True Worship

Today is Tuesday, the seventh of June, in the tenth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,462

I haven’t written personal stuff, recently. Nothing is wrong, or anything. A couple days, I felt that the spiritual portion of the blog was, perhaps, a bit too long, and didn’t want to add to it with trivial stuff. I have actually considered moving this portion of the daily blog over to my other blog. The jury is still out on that.

Speaking of jury, I got a jury duty summons in the mail, yesterday. Fortunately, it is not for the Monday of my colonoscopy exam, which is two weeks from yesterday, June 20 (unfortunately, that is the day after Father’s Day, so I will have to spend Father’s Day evening drinking the prep). The summons is for the following Monday, June 27. Also fortunately, that happens to be my “easy” week at the library (that means that I’m not working that Wednesday or Saturday), so if I wind up having to serve on a jury, and it lasts more than one day, I won’t miss very much work.

The Texas Rangers have won some and lost a few, during the past few days, and remain three under .500, at 25-28. They are also still in third place in the AL West, even though the Angels have lost twelve in a row! Hah! Take that, Joe Maddon! They are actually only a half game behind the Angels, at this point. The Rangers got rained out in Cleveland, yesterday, so a double-header is scheduled with the Guardians, today, beginning at 2:10 CDT, this afternoon.

The Red Sox have managed to get above .500, and are now 28-27, but are still in fourth place in the AL East. They are 3.5 behind Tampa. They are currently in a series with the Angels, so it helps both them and the Rangers if they win.

The Evil Empire continues to be the best team in MLB, with a 39-15 record. Their cross-town rivals are only 2.5 behind them. The KC Royals (17-36) are holding on to the worst MLB record. I’m sure the Reds are enjoying that. The Yankees also have the current best win streak, at six games (The Red Sox are at five). As referenced previously, the LA Angels’ twelve game losing streak is the longest current losing streak. We hope it continues to grow. Another AL West team, the Athletics, has the second longest losing streak, at six games. Now if Houston would follow suit . . . The Dodgers still have the best run differential, at +113. The Yankees are trying to catch them, though, at +102. The Royals, on the other end, have been outscored by 89 runs. The Rangers are at +9, and the Red Sox are at, wait, what?? +39! Wow.

In PWBA news, Breanna Clemmer not only made history in last week’s Twin Cities Open, she also earned her first PWBA title, as she defeated Bryanna Cote (the battle of the BC’s?) in the title match of the tournament. History was made, as she had the highest three game series ever by bowling consecutive 300 games, followed by a 289, and threw, I believe 29 strikes in a row!

The ladies are currently in qualifying round 1 of the Long Island Open, one of three rapid-fire tourneys that are happening this week, at Maple Lanes Rockville Centre, NY. After two games, Liz Johnson, veteran bowler, is in the lead, followed by Jen Higgins (good to see her back up there). Breanna Clemmer is in eighth, and Verity Crawley is tied for tenth. There are a total of 81 bowlers in this round. Round 2 will begin at 2:30 EDT, after which they will cut to the top 12 for tomorrow’s two match play rounds. The stepladder finals will be tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EDT, on bowltv.com. I won’t get to see all of that, as I don’t get off work until 6:15 tomorrow, CDT.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our refuge forever, bless us who have gathered in your presence and who turn to you in all distress, not only in our personal need but also in the distress of the nations and peoples of the whole world. Grant that we may be your children, with a simple faith that gives us strength to go on working even when life is bitterly hard. We thank you for giving us so much grace, for helping us and never forsaking us, so that again and again we can find joy and can glorify and praise you, our Father. May your name be praised from heaven above and among us here below. May your name be praised by all people throughout the world, and may everyone on earth acknowledge you and receive all that they need from you. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 
Before the mountains were born, 
before you gave birth to the earth and the world, 
from beginning to end, 
you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I'm still alive and breathing; a new day with new opportunities
2. for the confidence that I have that God is working His plan and that all will be well, in the end
3. for the confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26)
4. that the primary way we show our love for God is by loving others
5. that true worship makes both God and our neighbors more real to us

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
(Romans 12:3 NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
(Romans 12:9-21 NLT)
May God be merciful and bless us. 
May his face smile with favor on us.
 May your ways be known throughout the earth, 
your saving power among people everywhere. 
May the nations praise you, O God. 
Yes, may all the nations praise you. 
Let the whole world sing for joy, 
because you govern the nations with justice 
and guide the people of the whole world. 
May the nations praise you, O God.
 Yes, may all the nations praise you.
 Then the earth will yield its harvests, 
and God, our God, will richly bless us.
 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
(Psalms 67:1-7 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “groanings.”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
(Romans 8:26 NLT)

There have been plenty of times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to pray. It still happens, sometimes, in regard to my own life, and sometimes, in regard to prayer requests that I receive. I have to stop and remember that, in those times, the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf.

I also have this feeling that there are times when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I did think I knew what to pray.

Me: Utters prayer about any certain topic
Holy Spirit: Um . . . Father, that's not really what he means . . . this is what he really wants to pray

It is also worth noting the word “weakness” in that verse. The Holy Spirit is helping us in our weakness. I can’t help but wonder, if we feel that we have no weakness, will the Holy Spirit then condescend to intercede for us?

Father: Did he really mean to pray that??
Spirit: Beats me . . . he doesn't need my help, he's got it all figured out

I confess that I have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I type those dialogues. And of course, I mean no disrespect. It is merely a means of trying to illustrate what I believe this verse is telling us.

There is great comfort in embracing this truth, in knowing and believing that, when I don’t quite know how to pray, He is there for me, helping me. And when I pray something that isn’t quite right, He is also there for me.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
(Hebrews 6:10-12 NLT)

This passage is interesting to me. The emphasis is (surprise!!) on loving others! The writer of Hebrews stresses that this is how we show our love for God, by “caring for other believers,” and then says that their desire is that the recipients of this letter will “keep on loving others as long as life lasts.” By doing this, they will keep themselves from becoming “spiritually dull and indifferent.”

How do we show our love for God? By loving and caring for others. Not by fighting for “causes.” Not by fighting for anything.

*mic drop*

This was one of my favorite songs as a “youth.”
"The person who wants to arrive at interiority and spirituality has to leave the crowd behind and spend some time with Jesus.
"Nobody's comfortable in public unless he's spent a good deal of time in the quiet of his home. Nobody speaks with assurance who hasn't learned to hold his tongue. Nobody's a success as a general who hasn't already survived as a soldier. Nobody respects decrees who hasn't already obeyed them."
(Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
"When we worship God, we discover how his blessings shape our lives. We also discover how to bless and be blessed by our neighbors' lives.
"In worship, God becomes more real to us. But the mystery is this: so do our neighbors."
(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Here’s the thing: if we aren’t loving our neighbors, we haven’t really worshiped God.

Father, Your Word tells us quite plainly that “pure and genuine religion” is caring for others (specifically, in that case, orphans and widows). Jesus told us, also quite plainly, that in caring for others, we care for Him, and in refusing to care for others, we refuse to care for Him.

Why is this so hard for us to embrace?? I struggle with it, sometimes, myself, but when I look around and see the hatred coming from peoples’ hearts and mouths, it breaks my heart. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Dear Father, this ought not be so! Have mercy on us, Lord. Please reach our hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of peace and love, not fighting and hatred.

I thank You that You have given us this “law,” Father, that the way we are to show our love for You is by loving others. I thank You for molding my heart to believe this, so many years ago. I confess that I still struggle with it, but that struggle remains largely interior, these days, so at least there’s that. I rarely type or say some of the thoughts that come through my mind, and try to dismiss them as soon as they pop into my brain, as I do not wish to entertain any thoughts of “unlove” toward anyone.

Help us to truly worship You, that You might become more real to us, and that our neighbors would also become more real to us, and that we might bless them and be blessed by them, as well. As we seek to worship, I also pray that we might find time and way to spend more time alone with Christ in our lives. We, as a society, are too busy for our own good. Help us to slow down, to stop and meditate, to consider You and Your Word, and its effect on our lives.

Help me, Father, to never pretend, but to truly and really love others. I pray that I would take delight in honoring my brothers and sisters. Help me to keep praying, to pray more often and more fervently. I pray for more compassion and willingness to help others. I also pray that I would never be conceited, thinking that I “know it all.” Above all, help me to live at peace with everyone.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Abide

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Today is Monday, the sixteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,440

C is home today, as she hasn’t been feeling well for a couple days. In fact, she is currently at Care Now, getting checked out. We believe it is nothing more than the usual sinu-bronchitis that rolls through every year. No fever, so far, just sinus pressure and chest congestion.

I’m taking Mama to a podiatrist, this morning, to deal with an ingrown toenail that flared up late last week. Otherwise, things are pretty good around here.

As noted below, I visited Living Word Lutheran Church, yesterday morning, and had a wonderful time of worship and communion with them.

The Texas Rangers won the last game of the series with the Red Sox, 7-1, behind the solid pitching of Martin Perez, who is now 2-2 for the season. He gave up one run in the top of the fifth, and the Rangers answered with a Cole Calhoun solo homer in the bottom. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the score was still tied 1-1. The Rangers had two men on base when I said to my mother, “They need to get a run, here, so Perez can get a win.” El Bombe must have heard me, because he promptly hit a three-run homer, to put them ahead 4-1. Cole Calhoun, not to be outdone, followed up with another solo shot, to make it 5-1. Later in the game Garcia (the aforementioned “El Bombe”) hit another homer, this one for two runs. So all seven Rangers runs were the result of four home runs by two batters. Quite a day for Calhoun and Garcia. And Perez, who I believe I heard the announcers say has a 0.86 ERA over his last few starts. That’s pretty amazing.

The Rangers are now 14-19 for the season, back in fourth place, one game ahead of the Athletics. Their next game is today, as LA Angels roll into town for a series. Gametime is 7:05 CDT.

That loss put the Sox at 13-21 for the season, still in last place in the AL East, a half game behind Baltimore. Their next game is tonight, against the Astros, who have been winning a lot, lately. Gametime is 7:10 EDT, in Boston.

The Yankees (25-9) continue to dominate MLB, still having lost only nine games. The Cincinnati Reds (9-26) still haven’t won ten games, and to add insult to injury, pitched a combined no-hitter against the Pirates, yesterday . . . and lost 1-0. The struggling Detroit Tigers have the longest current win streak, at three games, and Baltimore has the longest current losing streak, also three games. The Dodgers still have the largest positive run differential, at +70, but are only one run ahead of the Yankees, who have +69. The Reds have a run differential of -65.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, we thank you that you have revealed life in Jesus Christ. Grant that we may enter this life through the grace you have given us to recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord, to believe in him, and to hope for all the good still to come as the fruit of his suffering and resurrection. May the glory of the Living One be revealed to the dead throughout the whole world so that even the dead and the unbelieving may be awakened and see his life. Keep us true to what you have given us. Strengthen our faith and endurance in all our trials. Let your name soon be honored among all people so that hatred may cease and the coming of your great day may be foretold in changed hearts and changed thoughts. Protect us this night. Bless us and help us again and again as you have promised. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
(John 17:3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that through Jesus, we know the way to eternal life
2. that there is hope for all good things still to come as the fruit of Jesus's suffering and resurrection
3. that I am able to abide with Jesus, and He with me, and that, no matter what circumstances may befall me, I have the confidence that God is with me
4. for the call to humility, and the command to slander no one and avoid quarreling (Titus 3:2); Father please help me in this
5. that words like "abide" and "humility" are realities in which we are to walk, not just vague concepts to ponder

Today’s prayer word is “abide.” I love this word, and perhaps I can explain why.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
(John 15:1-8 ESV)

The reading only featured part of verse 4, but I felt the need to post eight verses, for context.

What does it mean to “abide?” The Greek word in this verse is menō, which means “to stay (in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry.” In fact, the NLT uses the word “remain,” rather than “abide,” which is also true of the NIV. However, I really like the way Peterson puts it in The Message.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
(John 15:4 MSG)

So, to abide with Jesus, and to have Him abide with me, means that I dwell with Him, in Him, set up house in Him.

In 1847, Henry Lyte wrote a hymn, known as “Abide With Me.”

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Such comforting words for all possible circumstances, up to, and including, our eventual passing from this life. “Help of the helpless;” “O Thou who changest not;” “I triumph still if Thou abide with me;” and “In life, in death.”

Here is a beautiful arrangement of that hymn, one of my favorites, by Salt of the Sound.

Oh, my Father, You are, indeed, the “help of the helpless,” for that is truly what we are, in most cases. We think ourselves so strong, sometimes, and so “on top of things,” when in reality, we are largely clueless. But You, God! You have all things in Your hands and all things under Your control, no matter how chaotic things appear on the surface. Things seem to be “progressing” exactly how You said they would, and why would we be surprised about that? The sad thing is, there are different groups of people who will think different things when they read what I just typed. No matter. You know what is in my head and my heart, and You know that I am trying my best to promote love in this world.

So, I pray, along with my musical friends and Henry Lyte, “abide me!” I do need Your presence, “every passing hour!” Sometimes I am aware of Your presence, sometimes I am not. Life is much more sweet when I am aware of it, but I know that You are there, all the time. I believe that You are abiding with me, and I pray that You help me to also be always abiding in You, as well.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
(James 4:10 NLT)

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
(Psalms 95:6 NLT)

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
(Matthew 5:5 NLT)

For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”
(Romans 14:11 NLT)

I visited a Lutheran church, yesterday morning. Living Word Lutheran Church in Grapevine, TX. My good friend and former pastor has been attending there since the Christmas season, last year. He was also there, yesterday, so I sat with him. There were two significant things that happened. The first was when one pastor led the prayer of confession at the beginning. Here are the words that she read, at one point: “By the mercy of God we are united with Jesus Christ, and in him we are forgiven. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At that moment, not only did I get serious chill bumps, but I also wept a little bit.

But the other thing is more in line with the Scriptures I have shared above. When this (and I’m sure others as well) church observes Communion, which has, in recent years, become the central piece of the worship experience for me, the people go up to the altar and kneel to receive it. The pastors come around on the inside of the circle and hand out the bread and the wine. It is a tremendous experience for me. The first time I visited there, I was weeping as the pastor handed me the wafer.

It takes humility to kneel. We don’t like that, in general, especially in Western culture. But Jesus commands it. God desires it. All throughout Scripture we are commanded to humble ourselves, worship, and bow down.

Father, I pray for more humility in my life. Once again, I realize what a dangerous prayer this is, but only dangerous to my pride. I recognize the facts; I am nothing without You. I believe in the words of John the Baptizer when he said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” This should be the “mantra” for every single Christian on the face of the earth. It should be the chant of the saints everywhere. “He must increase; I must decrease.” As we abide more and more in You, in Christ, we know this truth, we are humbled.

Father, I also pray that we understand that words like “abide” and “humility” are not just words, but realities in which we are to live. The same is true for words like “love,” and “sin,” and even words like “Jesus,” and “Holy Spirit,” and “grace.” Too often, Lord, these become nothing more than words or hazy, vague concepts in which we claim to believe. But when we see these as realities in life, things become much more concrete. Jesus is real; He walks beside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, every day. As St. Patrick prayed, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise . . .” This is reality, Lord! it is reality that I need to dwell, to abide, to remain in You and You in me. This is something that I desperately need to know, deeply within my soul.

So, today, Lord, help me to abide in You; help me to have humility, as I abide; humility that, when I see someone post something on social media that I don’t agree with, to simply pray and move on. Humility that gives me the capacity to not speak evil of anyone, no matter what they say the believe. And, above all else, the humility to truly love my neighbor as myself and love the community of saints in the way that Jesus loved us. Reality, Father.

(Above prayer inspired by words from On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

Overlooking God

Today is Monday, the fourth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,398

Lent is beginning to wind down, as this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday (April 10). April 8 is my mother’s birthday, and as part of the celebration, we plan to visit her and S’s home church in Mineral Wells, for their Easter music. Also, there will be cake. The cake is not a lie. (Bonus points if you get that reference.)

There’s not a lot going on today, so I will get on into the devotional for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Sense of Three,” by Daryl Madden

Sight and sound and taste and more
What are our senses really for?

To open eyes and truly see
The Spirit here surrounding me

To hear His voice, adoringly
The Word of love calling to me

To feel with heart so gratefully
For all the gifts God’s blessing me

A greater view consuming me
The sense within, the Trinity

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:17-20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit; music from the heart to the Lord
2. that we have water, clean water to drink
3. for flexibility in life, and the willingness to shift direction, when called upon
4. for the presence of God in my life, that I can see and hear and touch; may I not become so used to Him that I forget to notice
5. for places that are away from the hustle of life, places where we can truly rest

Today’s prayer word is “shift.” That’s interesting. Let’s see what they mean by this.

Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward . . .’
(Deuteronomy 2:2-3 ESV)

Ironically, I just read that chapter in the reading plan for today, from my Bible app. The idea here is a “shift” in life direction. I did that last year, myself. At the end of July, I retired and began drawing Social Security. I made the decision a few years early, so I’m not getting the full payment, but it was a good move for me, as I am now working as a part time library aide to supplement the SS.

In my spiritual life, I frequently “shift” directions. Not, of course, the ultimate direction which is always (at least I hope) “God-ward.” But there are times in my life when I must examine the things I have habitually believed and practiced, to make sure that I am still really following in the words and steps of Jesus, as I walk in His kingdom.

We should never be afraid to “shift” our direction. We should never be so comfortable in our beliefs and practices that we refuse to heed better instruction, more scholarly teaching, or even warnings. I don’t know everything. No one knows everything. But there are many who know things better than I, and it would be foolish for me to not at least consider what they have to say, and, then, perhaps, “shift.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
(Mark 6:31 ESV)

How often do we need to do exactly this? It is, I firmly believe, one of the reasons that C and I love to get away to Glen Rose, often. It is a secluded place where we can rest. God’s creation has wondrous restorative powers. After all, if we remember, He called it “very good.”

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:31 ESV)

“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.”
(Job 14:7 ESV)

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
(Luke 5:16 ESV)

Even Jesus, God incarnate, needed to withdraw away from everything and everyone, in order to pray and refresh. By the way, the essential meaning of that word that is translated “desolate” is simply to be alone. It could be translated as “loneliness,” or “solitary.” I think “desolate” conveys a bit of a negative idea there. But I’m not well-versed in the terrain of ancient Israel, so maybe it really was “desolate.”

The point, though, is that we all need rest. And sometimes, it is very good to get out in the midst of God’s creation, alone, to do so.

Eugene Peterson, in a reading called “On the Overlook,” discusses the possibility of overlooking the presence of God in our lives. He brings it home by considering someone who might live at the base of an awesomely majestic mountain. After living there for so long, they might no longer look at the mountain, and almost forget it is there, even though it is the “most significant geographical feature in their lives.”

So it goes in a life with God. He is “obvious, essential, inescapable,” but, over time, we get used to Him, along with His “personal and passionate and gracious and merciful” character. We get caught up in the “urgent” business of life, as we struggle to make ends meet and avoid crises and disasters.

“That is why we work together as a community to have awareness of the great presence of God in our lives. We seek to wake ourselves up, to make sure that the roar of the vacuum cleaner doesn’t drown out the knock of the treasured Guest at the door, to deliberately step out of the fast lane so that we can see and hear and touch the God who is around and within us and can shut up long enough so that we hear and truly listen to the story of God coming to us, born in Jesus. Born in us.”

Have I mentioned how much I love the way that guy could put words together?

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

Father, I am in awe of how close You can be, at times. I mean, You’re always here, just as You are always everywhere. But there are times when I feel it more closely than others. I do confess that there are also times when I forget that You are near me, and I am sorry for that. Life is so much better when I am aware of Your constant presence. The thought that I can almost literally see, hear, and touch You is amazing. Certainly, I can do none of those things, in reality. But I can see, hear, and touch You when I am in the presence of other saints, because we all contain You in our lives. So when I am with my brothers and sisters, like on Sunday mornings, You are present in them, and we can see, hear, and touch one another. May we never grow used to this to the point that we forget just how awesome and amazing You are.

I pray for some time to get away soon, some time when we can go “hide away” in the midst of Your creation, in a lonely place, or a “desolate” place. I sense the need for some refreshing, soon. I thank You that there are places where we can do just that. In the meantime, please make sure that we rest enough.

Thank You that I have the willingness to constantly be shifting my life direction, whenever I sense You leading me differently. I thank You for the major shift that happened last year, and I pray for more direction as I continue to suss out what that looks like.

Thank You, Father, for all Your blessings in our life.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

What’s Your Story?

Today is Friday, the first of April, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent. April Fool’s Day, if you are so inclined.

May the peace of Christ be with you today.

Day 23,395

This is my first Friday off in a while. I think the last Friday I had off, that was not due to inclement weather, was the Friday before Thanksgiving, when we traveled to Indianapolis to visit with R & J. But, beginning today, I now have every Friday off, and will begin my Thursday shifts next week.

My appointment at the vein care clinic yesterday went well, I think. I liked the doctor. They did an ultrasound that showed that I have three of four main veins that are “broken,” resulting in the many varicose veins in my legs. I would show pictures, but I don’t want to gross everyone out. Including me. However, the condition is not, currently, life-threatening, or even dangerous, really, and causes me no pain or discomfort. They seemed surprised when I told them that the varicosities are not hindering my lifestyle at all.

I will, though, begin wearing compression socks today (or whenever they show up from Amazon), and will do so for at least twelve weeks, because insurance won’t even consider covering treatment until compression socks have been tried for twelve weeks. Of course, compression socks don’t fix the problem. They just prevent it from getting worse. After the twelve weeks is up, I may or may not choose to have the treatment. What they do is basically seal off the broken veins, forcing blood to re-route through healthy veins. The body will then eventually break down and consume the old veins.

I don’t have an estimate, just yet, on how much this will cost, but one of C’s work friends is having the same thing done, and it’s costing him $2400. Our max out of pocket is about $6500, so we may go ahead with it. We’ll see how things look when mid-May gets here. I’m also needing to schedule a colonoscopy soon, and I have no idea how much that is going to cost.

I have no real plans for the rest of today, other than finishing up some laundry that was started yesterday. Since it is Friday, there will likely be a trip to Freebird’s for dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
(Psalms 46:10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my vein condition is not immediately serious
2. that, "whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 'it is well with my soul'"
3. for story; we all have one
4. for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, simply that the kingdom of God is at hand
5. for the lavish, unexpected generosity of our Father in heaven

The prayer word for today is “story.” I have become a huge fan of story, in recent years. The thing is, everyone has one; we all have a story. The Bible is full of stories, some real and some more like parables. The quote provided is from Hanna Arendt, who was a political philosopher and holocaust survivor. “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” I confess I’m not 100% sure what that means.

The reading involves the idea of people who come into a bookstore, searching for a book they remember from their childhood, but all they have are hazy memories of it. Having worked in a library for a few months, I know that this sort of thing happens to our librarians, as well.

The thing is, those stories that we remember, even if just barely, have become part of us. I don’t remember what the first book I ever read was, but I definitely have some memories of favorite childhood books. I ran across one, recently, while shelving children’s books at the library. Harold and the Purple Crayon. I was not only delighted to see that our library had a copy, but that someone had actually checked it out!

Memories of all kinds are part of us, and they all combine to make up our over-arching story. Our Story is made up of tiny stories, or sub-stories, if you want to call them that. “Chapters,” maybe?

But I digress. The point is we all have them. And everyone has A Story. Some stories are tragic; others are victorious. And if we care enough about one another to learn them, they speak volumes about why we are the way we are. Our personalities did not develop randomly, by accident. All the things that have happened in our lives work together to make us who we are.

What’s your story?

Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?
(Matthew 20:14-15 ESV)

Most of us would probably realize that, should the scenario Jesus just presented in Matthew 20 occur in twenty-first century USA, there would be lawsuits galore. But, then, we also realize that this parable is not really about money or wages for work.

“A generous God is hard to get used to,” says Eugene Peterson, as he opens this reading called “A Lavish God.” As we grow in this world, accumulating all of the aforementioned stories, we also gather up and store quite a bit of guilt. Unless, of course, we are psychopaths, but that’s not what this is about.

And, in storing up this guilt, we “assume that God – if there is a God – is just waiting for the right time to let us have it, to punish us and put us in our place.” And, if it isn’t God waiting to do that, there are plenty of preachers ready to do it for Him.

“And then Jesus tells us the surprising opposite.”

And that’s the end of the reading, much to my surprise, as I turned the page to find the next reading.

In this parable, Jesus tells us that the person who begins to follow Him right at the very end of their life gets just as much “heaven” as the person who has followed Him for their whole life. Our capitalistic, greedy, Western culture screams, “BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!”

Jesus never promises “fair.” Our Father lavishes His grace and mercy on the just and the unjust alike. Scripture is clear on this. There is much that we will never understand about the nature of God. Human preachers have made up a ton of stuff, over time. It should all be sifted through the strainer of God’s Word. And God’s Word is Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I could write for hours about things that men have claimed to be biblical truth, things that have no Scriptural basis whatsoever. One thing that recently came to mind, thanks to a Facebook post, was the “sinner’s prayer.” Not only is there no such thing, biblically, there is not even one shred of evidence that one must say a prayer to be “saved.”

What is the Gospel of Jesus? If I were to ask that question on social media, I would, no doubt, get multiple replies that had to do with dying on the cross, being in the grave for three days, and being resurrected. But that is not even close to the Gospel that Jesus preached.

Here is the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:15 ESV)

That’s it. “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Our God is generous. He forgives all of our sin. He expects us to do the same with one another. And He expects us to be as generous as He is.

Father, I praise You for Your lavish generosity, so very unexpected, especially when one is raised to think that You are just waiting to dole out punishment on the sinners. Somehow, we seem to have missed that bit that says You don’t desire for anyone to perish. There is so very much about You that I do not know or understand. Probably an infinite amount. I know the promises of Scripture, though, that tell me that I will, someday “know as I am known.” At this point in life, that is both comforting and frightening all at the same time. I know that I’m not ready to know everything about You, but I’m eager to get to that point.

I thank You for my story, Lord. Yes, there are parts of it that I am most definitely not proud of. There are parts that only You and me know about (and maybe one or two others). But all of those pieces have come together to produce who I am today, and that is my Story, and it is ever-evolving, with each day that comes. My desire is that it will end with You telling me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But I don’t know how faithful I have been. I guess it all depends on how we define “faithful.” I have attempted, as Peterson called it, “a long obedience in the same direction.” There have been side trails, and times that I have moved backward, but, over-all, the direction has been forward and upward.

I thank You for Your generosity, again. Your patience with us is part of that generosity. In recent days, it has come to my realization that we, as humans, as people who claim to follow Christ, have this problem. We tend to consider ourselves in light of the New Testament, desiring Your grace to be lavished upon us. But we tend to consider others in light of the Old Testament, actually appearing to desire Your wrath to fall on people with whom we don’t agree.

God, please help us! This ought not be so! Help us to be as generous as You are, both with our resources (which You have given us, to begin with) and with our forgiveness and acceptance and love for our fellow humans.

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

I Just Want to Celebrate

Today is Thursday, the thirty-first of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,394

This will be my last Thursday to be off from work, as my schedule will officially change, beginning tomorrow. Going forward, I will be off on Fridays and be working from 11:15-8:15 on Thursdays, in the Computer Center. This is all happening because one of our CC aides got a second job, which is being rather uncooperative in regard to his schedule in Hurst, and the other CC aide really didn’t want to work on Thursdays. She is very grateful that I was able to step in and work on Thursdays.

For me, it’s only a mild inconvenience to switch, as it means I will be working two evening shifts a week, and three consecutive days, every other week. This mild inconvenience is offset by having a four-day-weekend every other week. Actually, it is virtually five days, because I don’t go to work until 4:15 on Tuesdays.

I have my vein clinic doctor appointment, this morning, at 10:15. I got an email from them, yesterday (actually Tuesday evening, I think), that outlined what this visit will cost. I’m not sharing it here, but I almost canceled the appointment when I saw it. However, my wife (have I mentioned she’s an angel?) said I should go ahead and do it, because it seems necessary for my health and well-being.

After the appointment, I plan to have lunch with C, since the doctor’s office is in Arlington, which is also where C works. We will probably go to Fred’s Downtown Philly.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
In the light of His glory and grace

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
(Luke 9:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the many blessings in my life, too numerous to count
2. for the preeminence of Christ in all things
3. for celebrations that call to remembrance the things that God has done in our lives
4. for the "chutzpah" of the woman in Matthew 15, that shows us that we don't always need to be prim and proper when we pray
5. that God listens

Today’s word for prayer is “celebrate.” There is a lot of that in Scripture, actually. While the word, itself, only occurs in the Bible about a dozen times, the sentiment is there more frequently, especially in the Old Testament, as the people of Israel are commanded to observe various festivals throughout the year.

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.”
(Exodus 12:14 NIV)

Of course, the number of occurrences of the English word depends on which translation you are reading. It occurs more in the NIV than in the ESV, and only three times in the KJV. The writer of today’s reading, known only as “Michelle,” claims it appears sixty-eight times. I’m not sure which version she is reading, because the NIV only shows it around fifty-five.

All of that is irrelevant, of course.

Celebration is even considered one of the classic spiritual disciplines. The reason for celebration is remembrance. All of the festivals that the ancient Hebrews were expected to observe were to commemorate something that God had done for them. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas (which is commanded, nor even suggested, nowhere in the Bible, by the way). We celebrate His resurrection at Easter (also not commanded or suggested, but the first century Christians shifted their day of worship to the first day of the week, because of Jesus’s resurrection). When we celebrate birthdays, we remember the day that a loved one was born.

Michelle suggests celebrating God’s abundance in our lives, “in a way that would strengthen my journey of faith.” And, while the discipline is considered a “corporate” discipline (one observed by a group or gathering), I believe we can easily celebrate on our own. All that is needed is to have a little “Thank You, God” party.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
(Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
(Isaiah 49:13 ESV)

That sounds like a celebration to me! And here’s the ultimate celebration, one that I cannot wait to participate in.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:11-14 ESV)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 
But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 
And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 
She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 
Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." 
And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28 ESV)

Eugene Peterson says, “the woman had chutzpah.” I like that. That is a word that means, “extreme self-confidence or audacity.” She got Jesus’s attention.

“Maybe we don’t have to compose ourselves into postures of reverence before we pray. Maybe we don’t have to know very much about the strategies of salvation before we appeal for help. [Remember yesterday’s prayer word?] Maybe when we feel excluded from the rich banquet of life that everyone else seems to have such easy access to, we need to push our way into the room – elbow our way to the head table and demand at least a portion of the leftovers.

“This is not the polite approach to Jesus that we are taught by our pastors and parents, but it worked once.

“Maybe it will work again.”

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

Father, I thank You for these words today, especially “celebrate.” I know I need to celebrate more. All of Your children (well, most, anyway) need to celebrate more. There is too much whining and complaining going on in the midst of Your people. One looking in from the outside might question whether we have any faith in You at all! Help us to celebrate, to remember the great and marvelous works You have done in, through, and for Your people, throughout history.

You parted the Red Sea as You delivered Your people from Egypt. You split the Jordan River in half so that Your people could enter the Promised Land. You made water come from a rock, and manna appear out of nowhere. You dropped the walls of Jericho like they were made out of paper mâché. You made an axe-head float. I could go on and on and on, and that’s what celebration is all about; remembering those things.

Most importantly, You gave us Jesus, and You displayed the most awesomely wonderful power ever when You raised Him from the dead and lifted Him up to heaven, right in front of His disciples.

Celebrate. I just want to celebrate. Help me to do that today. And I pray for things in my life that will remind me to celebrate. Should I go walking outside, in the midst of nature, put something in front of my eyes that will cause me to remember and celebrate. But also keep my eyes open so that, when You do that, I will see it.

I look forward to joining those multitudes depicted in Revelation and shouting/singing glory to You for all of eternity. That’s the ultimate celebration.

And Father, please give me the “chutzpah” of that woman from Matthew 15. Not that I want to ever be rude or presumptuous in prayer, but also to know that, sometimes, all I have to do is cry out, “help!” Thank You for listening.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Come Quickly, Lord, to Help Me”

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today.

Day 23,386

Yesterday turned out to be a very good day. We got S to her appointment early, and the doctor was ready, so we started early. The setting was a bit unexpected, being in an old office building in The Stockyards of Fort Worth. He had a single room office on the second floor, down a narrow hallway from the elevator. However, the man was charmingly friendly, and upbeat, reassuring us from the start that there would likely be no change in S’s status with the SSA.

There was a brief “interview,” for which C and I were allowed to stay and help with answers. After that, though, there was some testing, for which we had to leave the office. He said it would be a couple of hours, so we set off walking back to Main St., to see if we could find some coffee and breakfast. It was windy and cold, and C didn’t wear a jacket. She was in long sleeves, but it was still chilly. We found a place called The Biscuit Bar. The first place we went into was just a coffee shop, with no real food offerings. It smelled really nice, though.

The Biscuit Bar was just okay. The menu looked good (although a bit pricey), but their coffee machine was on the fritz, so they only had plain black coffee (which was all we wanted, but still not a good thing), and they only had one kind of soda available. There were a lot of “out of order” signs on their self-serve devices. The food was just okay. It wasn’t hot at all, and my tots were practically room temperature. We definitely would not go back there.

After breakfast, we looked for a place to shop, but none of the shops opened until 11:00 AM, and it was just after 10:00. So we headed back to the office building and sat in chairs across the hall from the office. We hadn’t been there long when I got a text from the doctor saying that they were almost finished. He gave us a verbal report when we went back in, and not much had changed. S’s IQ was actually a few points lower, but that is because, he explained, she is older than the last test. The level didn’t actually declined, there is just a bigger gap between her age and the level at which she is performing. Ironically, she spells at a collegiate level, and can read words at an eleventh grade level. However, her comprehension and math skills are at about fifth grade.

He saw no reason for her status to change, going forward. That is good news. So, hopefully, she will begin receiving her SS benefits from my record soon, and we will get her on Medicare.

We had a late lunch, and then I went to my evening shift at the library, which was pretty nice. I’m off today, and not planning to do much at all. I even slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Holy Invitation,” by Daryl Madden

It’s so beautiful
A Holy invitation
Of us to reflect
On our Lord’s creation

A practice so important
To be aware and find
Precious little moments
To draw unto divine

For its these little moments
As rain drops fill the sea
That prepare the soul
For greater ones to be

So draw close to Him
Through nature of a prayer
With vision of His view
A taste of heaven here

Please check out Daryl’s other poems at the link provided.

And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
(Matthew 20:32-33 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for good results from S's evaluation, yesterday
2. for a day with no real "agenda" today
3. for that question from Jesus, "What do you want me to do for you?"
4. for the constant presence of God in my life
5. for the knowledge that I can be "strong and courageous" when I am doing the work that He has set forth for me, knowing full well that He will never leave nor forsake me

Today’s prayer word is “come.” The thought is a prayer for Jesus to come help us.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
(Psalms 22:19 NIV)

This is not the only place where that phrase occurs.

Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
(Psalms 40:13 NIV)

You probably have noticed that I close out every day’s prayer with these words.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

We know that God is not removed from us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, we do not always feel that presence. It is not unthinkable nor unacceptable to need to pray that prayer, “Come quickly, Lord, to help me.” And, in fact, simply taking a deep breath, closing one’s eyes and whispering, “Come,” can be helpful.

This is good to remember when circumstances become overwhelming. I have been also known to breathe the “Jesus prayer,” multiple times a day.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

While it does not contain the word or request to “come,” it has, in my opinion, the same effect.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
(1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV)

Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.
(Proverbs 19:15 NIV)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

After we pray for the Lord to come quickly and help us, our typical response should not be to just sit and wait. There are times when that is acceptable, when we need to simply “be still and know.” But most of the time, we should either get busy working or keep working on whatever it is we are doing. David reminds Solomon to be strong and courageous, but also adds the phrase “do the work.” And it is possibly Solomon who tells us later,

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
(Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ESV)

You may say, “that’s easy for you to say, you’re retired!” True, but I still “work.” I have work to do, around the house, and I have my wonderful part-time job at the library, which, as delightful as it is, is still “work.” But I also have the “work” of being faithful to God and proclaiming my gratitude each day. This, too, is “work” that we need to be about. Each of us has different “work” to do, and it isn’t always about the nine-to-five that gets you your paycheck.

So, after you pray to God to come quickly and help you, get busy doing the work that He has for you to do. And be “strong and courageous” about it, because He is with you.

I love what Eugene Peterson says in the short reading called “The Unspeakable Ordinary.” And, once again, this hearkens back to the mention of Brother Laurence, the other day, and his pots and pans.

“We do not become more spiritual by becoming less material. The life of faith takes place where there are rocks and water.” Our lives of faith are mixed in with everything else in our lives: “violence and sex and greed and commerce and government.” Life is unspeakably ordinary, for most of us, and this is where we meet God. We do not become more spiritual by trying to extricate ourselves from this life. The life of faith is quite ordinary.

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

I haven’t taken a look, yet, this week, at the selection on Fasting in Spiritual Classics. This segment is from William Law (1686-1761), and Anglican Priest who lived during the Enlightenment. His most famous writing is called A Serious Call To A Devout and Holy Life.

In this book, Law makes a distinction, in the idea of “private prayer,” to say that “Private prayer . . . does not suppose that no one is to have any witness of it.” He strongly encourages that we should allow near relations to witness our devotion. Then he uses the same word that Augustine used, “ostentation.” Let me look that up again. It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I have added the emphasis.

We are not to “make public ostentation to the world of our fasting,” says Law. So, the idea of “private prayer” or “private fasting” has more to do with the motivation and heart behind it than it does to do with who witnesses it.

Law brings up the record of Cornelius, from the book of Acts. “Now that this fasting was sufficiently private and acceptable to God appears from the vision of an angel with which the holy man was blessed at that time.” Yet, Cornelius’s family and household servants must have been aware of this fasting, “and were made devout themselves by continually waiting upon him, that is, by seeing and partaking of his good works.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'”
(Acts 10:30-31 ESV)

We must not allow legalism to turn Jesus’s words into absurdity. Law even adds what seems to be a bit of humor (in my opinion) when he says, “For if no one was to fast in private or could be said to fast in private but he that had no witnesses of it, no one could keep a private fast but he that lived by himself.”

Oddly, it may be the case that Law used the Gentile Cornelius as his example because the legalists of his day might be inclined to not accept Cornelius as acceptable to God. This might cause Law’s modern readers (you and me) to take a step back and examine our own tendency to legalism. .

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Father, I rejoice in the truth that You will never leave nor forsake me, and that I can be “strong and courageous” as I tend to the tasks that You have placed in my life, be they as mundane as sweeping floors and washing pots and pans. Nevertheless, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by anything at all, remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, that all I need to do is whisper “come quickly to help me” and You are right there with me.

I thank You for the example that William Law has given us, in regard to private prayer and fasting, because it sheds “new” light on the subject. Help me to not ever be ostentatious in my prayer or fasting. May it never be for the vulgar purpose of impressing or attracting notice. Keep me humble, Father.

As I walk through the rest of this day, may I find myself resting in Your love and mercy, rejoicing that Your mercies are “new every morning,” and that Your faithfulness is great. I love You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Turn, Turn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his awesome photography at the link provided.

Day 23,372

The A/C and heater people are supposed to arrive, this morning, between 9 and 10. The work should take most of the day. It is currently pretty cool outside, at 36 degrees, but should get up to around 60 by mid-afternoon.

An update on my computer situation. I finally got all of the files moved to Dropbox, but when I opened up the PC, I couldn’t tell which part was which. I’m also not 100% sure which part is making the noise, so I’m not going to try to swap out the hard drive myself. I have talked to the Computer Center manager at the library, so when I go to work Friday, I will take it with me, and he has agreed to look at it. I’ll take the new hard drive with me, as well.

There’s not much else to talk about, this morning. I’m starting a new devotional book, as I finished Symphony of Salvation, yesterday. The new one is also by Eugene Peterson, called On Living Well.

You might notice that I have not addressed world events that are going on. That is intentional. There are plenty of places you can read/hear about that. My purpose here is to present the Word of God in the best way I can, as positively as I can. My goal is encouragement, not discouragement. I know that I occasionally point out issues and shortcomings in the Church. But that is because I love the Church and I want to see her flourish.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place -
the Most High, who is my refuge -
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
(Psalm 91:9-10)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Church, the community of saints, faithful and true 
2. for angels who minister to the saints
3. for Salt of the Sound and their beautiful, inspiring music
4. for the way God works in my devotionals
5. for those times when the things of earth go strangely dim

John Henry Newman speaks of Daniel’s two recorded fasts. The first one, I believe was for ten days, in which neither Daniel nor the three Hebrews we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ate any meat or any of the king’s delicacies. The second was for three weeks.

The result of the first fast was that Daniel and his three friends were all stronger and healthier than the king’s people. On the second fast, Daniel was visited by an angel.

Newman keys in on the angel visit, and notes that, when Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, He was visited and helped by angels. “And so we too may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, Angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God.” Newman then takes note that Elijah, as well, was strengthened by an angel. We also have record of Cornelius, the Gentile, being visited by an angel when he was fasting.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:11-12)

The devil is well-aware of this promise, says Newman, “for he used it in that very hour of temptation. He knows full well what our power is, and what is his own weakness. So we have nothing to fear while we remain within the shadow of the throne of the Almighty.”

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
(Psalm 91:7)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“The Word was first. The Word was previous to everything else. Before we were conceived and took shape in our mothers’ wombs, before we were born, before anything happened, there was the Word.”

Before anything else existed, sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers, fish, governments, hospitals, schools, “there was the Word.”

I can’t paraphrase this stuff . . . it’s too good.

“If the Word were not first, everything else would have gone awry. If the Word were second – or third or fourth – we would have lost touch with the deep, divine rhythms of creation. If the Word were pushed out of the way and made to be a servant to the action and program, we would have lost connection with the vast interior springs of redemption that flow out of our Lord, the Word made flesh.

“When the Word is treated casually or carelessly, we wander away from the essential personal intimacies that God creates . . . by his Word.” (Emphasis mine)

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

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

It is the season of Lent. We are “supposed” to give up something. I did see a TikTok by a reverend that I respect and follow, suggesting that, maybe, instead of trying to force ourselves to give up something, perhaps we should try to add something positive, such as trying to pray for a person every day.

But this is a “season,” as indicated in Ecclesiastes 3. Almost everyone is familiar with the next ten verses or so of that chapter. Pete Seeger helped us all with that. The Byrds probably made it more famous than Pete, but he wrote the song.

I’ve read over this many, many times, in my life, but it is always “time” to look them over again. The many “times” or “seasons” that the writer of Ecclesiastes notes are as follows:

A time to for birth and a time for death
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to destroy and a time to construct
A time to cry and a time to laugh
A time to lament and at time to cheer
A time to make love and a time to abstain
A time to embrace and a time to part
A time to search and a time to count your losses
A time to hold on and a time to let go (there's a whole bunch of us who need to learn that one)
A time to rip out and a time to mend
A time to shut up and a time to speak up
A time to love and a time to hate
A time to wage war and a time to make peace
(I used The Message for these)

And, as we work our way through the season of Lent, perhaps giving things up and perhaps adding things, there is one thing that we need to do. We need to “Turn” our eyes upon Jesus. It is always time for that.

Today’s prayer word is “ponder.” Isn’t that fitting, based on what I’ve just written?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Ponder,” of course, means “to think about.” To think about carefully, to chew over, to meditate. Unfortunately, we tend to ponder over the wrong things, sometimes.

I have to interrupt myself and simply be awestruck over how my Father works these things out, how all of this works together, this morning. The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Becky,” writes about trying to go to sleep at night, but as soon as her head hits the pillow, she starts pondering her day, her family members, and then the world and the future and . . . well, you get the picture.

In her case, “ponder” is more like “worry.” And I have most certainly been there. But the writer of Philippians would have us ponder different things. And I’m sure, if he were around today, he would agree with the song above the purple line, and say that all of the things in that verse are summed up by saying, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Because, most assuredly, when you do that, the things of earth grow strangely dim.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help us all to turn our eyes upon Jesus, during these times, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Not that we stop caring, may it never be! But that we stop worrying, fretting, fearing. We are Your children . . . have mercy on us . . . teach us how to obey Your commands to “fear not.” Help us to live Isaiah 41:10 every day, ever minute, throughout all of those many “seasons” listed above. There is NEVER any reason for us to fear, Father!

NOTHING can separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. None of the things mentioned in those two verse, nor anything else that we could possibly imagine. And, most beautifully, not even my sin can separate me, because of the powerful and efficacious work of my savior Jesus Christ, my Lord! Your Word made flesh, existing before there was anything else, and who will come again to make all things right.

All praise and glory to You, my Father, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Star of Wonder

Good morning! Today is Thursday, the sixth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. Today is the day of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,310

Seventeen days until Hamilton!

As noticed above, today is “Epiphany,” the day when the church celebrates the arrival of the “wise men” to visit Jesus. The season of Epiphany lasts until the beginning of Lent, which occurs on Wednesday (always Wednesday), March 2, known as “Ash Wednesday,” which comes immediately “Fat Tuesday,” or “Mardi Gras.”

It was a nice day at the library, yesterday (when is it not). It was relatively quiet, but there was a flurry of activity during the last ten minutes that we were open. I got to register a new patron, and fielded a phone call from one who thought that a book she had turned in was still showing up on her account. This call happened at 5:57, and I was not looking forward to having to initiate a “claims returned” process with only three minutes left in the day. I’m not very familiar with that process, as I don’t believe I have ever had to do one on my own, yet. Fortunately, when I looked up her account, the book in question did not show as being checked out.

As noted, yesterday, I have agreed to work an extra shift today, from 10-2. That won’t be bad, even though it is supposed to be a day off for me. I don’t have to go in early, and I’ll get home in plenty of time to get a couple things accomplished.

It’s a cold day in DFW, today. currently 30 degrees (or 32, depending on who I listen to), and only getting up to just below 40 today. Tomorrow’s low is predicted to be in the low twenties. Egad. Fortunately, there is no precipitation predicted until Saturday when temps are supposed to remain well above freezing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God,
by the leading of a star 
You manifested Your only Son 
to the peoples of the earth:
Lead us, who know You now by faith,
to Your presence,
where we may see Your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Collect for Epiphany)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. 
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose 
went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, 
and they fell down and worshiped him.
 Then, opening their treasures,
 they offered him gifts, 
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that, because of Jesus, God holds me in His arms today
3. for the "star of wonder" that led the Magi to Jesus
4. for the admonition to love our enemies
5. for strength and courage that God gives us
6. for the awe I feel when I consider His holiness

In today’s final examination of Thomas More’s meditation (the text can be found at this link), I will include thought written by Richard J. Foster, in Spiritual Classics.

“This selection by Thomas More simply does me in. The breadth of it exhausts me. One line maybe I can enter into a little, but even then some single sentences contain a lifetime: ‘To think my most enemies my best friends.’ However, the prayer is not just one sentence, but sentence piled upon sentence, covering, as it seems, all thought, word, and deed. It is too much to take in, too much to expect, too much to hope for–in myself or anyone else.

“But then I realize that More is not telling me many things but only one thing. And what is that one thing? Simply to love God. When I see this it all becomes clear. Then I can read each line as another aspect of the call to love. And so, once again, I am struck by the unity of all these writers on contemplative prayer. They all keep calling us back to our first love. Their message, it seems, keeps tune to the beat of our heart . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God.”

The main thing I want to present from Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, today, from the book of Joshua, is that everything presented in that book is grounded in the reality of real people and places. Grand ideas have no life of their own apart from the people and places in which they occurred. Says Peterson, “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less–this continuation of the salvation story–Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families, name by name, assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.”

Just as GOD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn’t leave incomplete one thing that GOD had commanded Moses.
(Joshua 11:15 MSG)

A favorite verse in Joshua is 1:9. Oddly enough, when I was in school, I memorized verse 8, but never verse 9.

Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(Joshua 1:9 MSG)

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
(Revelation 4:8 NIV)

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
(Psalms 33:8 NIV)

Today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day is “persistence.” That’s a good word.

He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
(Luke 11:8 CEV)

I’ve often wondered at this teaching of Jesus. He seems to be saying that we should “pester” God with our requests. For some reason, I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. But here Jesus seems to be telling us exactly that. There is another story that He tells, in another place, about a widow seeking justice from an ungodly ruler.

Persistence is a good trait to have. We don’t give up, or we should not give up. The book tells a story of a pianist who lost his right arm during WWI. He refused to stop playing, and began commissioning pieces written for just the left hand. That is definitely persistence.

But our persistence should be in doing good things, having good desires. As we remember that “nothing is impossible” with God, we persist, we persevere. I am persisting in my quest to have a “love revolution” in our culture. And I persist in my prayers to have that come about.

Father, I thank You for the record of the “wise men” visiting Jesus and giving Him gifts that seemed to point toward His burial preparation. I thank You for that “star of wonder.” I am also grateful for this persistent command to love each other, and more specifically, to love our enemies. Help me to do that today and every day. I pray for a Love Revolution to take hold in our country, in our world. That is only possible when people hold Jesus dear to their hearts and allow You to hold them in Your might arms.

Give us strength from the message of the book of Joshua, helping us to be grounded in its reality. I have no desire to “escape” reality. When I want to do that, I play games or watch movies. But then I return to the true reality, knowing that You exist there and that You give us mundane tasks to complete, which help us get down in the dirt with people.

Thank You for the sense of awe I have when I consider Your holiness. And thank You for Jesus’s stories, encouraging us to be persistent and never give up on praying.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Are You Ready?

Good morning. Today is Monday, the twenty-ninth of November, 2021. First Monday of Advent.

Day 23,272

Twenty-six days until Christmas.

I have received unpleasant news, this morning, news which will have an impact on Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations for years to come. My Uncle “Buddy,” Robert Vinson, has passed away, this morning. He was my mother’s twin brother. At this point, I don’t know of any arrangements, but there will likely be a funeral later this week, which may mean that I miss a day at the library. Unless they decide on Saturday.

Brother Daryl Madden has shared a couple of poems with me, this morning. You who are regular readers are familiar with him and his inspirational/comforting poetry. Here are a couple which he has shared with me today.

Still You

Still raw is your passing

You’re in a better place
Your hope in gift of faith
Is answered by His grace

Still here is our sorrow

In random burst of tears
Drifting in our loss
Your emptiness felt here

Still in life’s reflection

The love to us you shared
We see your shadow cast
In many ways, you cared

Still we walk our path

With joy and sorrow, feeling
In prayer, we’ll be with You
A new way you’ll be healing


Still we’ll remember you

Etched within our heart
For now, your closer still
Through love that you’ll impart

Death is Nothing

Death is nothing. Nothing at all

It does not count. There is no wall

I’ve only slipped. In the room next

Nothing’s happened. Be not perplexed

As is the same. As was it be

You are you. And I am me

The old life lived. Together in love

Remains untouched. Unchanged above

Whatever we were. To each other

That we are still. And not another

Why should I be. Out of your mind
Just because. The eye is blind


As I am. I wait for you

So very near. Round corners view

All is well. Nothing is hurt

Nothing is lost. This truth assert

In moment brief. And all will be

As was before. Our joy to see

How we shall laugh. In embrace so sweet

When very soon. Again we’ll meet!

Thank you so much, Daryl!

We had a nice, restful day, yesterday. I spent about an hour at a local tire shop, though, getting tires rotated and air pressure checked. What prompted that was when the tire pressure light came on in my car, on the way back from Mineral Wells, Thursday evening. I checked the pressure on Friday, during the day, and all the tires had about the same pressure. The two fronts were exactly the same, and the two rears were almost exactly the same. This indicated that I likely didn’t have a leak.

I was planning to take care of it Saturday evening, after work, but it was raining, so I decided, since my car was long overdue for tire rotation, to take it to the tire shop that is open on Sundays and have them take care of it. So for $15, I got a tire rotation and all four tires checked and aired up.

Most of today will be spent getting caught up on various chores, such as laundry and grocery shopping and sweeping the floor. It’s good to be back to a regular schedule.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Catch A Breath, by Daryl Madden

Before our day begins
Time to start performing
Take a step outside and
Catch a breath of morning

For a seed of beauty
A gift of the spawning
To dwell within the light
Catch a glimpse of dawning

Let it settle in
Worldly time to cease
In silence of the soul
Draw a taste of peace

Know that loves abounding
Blessings our God shares
With gratitude to offer
A whisper of prayer

Please check out Daryl’s other inspirational poems at the link above.

I wait for the LORD,
my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
(Psalms 130:5-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the hope that comes in waiting for You
2. for many good memories with my uncle
3. that Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
4. that I am one of the sheep of Your pasture, that You have made me, and I am Yours
5. that You are making us ready; may we walk in the hope and expectation that You have granted us

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
(Psalms 119:105 ESV)

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalms 100:1-5 ESV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:1-15 ESV)

You might wonder why we are reading the account of the fall of man during our Advent celebration. It all comes down to verse 15, where we get the first glimpse of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The first glimmer of hope, the one who would “bruise the head” of our enemy. Jesus will come and undo the work of Satan, but not without great cost. Therein lies our hope, and hope is one of the central messages of Advent.

I thank You, God, that You are generous and the giver of all good things. I thank You that You have always had a plan for us and for the world, that You revealed this plan to us through Your prophets, and that this plan finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

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

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – DAY TWO

INVITATION

I am counting on the LORD;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.
(Psalms 130:5 NLT)

As I pause in the quiet, this morning, I am pondering life, itself, and its brevity. Eighty-three years may seem like a long time, but my sixty-three seems so very brief, as I look back. Life is fragile, but we have hope in Christ Jesus, hope of life eternal. Sixty or eighty years is merely a grain of sand in comparison.

BIBLE SONG

Of Solomon.

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

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
(Matthew 24:36-42 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. I linger over them, meditating on them and giving them my full attention. Is there something for me to ask God about? I pray my life to Him, and rest in His presence.

Psalm 72 is one of those that, on the surface, appears to be about an earthly king. Solomon appears to be voicing a prayer/song for himself, in third person. However, I believe it is also valid to attribute this to Jesus, based on the language it contains.

We do want Jesus to judge His people in righteousness, and His afflicted ones with justice. We desire prosperity for His people. We hope for the defense of the afflicted, and that the children of the needy will be saved. We also pray for all oppressors to be crushed. We believe that Jesus will endure longer than the sun and moon and all the stars, beyond all generations.

But then we shift gears a little bit, as the passage from Matthew 24 concerns the second coming of Jesus. We know this, because it is Jesus, Himself, voicing the words.

We hear that no one knows the hour or the day that Jesus will return. In fact, it would appear that even Jesus, Himself, does not know, but only the Father knows. We read that life will be going on, business as usual, when the Son appears. Just like in the days of Noah, the people “knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” And, He says, this is exactly how His second coming will be.

That is somewhat unnerving, I think. We won’t see it coming until it does. So all of this guessing and predicting, all of the books that have been written, trying to predict when it will happen, all useless. I find it interesting and enlightening that, even though Jesus gives all these signs before He says that, He still, at the end says that no one will know when it’s going to happen.

His main advice? “Keep watch.” “Be ready.” We get the same advice from Luke 12:40.

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
(Luke 12:40 NIV)

Father, help us to be ready. And while we are getting ready, may we not focus on the things that we cannot know. May we not waste time and energy trying to figure out what Jesus, Himself, doesn’t even know! Just let us be ready. What does being ready mean? It means simply keeping watch. Yes, Jesus gives us signs, and we can watch for them. But trying to predict when it’s going to happen is pointless. May our eyes be fixed on You; may our attention be on Your Word and on those who need it; may we focus on doing the things that Psalm 72 prays that Jesus, our King, will do, which is helping in the deliverance of the needy and afflicted, and crushing the oppressors.

Help us to see You in all things, as we walk in Your creation, and as we look around us.

I thank You for the life of my Uncle Buddy. I pray for my mother, Aunt Barbara, and for Johnny, Jayne, and Joan, my cousins. I also pray for their children and grandchildren, as they all grieve the loss of husband, brother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

"Coming Savior,
You are the Word,
the wisdom,
and the very image of the Father.
Ready my ears to hear Your word of truth,
my heart to learn the ways of Your wisdom,
and my eyes to see the beauty of Your likeness.
Amen."

BLESSING

He who is the faithful witness
to all these things says,
“Yes, I am coming soon!”
Amen!
Come, Lord Jesus!
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.
(Revelation 22:20-21 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Which I Can Always Run

Today is Saturday, the tenth of April, 2021. Easter Saturday in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,039

Forty days until our Glen Rose weekend

It’s a chilly morning, currently 52 degrees, but with a projected high of 74. With sunny skies, it promises to be a lovely day.

We made it to the weekend! It will be a bit busier than our normal weekend, as it will include a trip to Mineral Wells for some overdue birthday celebrations. We must remember to bring all of the accumulated gifts. There will be lunch, although the prospective venue has not been identified, as of yet. There will also be, as usual, a trip to the Crazy Water store to stock up on Crazy Water #4.

Tomorrow, our church will not be gathering, as the other two “elders” are going to be out. I am considering returning to St. Barnabas Anglican Church, but have not decided, yet.

We have our usual WW Workshop at 10:30, this morning. Our regular coach will be out this week, which is a bummer, but that’s okay. I’m thinking that I might lose a couple more pounds, on this weigh-in. I’ve had a good week in that area, it seems. Immediately after WW, we will head to the grocery store to pick up our order. And, I believe, we will be getting a Subway sandwich for S, who will not be accompanying us to Mineral Wells.

The Texas Rangers not only lost 3-0 last night, apparently, they were the victims of a no-hitter. Joe Musgrove of the Padres narrowly missed a perfect game, as the only batter to reach base was Joey Gallo on a HBP. Don’t you know Musgrove regrets that pitch? The two teams will play again, tonight, at 6:05 CDT, with Jordan Lyles taking the mound for Texas. He had a good outing for his last start. The Rangers are tied for third place in the AL West, with Seattle, at 3-4.

The Red Sox remain tied for first, at 4-3, with the Orioles, as neither team played last night, and the Rays pounded the Yankees 10-5, which put both of those teams at 3-4, for a second place tie. Toronto brings up the rear at 3-5. The Sox and O’s will play this evening, in Baltimore, with Garrett Richards starting for the Sox.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
(Psalms 71:17-19 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that You have been teaching me since my youth (and even before)
  • for Your promise that You will never leave or forsake Your children
  • that You are a rock, a refuge, and a fortress to which I can always run
  • for the forgiveness of sin, made possible by the blood of Jesus, poured out by the Cross
  • for the Living Water

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

EASTER – DAY 7

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I pause, at this point, to quietly reflect on what the Lord has done for me, through the years.

BIBLE SONG

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
(Psalms 71:1-6 NIV)

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in His presence, this morning, I reread these passages, pondering and meditating, asking His Spirit to direct my thoughts.

I begin with Psalm 71:3.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:3 NIV)

There are several words that speak to me, in this verse. Words like “rock,” “refuge,” and “fortress” always speak to me in these psalms. Then there’s the phrase, “to which I can always go.”

Here is an important principle for our lives, one I believe we fail to implement enough. Our God is, indeed, a rock, our solid ground. When our feet are planted on the Solid Rock, we cannot be shaken. Our God is also an impenetrable fortress and refuge.

And the truth of that phrase cannot be overestimated. We can always go to this rock, this refuge, this fortress.

When I am having a bad day, when things aren’t going the way I think they should be; when my mental state is spiraling downward, and my emotions are running amok; these are times in which I need to avail myself of the infinite availability of the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my God.

But the thing is, I have to make the effort to do this. It has to be something that I intentionally set out to do. I have made the mistake, in the past, of letting those emotions have their way with me, and that never ends well. This morning, though, when I felt the negativity creeping in on me, I saw this verse. I moved myself, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, into the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my Father in Heaven.

When I am firmly planted in there, nothing can reach me that He does not want to reach me.

And, to link the passages, when I am firmly planted in there, the admonition in Colossians comes to fruition. When I run to the refuge of the Lord, it is much easier to keep my mind set on things above. This prepares me for when I have to deal with “worldly” things, like work and whatnot.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
(Colossians 3:2 NIV)

Father, I praise You for being my rock, my refuge, and my fortress, to which I can always go, to which I can always run. Please remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, when I feel the pressures of life closing in on me, when I feel the negative emotions crowding me, to run to this refuge, where Your loving arms will enfold me and protect me. How I love this feeling, Father, the feeling of Your arms around me, holding me close, keeping “bad” things away from me, at least for a moment or two. And in this, I ask that You also help me to focus on things above, rather than things of the earth.

Lord God,
I pray that my capacity to know and experience life might be magnified in Christ.
By your grace set the eyes of my heart on Jesus,
giving me a widened imagination to see everything from your perspective,
to live in faith,
and to love my Savior.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.13)

BLESSING

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 3:20-21 NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:7-14 ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Father, I praise You for the forgiveness that is ours. I thank You for the “new creation,” both that which has already happened, and that for which we wait. Thank You for the Living Water of Jesus Christ. May I, along with all of Your children, drink deeply today.

Lord, I pray that Your Spirit will grow Your Church and cause her to flourish, throughout the world. May we all experience worship that glorifies You and that gathers, unites, and blesses Your people. May we all have a positive and helpful witness in our communities, spreading Your light as we walk.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.