do you want me to do for you?" 
He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." 
And Jesus said to him, 
"Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." 
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. 
(Luke 18:35-43 ESV)

I love this passage, and the question that Jesus asks the blind beggar. I easily envision Him asking the same question of you and me. Sometimes, when I ask people for prayer requests, I ask, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?”

Who among us has not read the book of Ecclesiastes and wondered at the “vanity” of it all? If read in the wrong spirit, this book of the Bible, possibly most famous for the lines quoted in Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” could be depressing.

What Eugene H. Peterson gets out of it, as described in day 21 of Symphony of Salvation, is that the writer of Ecclesiastes has set out to “expose our total incapacity to find the meaning and completion of our lives on our own.” It seems that we are always looking for something . . . some way to be other than what we are. “We explore the countryside for excitement, search our souls for meaning, shop the world for pleasure. We try this. Then we try that. The usual fields of endeavor are money, sex, power, adventure, and knowledge.”

Oddly enough, the author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t say much about God. He “leaves that to the other sixty-five books of the Bible.” Here’s an example of the lesson that is to be learned.

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.] 
There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke. 
What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth. 
The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again—the same old round. 
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. 
Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. 
All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. 
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. 
Everything's boring, utterly boring— no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. 
What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There's nothing new on this earth. 
Year after year it's the same old thing. 
Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"? Don't get excited—it's the same old story. 
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. 
And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody'll remember them either. Don't count on being remembered. 
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 MSG)

You see? Like I said, if this is read at face value, it’s depressing. Why bother at all, if these things are true?

Peterson calls this a “John-the-Baptist kind of book.” He says that “Ecclesiastes sweeps our souls clean of all ‘lifestyle’ spiritualities so that we can be ready for God’s visitation revealed in Jesus Christ. . . . It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging.”

The words of the wise prod us to live well. 
They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. 
They are given by God, the one Shepherd. 
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. 
There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. 
The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. 
And that's it. 
Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 MSG)

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
(Philippians 1:9 NLT)

Always be humble and gentle. 
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 
(Ephesians 4:2-3 NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need,
 and thank him for all he has done.
(Philippians 4:6 NLT)

Father, I don’t worry as much as I used to. Thank You for that. I don’t know if I pray more or not. I know I don’t pray enough; we can never pray enough. And there are so many prayer needs in front of me, right now. Sometimes I don’t feel up to the task. You know what they are, and in my private prayer moments, I voice them to You, specifically. There are healings needed for illnesses, both Covid and non-Covid-related. There is comforting needed for lost loved ones, and for hopeless situations. There are people who need You in their lives and don’t realize it. And there is rampant division in our world, in our country, and even in Your Church. It is that last thing that hurts my heart the most. I pray for unity and peace within the Body of Christ, that we would all focus on the “greatest commandments” of Jesus.

I thank You for how well Ecclesiastes points out the futility and vanity, utter uselessness of attempting to find meaning through the various pursuits that do not involve You or Your wisdom. I am grateful for the way You have moved my heart to see these things and believe them. I confess the times that I engage in some of those pursuits, anyway, even though those times have been fewer in recent years. Thanks for that, too!

May I, as the author Ecclesiastes suggests, find whatever I have to do, and do it with all my might. May I “eat, drink, and be merry,” but all the while remembering that You are the source of that life, of the food and drink, as well as the merriment.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

GOD's there, 
listening for all who pray,
 for all who pray and mean it.
(Psalms 145:18 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Good morning (probably afternoon by the time this is finished). Today is . . . must be Wednesday, because I worked at the library last night. Wednesday, the twenty-ninth of December, 2021. The fifth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill your body, soul, mind, and spirit, today.

We’ve been staying up really late and sleeping late, this week. This doesn’t make it any easier to remember what day it is, especially since C has been off work all week. She does have to work some on Friday, but only from home. It’s the year end, and things always change and/or roll out on December 31/January 1, so she has to be available.

We slept until after 9:00, this morning. It may have been close to 10:00. I really can’t remember. I cooked some breakfast for us all, because I was hungry, before sitting down to do my morning devotional, so it’s running pretty late today.

There is very little on our “agenda” for today. C has already cut up the extra ham and put it in the freezer. We never found anyone who needed it. I’m sure we could have if we had tried a little harder, but there were several interested parties, who never followed through with coming to get it. So it’s in our freezer for future meals.

C is planning to put up a new set of LED lights in S’s room, today. The old set has quit working, probably due to some cat activity in the room. Some people blame aliens, some blame gremlins. We always blame cats.

I have a small grocery order set to deliver between 1:00 and 2:00, and we have one box that needs to be taken to the UPS store to return to Amazon. And, of course, there will be Sonic drinks, at some point. We have had an issue, though . . . our closest Sonic seems to have run out of Sprite Zero, which is C’s drink of choice.

I might try to get some serious reading done today. I would like to get at least one more book finished before 2022. I’m currently reading The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the book that introduces the character known by many as The Witcher, aka Geralt of Rivera. The Witcher is a wildly popular video game series (I have played one of them) that has also now become an immensely popular Netflix series, now in its second season. The books are written in Polish, but have been translated to English. I’m a little less than a fourth of the way through it, currently.

I also checked out another book, last night. I was supposed to shelve it, but when I saw it, I realized that I “need” to read it. It is the latest by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl On the Train, and is called A Slow Fire Burning. I have read both of Ms. Hawkins’s books, the other being Into the Water, which was also very good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I have two poems to share, this morning, to begin. The first is:

Lessons of Receiving, by Daryl Madden

Of our Gods great wisdom
His plan of conceiving
In nature surrounding
Are lessons of receiving

In humble flowers
Who open to light
Welcome the gift
With colors bright

Of trees standing tall
With branches raised
In calm and in storm
Arms stretched in praise

And of the pasture
Letting rain seep
To nourish the soil
Of roots growing deep

Why as His children
So difficult be
To accept the graces
That are blessed to me

We expect and we take
What’s given for free
Oh Lord, let me learn
From the flowers and trees

Let’s cherish each blessing
To receive gratefully
Well find in this way
We’ll live joyfully

I pray that we can receive these blessings and not simply expect and take what is freely given. In addition to cherishing each blessing, I also pray that we will cherish one another, in this Kingdom walk. Please check out Daryl’s poetry in the provided link.

The other is another one of Susan’s short poems.

Carpe Deum, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

This is
your time, give
your all

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Please see more of her beautiful and inspiring Haikus at the provlided link.

As 2022 approaches, just around the bend, it is, indeed “your time.” It is my time, to give my all to Jesus. In the coming year, while I don’t do resolutions, and can’t rightfully say that these aspirations are truly “goals” (they have to be measurable to really be goals), I do have desires and aspirations for the new year. I want to read more books; I want to pray more consistently, and I want to do even better at this thing of “loving one another.”

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 
"Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. 
Remove this cup from me. 
Yet not what I will, 
but what you will." 
(Mark 14:35-36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that Jesus said, "not what I will, but what You will."
2. that the Kingdom of God is within us
3. that we have this Helper, the Holy Spirit
4. that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world
5. for Jesus, the Light of the world 

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
(Luke 17:21 KJV)

"If you love me, 
you will keep my commandments. 
And I will ask the Father, 
and he will give you another Helper, 
to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, 
whom the world cannot receive, 
because it neither sees him nor knows him. 
You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more,
 but you will see me. 
Because I live, you also will live.
 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, 
and you in me, and I in you. 
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, 
he it is who loves me. 
And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, 
and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
(John 14:15-21 ESV)
Little children, 
you are from God and have overcome them, 
for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 
(1 John 4:4 ESV)

“Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

We spend so much energy looking all over the place for God’s kingdom. We buy up stacks of books (nothing wrong with books, mind you . . . some of my greatest inspirations have come from them) and flock to listen to inspirational speakers. But, “if we follow Jesus’s teachings, we need look no further for the kingdom than what we carry inside. Everywhere, all the time.” What we are so frantically searching for is right here, “in plain sight.” (Jacqueline F. Wheelock in Daily Guideposts 2021)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

Sing to the LORD, all the world! 
Worship the LORD with joy; 
come before him with happy songs! 
(Psalms 100:1-2 GNB)

I pause, briefly, as I consider the presence of the Lord and His Kingdom, here within me, and all around me.

BIBLE SONG

Of David. A psalm. 

I will sing of your love and justice; 
to you, LORD, I will sing praise. 
I will be careful to lead a blameless life— 
when will you come to me? 

I will conduct the affairs of my house 
with a blameless heart.
 I will not look with approval 
on anything that is vile. 

I hate what faithless people do; 
I will have no part in it. 
The perverse of heart shall be far from me; 
I will have nothing to do with what is evil. 

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, 
that they may dwell with me; 
the one whose walk is blameless 
will minister to me.
(Psalms 101:1-4 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. 
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, 
you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 
For my eyes have seen your salvation, 
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 
and the glory of your people Israel." 
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 
"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 
(Luke 2:25-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings from these meditations, and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

I feel like caution is necessary in the reading of Psalm 101. While I do want to be “blameless” in my life and in my actions, and I do intend to sing of the love and justice of the Lord, the sentiment of hating what “faithless people do” can easily lead down a dark path. Mind you, I’m not being critical of God’s Word, here, but we also must remember that these are songs and prayers of a man who, even though he was a “man after God’s own heart,” was also guilty of rape, murder, and various other heinous sins.

So, how “blameless” was he, exactly? I, too, desire to have “nothing to do with what is evil,” but at the same time, if I am going to be any kind of inspiration or minister to others, I must find myself in the company of “evil” people, from time to time. And we cannot truly be only in the company of the “faithful in the land.”

I’m not really sure how to interpret this psalm, or how to apply it to my own life in the twenty-first century. I think that, as best I can, I need to walk blamelessly, and to avoid those things that are “vile.” But we all slip, sometimes, some of us more than others. We all fall into the devil’s traps. And part of the division that we are finding ourselves in the midst of right now is due to an oversimplification of the sentiments of this particular psalm (and others like it).

We also have to be careful in how we determine who those “faithful” are. For me, it is people who are truly trying to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. Those are the people in whom I delight. Those are the people who are trying their best to do all those things Jesus said we should do for “the least of these.” Those are the “faithful” in whom I delight.

Father, I praise You for Jesus, the light for the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel. I thank You that He has come to bring salvation to us, as well as show us the Kingdom. He has let us know that the Kingdom dwells within us. It is not over there, hiding. It is not in the great halls with the eloquent speakers. It is not in the “Christian” book stores. It is within me, and within every other person who has taken that step into the easy yoke of Jesus and begun to walk with Him in Your Kingdom.

Help me to display Jesus, the Light of the world, in my life and through my words and actions. I pray for the joy of salvation to be experienced by all people, everywhere. I pray for a deeper understanding of the Gospel, in the coming year. And I pray for any family members and friends who do not know the love of Jesus in their lives.

"Faithful God,
in our world,
where evil is serious,
pain is no illusion,
and our guilt is real,
open our eyes to see how justice and mercy take the shape of a Savior dying on a cross for us.
With Simeon,
may all people see that Your justice and mercy meet when Jesus is born for our salvation.
Amen."

BLESSING

"Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! 
He has come to the help of his people and has set them free."
(Luke 1:68 GNB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. 
Amen. 
(Revelation 22:21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Gift; The Wonder

Good morning! Today is Friday, the twenty-fourth of December, 2021. It is Christmas Eve!

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,297

One day until Christmas!

C is already busy cooking. She has cut up the fudge that was made last night. It is delicious! She is currently putting together a couple of crescent roll pull-apart Christmas trees. One has garlic and herb soft cheese inside, and the other will have cream cheese, powdered sugar, and chocolate chips inside. We have never tried the chocolate chip one before.

C’s sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend will be coming over, this evening. I believe they plan to bring a deep-fried turkey, something we have yet to try. We will be preparing our usual fare for holidays. Ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and mashed potatoes. And some of those “Parker House” style rolls. We also still have most of the bundt cake that I bought at Nothing Bundt Cakes. C gave in and cut into that a couple days ago. I’m not sure how much is left.

Tomorrow, after we have our Christmas celebrating, we will load up more food and gifts and head to Mineral Wells, where we will celebrate some more, along with some Facetiming with R & J, up in Indy.

I wish everyone who reads this a joyous Christmas, if that is what you celebrate. For the rest, I will say, gladly, “Happy Holidays,” in whatever your celebration of choice is. I’m not one of those grumpy folks who insist that everyone say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just silly. And quite disrespectful, in my opinion.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All Is Calm, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

All peace,
all joy, what
great love

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

I pray for peace and joy for all people. Please check out this poet’s site at the link provided above.

"But I say to you who hear,
 Love your enemies, 
do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, 
pray for those who abuse you. . . .  
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. . . .  
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
(Luke 6:27-28, 31, 36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the gift of Christmas, the love of God coming down to mankind in the Christ-child
2. that our Father is merciful, even to those who are "ungrateful and evil" (Luke 6:35)
3. that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep
4. that I am one of those sheep, and my salvation is secure (John 10:28-30)
5. for the wonder and miracle of Jesus, God's ultimate gift
Neglect not the gift that is in thee . . .
(1 Timothy 4:14)
If you then, who are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your Father who is in heaven 
give good things to those who ask him! 
(Matthew 7:11 ESV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of lights 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 
(James 1:17 ESV)

Okay, so right off the bat, I will acknowledge that some of this is taken out of context. So sue me.

Nevertheless, here is my takeaway from these, this morning. The older I have gotten, the more joy I get from giving gifts than receiving them. When we are children (and sometimes beyond), we love to receive gifts. Countless Christmas Eve nights are spent in sleepless suspense (see what I did there?), waiting for parents to get up and indicate that it is finally time to see what Santa has put under the tree. Or, if we have grown beyond the Santa phase, what the parents have put under the tree.

But now, for me, at least, the joy is in the giving. Our Father in heaven takes great joy in giving. Jesus Christ gave His life “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). “Every good and every perfect gift is from above.” So, to me, that means that, if my gift to you is “good” and “perfect,” then it came from God. Because any gift that I could possibly give is flawed.

And look at that verse from Matthew. I am, as human, inherently “evil.” That’s not a topic for today’s discussion, just go with it. And if I, being “evil,” can give “good” gifts to my children, my family, my friends, “HOW MUCH MORE” is our Father able to give REALLY GOOD gifts to us??

So, over the next day or so, take a look at the gifts you receive (hopefully you are receiving some), and if you really like them . . . if they seem “perfect,” consider how much better God’s gifts are!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 
and his name shall be called 
Wonderful 
Counselor, 
Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace. 
(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? 
Who is like you, 
majestic in holiness, 
awesome in glorious deeds, 
doing wonders?"
(Exodus 15:11 ESV)
And awe came upon every soul, 
and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 
(Acts 2:43 ESV)

An interesting thing that I have learned, this morning. The word translated “wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6 is the same as the word translated “wonders” in Exodus 15:11. The Hebrew word is pele (pronounced “peh’-leh”) and means “a miracle, a marvelous thing.” Taking that into consideration, we see that the gift of Jesus, the son that is given, is the ultimate wonder of God, the ultimate miracle. In Jesus, the miracle and wonder of God’s love is displayed, and the miracle and wonder of our salvation is accomplished.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS EVE

INVITATION

Restore us, O God; 
make your face shine on us, 
that we may be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NIV)

As I pause, this morning, I continue to ponder the wonder of the Gift.

BIBLE SONG

Sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth. 
Sing to the LORD, praise his name; 
proclaim his salvation day after day. 
Declare his glory among the nations,
 his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; 
let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; 
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, 
he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples in his faithfulness. 
(Psalms 96:1-3, 11-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 
(Matthew 1:18-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts and desires and needs and feelings to God, reflecting on things that I have already read, this morning, as well, enjoying His presence.

Father, I praise You for this gift, this miracle, this wonder of Jesus Christ. I pray that, today and tomorrow, and days after, that people all around the world will know the peace and joy that comes from participating in this life, this wonder, this miracle. He has saved us from our sins, indeed. Because of this, I will sing to You a new song, and I cannot wait until that day when I sing a brand new song in Your presence, along with everyone else from every tribe and nation and tongue and people on this planet. What a day, glorious day, that will be! In the meantime, let the fields be jubilant; let the rocks cry out; let the rivers clap their hands; let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy!

Thank You for Your perfect Gift!

"God with us,
quiet me before the Christ-child,
filled with wonder that in this tiny child,
You have come near.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV).

Grace and peace, friends.

God Will Do What He Says He Will Do

Good morning. Today is Monday, the twentieth of December, 2021, the fourth Monday of Advent!

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,293

Only five days until Christmas!

There will be a flurry of Christmas wrapping today, as I work on getting C’s presents wrapped. They’ve been in a pile in my study for a couple weeks, and today is the day to get them wrapped. Hopefully. Heh. If I don’t get them done today, I also have tomorrow. I’m working Wednesday, this week, so I’ll need to get that done by then. On the other hand, I’m not working Thursday, so there’s that.

Procrastination 101.

I have some help, this morning.

Cleopatra wants that cursor

Oh. I’ll be right back. I need to start some laundry.

It’s going to be a slightly busy day, for a Monday. There’s the aforementioned laundry. Then I need to make a side trip to the grocery store, to pick up a few things that we either didn’t decide we needed yet, or weren’t available from Alberton’s, yesterday. Tonight, I’m going out to eat with C, courtesy of USBC. I believe we are going to the Winewood Grill, in Grapevine. C has her yearly checkup with her doctor, this afternoon, so she’s coming straight home after that, and we will be able to drive over there together.

I also, apparently, have yet another package to pick up at the hub locker.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

On the Path, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

All of
our footsteps
lead home 

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

I admire this poet’s ability to express things so simply, yet beautifully, in so few words. For many of us, “Home” is the ultimate goal, and we certainly hope that we are walking in the right direction. Please check out her website for more poetic imagery.

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, 
"Which commandment is the most important of all?" 
Jesus answered, 
"The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 
(Mark 12:28-31 ESV)

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, 
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
 I am the LORD. 
(Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love of God in my heart, which drives me (and enables me) to love others
2. for my weaknesses, which allow God to display His power in me
3. that the Lord has searched me, and knows me, inside and out
4. that God's Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent
5. for the blessing that comes from believing that God will fulfill His promises to us
But he said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
But the LORD said to Samuel, 
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, 
for I have rejected him. 
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. 
People look at the outward appearance, 
but the LORD looks at the heart." 
(1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)
You have searched me, 
LORD, 
and you know me.
(Psalms 139:1 NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us also lay aside every weight, 
and sin which clings so closely, 
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-THREE

INVITATION

Turn us again to yourself, O God. 
Make your face shine down upon us. 
Only then will we be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NLT)

As I pause during this quiet moment (the cat is currently not on the desk), I consider that the Lord’s face is assuredly shining down on us. I acknowledge the truth that I cannot begin to comprehend my life from the middle. God is working His plan, and all will be clear when it is completed. I must trust Him and not lean on my own “understanding,” which is truly no understanding at all.

BIBLE SONG

Endow the king with your justice, O God, 
the royal son with your righteousness. 
May he judge your people in righteousness, 
your afflicted ones with justice. 
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, 
the hills the fruit of righteousness. 
May he defend the afflicted among the people 
and save the children of the needy; 
may he crush the oppressor. 
May he endure as long as the sun, 
as long as the moon, through all generations. 
May he be like rain falling on a mown field, 
like showers watering the earth.
 In his days may the righteous flourish 
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more. 
(Psalms 72:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 
where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, 
the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 
In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 
But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 
As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"
(Luke 1:39-45 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I seek the guidance of His Spirit as I ponder and meditate on what has connected with my heart and mind. I pray my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

My Father, I rejoice, along with Paul’s writing, in my weaknesses, knowing that it is in them that You are made strong, or that Your strength is made evident. Your grace is, indeed, sufficient for anything we might be going through. I also take joy in the fact that You do not regard outward appearances, but are concerned with what is in the heart. Doesn’t mean I’m going to go around looking like a slob, but it also means that I don’t need to “dress to impress,” at least not for You. It is apparent that I cannot impress You with anything. For You have searched me, and You know me, inside and out. You know things about me that I do not know. As that psalmist said, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain it.

Help me to lay aside all hindrances, any sin that entangles me, and run the race set before me. Help me to know that I cannot understand my life, my circumstances, by looking at them from the middle. I will only be able to fully comprehend my life when I can see it from beginning to end, as we can see Your Word. Of course, I cannot fully comprehend Your Word, yet, either. Help me to know what I need to know, to comprehend what I need to comprehend, and to trust that You have given me everything that I need for life and godliness.

As I read through the psalm again, that speaks of defending the afflicted, saving the needy, and crushing the oppressor, I am drawn, instead, to the words of Elizabeth at the end of the Luke passage. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” I believe that I can appropriate this blessing for myself, as I believe that we can all do so. If we believe that You will fulfill Your promises, we are, indeed, blessed. And I do believe. I believe that You will do what You say You will do.

"Son of Man and Son of God,
in real time,
You were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary.
Deity and humanity were inseparably joined together in You.
Thank You for the way Christmas reminds me that faith is both material and mystical.
No confusion,
but lots of wonder.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(Based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven 
and do not return there but water the earth, 
making it bring forth and sprout, 
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
it shall not return to me empty, 
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
(Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

And the Glory of the Lord . . .

Today is Saturday, the eleventh of December, 2021, the second Saturday of Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,284

Fourteen days until Christmas!

It currently doesn’t look or feel like Christmas around here (DFW, TX), but it definitely looks and feels better than last February. It’s unseasonable warm, for the most part, around here. I hear that the reason for it is that the jet stream is stuck in Canada. That’s the easy, oversimplified version, because that’s the version I understand.

We are expecting a low of right at or just below freezing tomorrow morning, but it’s supposed to get up to 61 tomorrow, so it should be a beautiful day.

Speaking of tomorrow, we are going back to Mineral Wells, tomorrow, to attend FBC’s Christmas music presentation. S wants to do that, so we can do that for her. Hopefully, Mama will be able to attend with us. We will probably have lunch from Natty Flats BBQ afterward. That seems to be our new “go to” place for lunch in Mineral Wells.

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be at the library from 9:30-6:15, today. Several of us are bringing food to share today. I’m not sure what the others are bringing, so I will also bring something for lunch, just in case. I’m bringing this:

Crescent Christmas Tree Pull Apart

It has a whopping four ingredients. Pillsbury crescent rolls, Boursin Gournay Garlic & Herb cheese, butter, and parsley flakes (that’s the green stuff on top). Easy to make, and comes out very pretty. Also delicious.

I have also agreed to work in place of one of my associates, next Saturday. He has something he needs to do, so I agreed to work his shift next Saturday. Not that I care that much, but it will help to make up for the sixteen hours I will miss on Christmas weekend. We are closed Friday and Saturday, for Christmas, both days on which I was scheduled to work. We are also closed New Year’s Day, but I would have already been off that Saturday, anyway.

There has been a flurry of Christmas present buying, lately. We are almost finished. We still have a few things to come up with, though.

Please continue to pray for Benjamin’s wife, over at Brother’s Campfire. They could use some miracles.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his other lovely photographs at the link provided.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Awaiting, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

Believe…
miracles
happen…

 
©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

Indeed, miracles happen, sometimes whether we believe or not. Please check out her other poetry in the link provided above. You will also see some lovely images for each poem.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. 
The Lord is at hand; 
do not be anxious about anything, 
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, 
which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, 
whatever is honorable, 
whatever is just, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is commendable, 
if there is any excellence,
 if there is anything worthy of praise, 
think about these things. 
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things, 
and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:5-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the glorious truth of these verses
2. that every good and perfect gift comes from You
3. for Your peace, which, when I allow it, floods my soul like a river
4. that Your glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together
5. that Your mouth has spoken these things

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

It is good to note that rest isn’t necessarily related to activity or the lack thereof. Rest can be a state of mind, as we allow ourselves to be immersed in and embraced by the love of God in Christ Jesus. I could be running a marathon (actually, no, I could not be running a marathon, but this is just for illustration) and be “resting” at the same time. Likewise, I could be sitting on my rump in an easy chair and not be resting at all.

The best rest comes when we walk in the easy yoke with Jesus, who bears the brunt of the labor in our lives, willingly and easily.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ADVENT – DAY FOURTEEN

INVITATION

Yahweh is my light and my salvation. 
Whom shall I fear? 
(Psalms 27:1 WEB)

I pause during the quietness of this morning to reflect on the peace of God, the theme of this second week of Advent. I allow His peace to move over me, covering me like a fleece blanket.

BIBLE SONG

I will praise the LORD all my life; 
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, 
the sea, and everything in them— 
he remains faithful forever. 
He upholds the cause of the oppressed 
and gives food to the hungry. 
The LORD sets prisoners free,
 the LORD gives sight to the blind, 
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, 
the LORD loves the righteous.
 The LORD watches over the foreigner 
and sustains the fatherless and the widow, 
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 

Praise the LORD. 
(Psalms 146:2, 6-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Comfort, comfort my people, 
says your God. 
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 
and proclaim to her 
that her hard service has been completed, 
that her sin has been paid for, 
that she has received from the LORD's hand 
double for all her sins.

 A voice of one calling: 
"In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be raised up, 
every mountain and hill made low; 
the rough ground shall become level, 
the rugged places a plain. 
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, 
and all people will see it together. 
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 
(Isaiah 40:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words and ideas that stir within me. I linger over them and give them my attention. Is there something I need to ask God about, to pray to Him? I pray my life to the Lord, resting in His presence.

Because You have ordained it, and made it possible, my God, my Father, I will praise Your Name for as long as I live, which will be for eternity in Your presence. “I can only imagine,” as the song says, “what it will be like” to be in Your presence for eternity. I know what Your presence feels like now. The very thought of how powerful it will be when I am Home nearly makes my heart burst.

You, the creator of heaven and earth, have condescended to interact with us. You care for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the widow, and the fatherless. Over and over, throughout Scripture, You tell us these things. And then that bit where Jesus talks about “the least of these,” and how that applies directly back to Him . . . it would do us well to heed these words and act accordingly. When we are blind, Father, please restore our sight. We become “blind” when we look too long at the wrong things. Return our sight to the things that matter to You. Help us to take up the cause of the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the widow, the fatherless, and the foreigner, while somehow managing to avoid the traps of the wicked.

Make the desert road straight;
raise up the valleys;
make low the mountains and hills;
level out the rough ground;
make plains out of the rugged lands.
Reveal Your glory to us, O Lord!
For Your mouth has spoken it!

I pray, Father, for servant leadership in Your Church. Give us “kingdom vision, godly stewardship, and effective organization.” May we have a deep identity with the mission You have given us. I pray for unity in the midst of the chaos.

"Satisfying God,
it sometimes hurts to hope,
and so I settle for less.
I confess that I've often given my heart to impostors and counterfeits that can never deliver.
Nurture in me a desire for Your generous reward -
a glory I can hardly begin to imagine -
and a longing for that great day when I will fully enjoy Your promises in Jesus Christ,
our Lord.
Amen."

BLESSING

Wait for Yahweh. 
Be strong, 
and let your heart take courage. 
Yes, wait for Yahweh. 
(Psalms 27:14 WEB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Songs of Joy

Today is (hang on, let me look) Friday. Yes, Friday, the tenth of December, 2021, the second Friday in Advent.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,283

Fifteen days until Christmas.

You might recall my struggles, yesterday morning. It got better in the afternoon, but not before I had an unfortunate encounter at the Albertson’s store. I was putting multiple bags of grapes in the shopping cart, when I heard someone speaking sharply in my direction and saw a store associate looking at me. When we made eye contact, she repeated, “You can only have two bags,” again much more sharply than necessary. She pointed at the sign in front of the grapes, which I had neglected to see.

When I asked why, the answer was vague, and, again, more sharply delivered than socially acceptable, especially when in the business of “customer service” (does anyone remember what that is, any more?). The answer ended with “I have a right to do that.” To which I responded, “and I have a right to shop at a different store” and stormed off, leaving my basket where I was standing.

I eventually went back and got my two bags, informing the associate that I thought she was rude, which she, of course, denied and offered nothing even remotely resembling an apology. She once again asserted her right to limit people to how many bags of grapes they could buy. As I approached the bananas, I came very close to asking her if I could have more than two bananas.

Here’s the thing. Two bags of grapes will last less than twenty-four hours in this house. Nevertheless, I felt very badly about the way I responded, and it added to what was already a ponderous morning, emotionally. If I had seen her again, I would have apologized for my behavior. Here’s the other thing. Never mind if she was rude, and I still believe that her behavior is completely unbecoming for one who is employed in any kind of customer service role. That does not excuse my response which was completely unbecoming for one who is supposed to be walking in the kingdom of Christ.

Later, I discovered that the store was completely out of our favorite flavor of Nick’s ice cream. If I had seen that to begin with, I would not have gone back and gotten two bags of grapes and continued my shopping. I would have gone across the street to Kroger.

Life is weird, sometimes. And the lessons we learn (hopefully) can be quite painful. After I had my lunch (I stopped at Subway and got lunch for S and me), I got up and swept the house and took out the garbage and recycling. Suddenly, my life seemed to have more purpose. More than just doing housework, mind you, but an attitude of service and sacrifice, as well. That relates totally back to the way I responded to the store associate.

Our people are so caught up in so-called “rights,” these days. But if we are disciples of Christ, we have surrendered (or at least we are supposed to have done so) those rights to the Lord. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, daily. I failed at that, yesterday morning. And I’m not afraid to admit it and confess it. I failed. Hopefully, the next chance I get, I will remember.

Today, I work a full day in the computer center at the library. One thing is certain. The interactions that will come my way are unpredictable. It could be like last Friday, when the fax machine was the busiest I have ever seen it, or it could be a day where hardly anyone needs my assistance. Either way, I’m there to serve and assist anyone with their needs, as far as I can.

I learned something this morning. I have not spoken much (if any) of this, here, but I have been slowly learning Spanish from an app on my phone, Duo Lingo. But I learned something in Spanish, this morning, that I have yet to see on the app. I learned that the Spanish word for “handcuffs” is esposas. Do you know what the Spanish word for “spouse” is? You might guess where I’m going, here. It is either esposo (husband) or esposa (wife).

Now, the first thing that hit my brain was that this was the cruel joke of a cynic. But, upon further reflection, and thanks to my blogging friend Benjamin, over at Brother’s Campfire, it becomes a metaphor of being bound to one’s spouse. This is in the context of his wife having a pretty bad stroke, a short while ago. She is still in the hospital, recovering. And it was one of the nurses on duty that shared this with him. So, while it might be a bad thing to be in handcuffs (depending on the kinkiness of your lifestyle), and, while some people feel negatively bound in a spousal relationship, to people like me and Benjamin, it is a beautiful metaphor of the nature of our relationships with our wives.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

I ran across two great poems, this morning, and can’t decide, so I will share them both. One is very short, a haiku. I will share it first.

A Light Within, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

Let your
light so shine,
do good…

 
©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

The Core of Our Faith, by Daryl Madden

The core of our faith
The bible speaks of
To know in our soul
That God is love

Father as the lover
The Trinity, declared
The Son is the beloved
The Spirit, is love shared

That God is seeking us
Fall into His embrace
Nothing that is earned
For everything is grace

And we are invited
Not just to sit and wait
But sharing in His love
To participate

The fruit of our faith
When Jesus we meet
That we know His joy
And our joy is complete

I love the message in the haiku, so simple and plain . . . and I especially love the middle stanza of Daryl’s poem, falling into the embrace of the Almighty, and learning that “nothing is earned,” because “everything is grace.” Please check out their other poems, at the links provided.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, 
but only such as is good for building up, 
as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, 
by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you,
 along with all malice. 
Be kind to one another, 
tenderhearted, 
forgiving one another, 
as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the cross of Christ, which unites us in peace
2. for increasing measures of humility, gentleness, patience, and love, no matter how painful it is to acquire these
3. for the dwelling of the message of Christ among us, in "psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit"
4. that those who sow with tears shall reap with songs of joy
5. for Your "refiner's fire"

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
(Colossians 3:16 NIV)

I cried out to God for help;
 I cried out to God to hear me.
 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; 
at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. 
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
 I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. 
You kept my eyes from closing; 
I was too troubled to speak. 
I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 
I remembered my songs in the night. 
(Psalms 77:1-6a NIV)

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

ADVENT – DAY THIRTEEN

INVITATION

You, 
LORD, 
are the light that keeps me safe. 
I am not afraid of anyone. 
You protect me, 
and I have no fears.
(Psalms 27:1 CEV)

I pause, briefly, in this quiet moment, to consider Your presence in my life, and the lessons of humility, gentleness, patience, and love that You are teaching me.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. 

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, 
we were like those who dreamed. 
Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy. 
Then it was said among the nations, 
"The LORD has done great things for them." 
The LORD has done great things for us, 
and we are filled with joy. 
Restore our fortunes, LORD, 
like streams in the Negev.
 Those who sow with tears 
will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, 
carrying sheaves with them. 
(Psalms 126:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

"I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. 
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
(Malachi 3:1-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. As I slowly repeat them, meditating on them, I pray my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings to God, enjoying His presence.

Could it be, Father, than when all is restored to the way it should be, when our Savior returns to make everything right, that it will be like a dream? I can easily see that our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues filled with songs of joy. My heart leaps at this thought; my soul can scarcely wait for the day.

You have, indeed, done great things for us. When we “sow with tears,” we eventually will “reap with songs of joy.” How long will it be before this takes place? We do not know, only You know, and it is different for each of Your children. We do not all have the same experience. Our weeping will be turned to rejoicing, and that rejoicing will last for all eternity. I believe that, when Your Word tells us that You will wipe every tear from our eyes, that You will also wipe away the memories that caused those tears. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; I cannot attain it.

It is said that the Day of the Lord, His returning, will be sudden. We will both be ready and not ready at the same time. Some will not be ready at all and be totally surprised. Many of us may be prepared, but it will still surprise us, I believe. But let us not be overly eagerly for this day. While I am eager to be Home, I am also aware of what a terrible day it will be. Oh, yes, I sing with joy songs like “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.” But it will be a horrible day for many; the worst in history. Dare I be eager to see this? Would I not rather see you delay so that all can be saved? I confess . . . I waffle between those two perspectives. I am selfish, sometimes, and want to be rid of this earth and its mortal coil.

So, I can easily pray, “even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus,” while praying, as well, for the salvation of all people. May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Father, give us all the ability to deny ourselves, forsake those “rights,” and serve others. Give us all the commitment to do justice and love mercy. And I pray for mercy for the refugees, those seeking asylum from oppression.

"Coming Jesus,
how can I face Your refining fire?
I know I am broken and confess that I have sinned.
Thank You for the rich comfort and confidence that You, 
my judge,
have already stood trial in my place;
You have removed from me the whole curse and court is adjourned.
How can I thank You enough?
Amen."

BLESSING

Trust the LORD! 
Be brave and strong and trust the LORD. 
(Psalms 27:14 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Therefore, 
since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us also lay aside every weight, 
and sin which clings so closely, 
and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us,
 looking to Jesus, 
the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him 
endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.