Joy Still Comes In the Morning

Today is Saturday, the fourth of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,459

This is the last day of the season of Easter, as tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and the beginning of Ordinary Time.

This has already gotten quite long, and I don’t want to make it longer with trivial matters.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for guiding us, your children, here on earth. We thank you that whatever happens to us, we can again and again find joy because you give us what is good even when times are evil and when we go through sorrow. We thank you that your goodness and your faithfulness penetrate everything, and that at last, at long last, they penetrate our hearts. Then we can know and be glad that your Spirit guides us. We can know we are never alone but can receive strength to help us in the struggle and toil of our life. Through your help everything becomes fruitful – good and evil, life and death, health and suffering. Everything must serve you through the working of your Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; 
therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for God's great faithfulness and mercy, in that He gives us what is good, even during sorrowful and evil times
2. that I'm still alive and breathing; praise the LORD!
3. that a joyful or cheerful heart, the center of my being, is good medicine for my body and my soul
4. for the joy and praise that can be found in a church that is truly walking in Christ
5. for times that force me into humility, because we could all use more humility

Today’s prayer word is “expect.”

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
(Psalms 5:3 NLT)

This verse has long been a favorite of mine, and it is something by which I try to live each day. But frequently, I forget to do that bit about waiting expectantly. Too often, I “bring my requests” and walk away in total oblivion.

I need to remember these words of David, each day. I need to remember to wait expectantly to see what God will do. Maybe there won’t be anything immediate. But let me tell you this. I would rather wait and see nothing than miss something by rushing away.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
(Proverbs 17:22 NLT)

I know full well the truth of this.

So confession time: yesterday evening, I didn’t do so well in remembering everything that I blogged about yesterday morning. After taking my mother to the bank to deposit her oil royalty checks (would you believe there was another one waiting in the mail when we got home?), I decided to get the bank’s app on my phone. Mama doesn’t have a smart phone, so I figured, if we get it on my phone, then we can do mobile deposit for those checks. Then we don’t have to visit the bank so often.

I got the app downloaded, no problem. The first time I tried to log in, it said that either the username or password was incorrect. I used the combination that I had logged into my “bitwarden” (an excellent password keeper app for the phone, by the way), so I tried again. Same result.

I started spiraling. My wife will tell you, right away, that I don’t do well when technology doesn’t work right.

So I got on my laptop and opened the browser to the bank’s website, where I saw right away that I had the user name wrong, by a number. So that was my fault. I fixed the user name in the bitwarden app, and logged in on the bank app. Naturally, the first thing that happens is that it wants a verification code in order to register and recognize this new device. I was expecting that.

So I had it send the code to Mama’s phone. She got it, I entered it in the app, and it immediately said that either the code was invalid or expired, or that the account had been disabled. We tried again, different code, same result.

I was livid. Seriously, I was freaking out. But there was phone number to call, in the text message, so I called it. I spoke with a very friendly lady who had me send another code to Mama’s phone, but she said she would give it to me on the phone, rather than getting it from the text. For some reason, it worked just fine, that time. We got the app open, and also enabled mobile deposit, so it’s ready the next time we want to deposit a check.

There was something else that happened, I think, a few minutes later. But the bottom line is that I completely reacted wrongly about all of this. I totally forgot my whole thing, from yesterday morning, about “first world problems.”

So, you see, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes. This journey, as long as we remain in Jesus’s “easy yoke,” is not terribly difficult. But as soon as we step out of that yoke and forget who we are and whose we are, things get really tricky. And, like yesterday evening, we wind up looking somewhat foolish.

But enough about the broken spirit. What about the joyful heart? Or, as the NLT says, “cheerful heart.” I just realized something. There’s a gift shop in Glen Rose that C and I used to frequent, called Cheerful Heart Gifts. And if you click on that link, you will see that they quote Proverbs 17:22 right on the front page.

The KJV translates the word as “merry.” The Hebrew word is śâmêach, which can also mean “blithe” or “gleeful.” And the word translated “heart” is lêb which can also mean the “center” of something. So, when we allow ourselves to maintain joy or cheerfulness at the center of our being, it brings healing to our bodies. It’s “good medicine.”

Reader’s Digest (is that even still a thing?) used to have a monthly column called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.” As a child, I eagerly awaited that feature every month. Most of the time, in fact, I would devour all of the jokes in the magazine, and, for the most part, ignore all of the “serious” stuff.

I have always loved to laugh. And I do believe in the truth of that statement that laughter is good, if not the best, medicine. And who doesn’t feel better by just smiling?

Solomon was probably the author of this proverb. And, for most of his life, he knew the joy of the Lord. But, later in life, Scriptures says that his heart turned away from God.

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
(1 Kings 11:9 NLT)

The writer of today’s Daily Guideposts 2022 reading, Carol Knapp, says this:

“For me, the biggest joy-stealer is this very thing – turning away from God or allowing something to interfere with my closeness to Him. Communion with God . . . is the source of gladness in my life. It yields the ‘good medicine’ of a joyful heart.”

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

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
(John 16:22 NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)

“Indeed, “joy still comes in the morning.”

It is very cool when there is a convergence of ideas from unrelated sources. The readings in Eugene Peterson’s On Living Well are not dated. The one I came to today is called “On Joy at Church.”

I wonder what God is trying to tell me, today?

“More praising goes on in church, more joy is expressed in the context of the Christian congregation, than anywhere else on the face of the earth.”

Where else do we spend our time, during the week? Grocery stores, department stores? These days, those are pretty grim places . . . not much joy there, as shelves continue to be sparse (at least for some products) and prices continue to rise. “People pushing their food baskets, anxiously comparing prices, complaints etched into their faces as they pay the clerks.” (This book, while published in 2021, is comprised of meditations that were written long before that year, as the author passed away in 2018, long before the pandemic hit us.)

We also spend a great deal of time on roads. Also not a very “happy” place. “Worried, compulsive people are behind the wheels of most of those cars.” Heaven forbid you should not react immediately when that light changes!

Even athletic events, places where we used to be more celebratory (at least if our team won) have become places of “complaining, arguing, and criticizing.”

As a place that contains a context for joy and praise, the church should be unequaled. It’s not perfect, for sure, and there are probably some local churches that resemble the grocery store or highway or athletic event more than they do a worship service. I’ve attended a few, in my life, that, sadly, had more arguing, complaining, and criticizing than they did worship.

But, in general, I would agree with Peterson, when he says, “I don’t find any other place in the world where there is such a consistent friendliness, such a steady joy, such a relaxed rejoicing in God’s love. There is more generosity when it comes to money in church than anywhere I know. Where else in this community can you find people giving their money away each week, then standing up and singing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’?”

When is the last time you walked up to someone at the grocery store and said, “Say, you’re new here. I’d like to get to know you better!”?

As previously mentioned, there is no perfect church. We acknowledge this. Some are far less perfect than others. Taking all of this into consideration, though, there is no place on earth where such joy can be found. And that is one reason that I keep “going to church.”

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

Father, I praise Your name, this morning, because You have, while giving me a good dose of reality, increased my joy, still. What a joy it is to worship You, to praise You, to sit and meditate on Your Word, to know You more. I thank You for the ability to do this, for the time that I have to do these things.

I confess my shortcomings as I failed, miserably, yesterday evening, and I am grateful for the knowledge of it, and grateful that I am able to acknowledge it, as well. I pray that You keep working on me, in this regard, that I might always know Your joy, and that I would not allow “first world problems” to steal or diminish that joy. Things like that always have a fairly easy solution. And even when they don’t, they tend to eventually work out fine.

Help me to remember the truth that You work out all things for our good, and are constantly at work to make things better in Your Kingdom. And, we would do well to remember that, in Your Kingdom, things are already far better than we could ever imagine.

I thank You for joy, for a cheerful or merry heart. I thank You for the idea that my heart is the center of my being, and that, when my center is joyful, everything is better, and the “bad” things don’t seem to matter as much. I thank You for laughter, that brings healing to our weary bones and tired bodies. Help us all to smile more, complain less, argue less. And I thank You that, no matter how “bad” things might seem, “Joy still comes in the morning.” Your mercies are new, every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

Keep our hearts focused on You; let not our hearts turn away from You, as Solomon’s. Help us to always look toward You and love You with all our being.

And I thank You for the Church, where we can and should be able to experience the most joy possible. While there is certainly joy to be had in the observance of a beautiful sunrise, there is still more joy to be found in the celebration of You, together with all the saints. All praise to You, Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. May we be able to gather with Your saints, somewhere, on each Lord’s Day.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Just Say “No!”

Today is Saturday, the twenty-first of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,445

We are planning another trip to Mineral Wells, today, and will be heading out as soon as I finish this, so I need to get moving. In fact, C has already left in her car, and Mama and I will be heading out in mine. That way, we can maximize what we can bring back by lowering the back seats in my CR-V.

The Texas Rangers held on in a fantastic game, last night. Martin Perez was stellar (again, I am so happy to be wrong about him) and pitched a complete game for the Rangers, shutting out the Astros 3-0. Boy was it a “nail-biter,” too, as the tying run was at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. But he got the batter to pop-fly out to end the game. The Rangers are now 18-20, in third place in the AL West, six games out of first. They are two games ahead of Seattle and 2.5 ahead of Oakland. They play the Astros again, at 6:10 CDT tonight. Jon Gray is slated to take the mound for Texas.

The Red Sox continue their winning streak, dominating the AL West teams. They beat the Mariners (we Rangers fans are grateful) 7-3. The Sox are now 17-22, in fourth place in the AL East, 11.5 games out of first. They play the Mariners again, today, at 4:10 EDT, in Boston.

The Yankees continue to have the best MLB record, at 28-10. The Reds continue to have the worst, at 11-27, but are only a single game behind the Nationals. Both teams lost their last game. The LA Dodgers are continuing to have the longest win streak, at six games. The other LA team has the longest losing streak, at four games. The Dodgers have the highest run differential, at +86. The Pirates continue to have the lowest, at -73. The Rangers now have a run differential of -5 again, and the Red Sox, after a couple games against Seattle, have improved to -4.

The PWBA is bowling in Queens, this week. I have been following that a little bit. Qualifying round three is happening today, with two squads, one having already bowled, and the other bowling at 1:00 PM. Currently, Dasha Kovalova is in the lead, followed by “G.G.” Mason and Danielle McEwan. Jen Higgins is in fourth place. Some of my other favorites are farther down. Daria Pajak is in eleventh place, Verity Crawley is in 22nd place, and Shannon O’Keefe is all the way down in 37th place. The top 36 will advance to match play tomorrow. The live finals will be on CBS Sports Network Tuesday evening. I’ll have to record that, as I will be working.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, you have revealed your righteousness to us in the gospel, your righteousness that comes to us through faith and continues in faith. Grant that we may understand your righteousness and live by it even in a crooked generation. Then to our joy the gospel will bear fruit. Protect us in the midst of temptation and conflicting opinions so that we are raised above them and remain free, with our thoughts on you and your true and loving righteousness. Your righteousness gives us hope for the many, many people who still need help to realize that their lives are not of passing value but of eternal worth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
(Romans 1:16-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the righteousness of God, revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ
2. for the freedom from being trapped by temptations and conflicting opinions of this world
3. for the ability to say "no" to political drama, hatred, and abuse, especially on social media
4. that God gives us enough Jesus (daily Bread) to get through each day without worrying about the next
5. for the possibility of diversity in worship
If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. 
Do I eat the meat of bulls? 
Do I drink the blood of goats? 
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 
Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
(Psalms 50:12-15 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “no.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Yesterday’s was “yes,” today’s is “no.” Let’s see where they are going with this.

“The oldest, shortest words–‘yes’ and ‘no’–are those which require the most thought.” ~ Pythagoras

Many times, when we say the word “no,” it is preceded by the word, “oh.”

“Oh, no,” we might say when we hear some bad news. But the word, itself, as Bob tells us in the reading for today, can be used as a simple prayer. He hears a siren in the distance, and immediately prays, “No,” which means, “Don’t let the worst happen. Don’t let anyone be hurt.” When we see an act of hatred being perpetrated, we can pray, “no.” “Lord, please stop this senseless hatefulness.” When we have a friend or brother or sister who is hurting (whether physical or otherwise), we can pray, “No.”

We can also say “no” to temptations. I say, “No,” daily to temptations to engage on social media, knowing that it will do now good. I saw one such post, last night, copied and pasted by a dear friend, who simply doesn’t get what is happening. But I choose not to engage in that platform, because no one every changes anyone else’s mind on social media by arguing.

I choose, rather, to say, “Yes” to propagating love. There are some who would disagree with me and tell me, rather firmly, that I must call out those who are spreading lies and misinformation. I get it. I respect that, as well. But that is not my calling. That is not where the Lord has me. And, I am even beginning to carry that a little further. Going forward, I plan to resist even hitting the “like” button on political posts with which I agree.

Here’s the thing (see? said it again). I am not in the business of “taking sides.” I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am a follower of Christ (I even hesitate to use the term “Christian” right now because of the negative baggage it carries with it). And what I feel that I must make known is that I am a follower of Christ before anything else. I am a follower of Christ before I am an American citizen.

And, as a follower of Christ, I believe that my singular “cause” is to spread the love of God around in my own little corner of the world. And that means that I simply must ignore all the political drama that is going on, because it also means that I am supposed to show love to people on both sides of those issues.

So let’s circle back around to “no,” because I kind of drifted back into “yes.” Today, and going forward, I pray “no” to politics and drama. I say “no” to temptations to argue. I say “no” to slander and abuse, no matter what kind. I say “no” to hatred and bigotry and misogyny.

But I say “yes” to love.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray for the strength and wisdom to continue to say “no” to engaging on social media. Give me the strength to walk the middle of the road when it comes to that sort of thing. But make it the middle of that “narrow” road that leads to You. This does not mean that I intend to compromise. The opposite, in fact, because I believe that the act of taking sides in politics is, in itself, a compromise. I have watched myriads of well-meaning people get trapped into the “idol” of politics, to the point that they have, by all appearances, placed their hope and trust for the future in a human. They have also put country over You, and, by their actions, indicated that they actually don’t have a lot of faith in You.

I lament over the state of Your “church” in this country, right now. I pray for unity within the Body. I know that the true Church, the Body of Christ, is fine, well, and healthy. It is the sickness within the rest of the institution that is most visible, right now, though. It is that sickness that is spreading hate rather than love. Have mercy, Father, have mercy. Please show us the way of love.

“Lord, help me to say ‘no’ today to everything that is contrary to Your good, perfect, and pleasing will. Amen.”

Give us today our daily bread.
(Matthew 6:11 NIV)

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:34 NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
(Philippians 4:6 NIV)

There are several ways to read that verse in Jesus’s model prayer. Today’s reading focuses on the “today” part. Or, “this day,” as some translations put it.

Sometimes, we focus on the “bread” part. Eugene Peterson’s The Message even puts it with that emphasis on it.

Keep us alive with three square meals.
(Matthew 6:11 MSG)

I like to focus, sometimes, on a different meaning of “bread,” though. I like to capitalize the “Bread,” making it speak of Jesus, who is the “Bread of life.” I want enough Bread for today. I’m not concerned with having enough to eat, although I am grateful for daily provision. I confess that I frequently take that for granted, because we have not had to be concerned about where our next meals were coming from for a very long time.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on being concerned only about having what we need for “today.” Regardless of whether we are speaking of physical bread or the grace provided by the Bread of life, I am asking for just enough for today. I’m not worried about tomorrow. I like how Peterson words Matthew 6:34.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
(Matthew 6:34 MSG)

What does the Philippians verse say? “Do not be anxious about anything!” I added the exclamation point. Say “no” to worry and anxiety. Yes, inflation is high, higher than it’s ever been. But do we trust God? You wouldn’t think so by how some people are losing their minds.

“Do not be anxious about anything!” On this verse, Peterson says this:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.”
(Philippians 4:6 MSG)

And here’s a different kind of perspective. On the one hand, don’t worry. On the other hand, when we do worry (because we certainly will, right?), instead of blasting it all over social media, which makes us look foolish and look like we don’t trust our God, PRAY!! And don’t pray for God to get rid of all of the political party you don’t agree with! That’s not the answer. Pray quietly and peacefully, in that closet that Jesus talks about, not out loud all over social media. If you hate democrats or republicans, go ahead and tell God that. Quietly. But then sit back and let Him speak back to you. (Hint: If you think you hear Him say it’s okay that you hate democrats or republicans, it’s not God’s voice you heard.)

Father, in these difficult times, please strengthen our faith; help us to not worry about tomorrow, or even a few hours from now. Help us to turn that worry over to You in the form of prayer and faith. Help us to say “no” to worry and fret. And give us the confidence and trust in You that would enable us to voice those concerns, but then also give us the wisdom to voice them only to You, not the whole world. You, after all, are the One who has the power and control over everything. Help us to remember that our “job” on this earth is to love You and love our neighbors, and, in this process, to try to make more disciples. I daresay we aren’t bringing in very many disciples when our worry over world situations speaks so much louder than our alleged love.

And as for “daily bread,” I pray for enough Jesus to get me through this day. May my life imitate His; may my walk look like His, and may my words sound like His. May I be able to shout His love louder than the world shouts hatred, greed, and lies. But, oh, dear Father, please help me make sure that what I’m shouting is truly love and not just another form of hatred, greed, or lies.

Here’s another brief statement about worship, from Peterson:

“The fragments of our lives find an inner coherence in the act of worship. The contrasts and diversities among us that sometimes seem like chaos are centered when we assemble as God’s community in worship. Our worship restores us to a wholeness that keeps us sane in the midst of bedlam, joyous in the face of doom.”

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

I love this paragraph, even if it seems almost cryptic. But in the true Body of Christ, there will be “contrasts and diversities.” Just look at the twelve disciples. Talk about a band of veritable “ragamuffins.” They weren’t all fishermen, you know. There was a tax collector and a zealot in that group. That’s like having a Democrat and a Republican in the same group. But it worked, didn’t it?? Because . . .

JESUS WAS THE CENTER!!

The True Church of Christ is never going to be represented by a gathering of people who all think alike and believe the same things. Our little group of believers that meets in a house on Sunday mornings is just about as diverse as it can get. I promise you that we don’t all think alike. For one thing, there are some gun lovers worshiping with some who don’t like guns. I promise you that there are some Republicans worshiping with some, well, at least non-Republicans. But we all set aside those opinions when we gather, and, in unity, worship God by devoting ourselves to His Word, fellowshipping together, praying together, and breaking bread together.

And this helps keep us “sane in the midst of bedlam, joyous in the face of doom.” Because, as anyone who has read the end of the book knows, the earth is most certainly doomed.

Father, I thank You for the possibility of diverse worship. I thank You that Your Holy Spirit is able to bring together people who do not necessarily think the same about some issues, and that we can all worship You together, with like-mindedness when it comes to You. We may not even like the same kind of “worship music,” yet we can still glorify You together. We come from different backgrounds, some “Baptist,” some more “Pentecostal,” and some even from no denominational affiliation at all, yet we can joyfully worship You together. I praise You for this, Father. Together, we say “no” to any kind of discriminatory action when it comes to who is welcome to worship You with us.

I pray desperately that Your Church can continue to walk in peace in this world. There may come some actual persecution, one day, but I don’t think it’s going to look like what a lot people think it is. Help us to stay on firm, level ground, at the foot of the Cross, and not allow opinions about things that are not relevant or essential to cloud our thinking. Help us to stay connected to You and only You, Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Look

Today is Saturday, the fourteenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of May.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,438

I initially published this without coming back up and adding a few things.

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be in the circulation department of the Hurst Public Library, today.

The Texas Rangers lost to the Boston Red Sox, last night, 7-1. Not a good showing at all, as Rick Pivetta pretty much shut down the Rangers bats, and the notorious Boston bullpen didn’t have to work very hard. Dane Dunning got his second loss of the season. The Rangers are now 13-18 for the season, but remain in fourth place in the AL West, as the Athletics also lost. The Sox are 12-20, still in last place in the AL East, 12 games behind the Yankees. The two teams will play again today, at 6:05 CDT. Glenn Otto will start for the Rangers.

The Yankees continue to hold the best record in MLB, with 24-8 on the season. The Reds continue to have the worst record, but also continue to improve, as they have a three-game win streak. Since the Tigers won, yesterday, the Reds are now the only remaining team that has yet to win ten games. They are 9-24.

The Astros continue to have the longest win streak with 11 consecutive wins. The Rockies and Blue Jays continue to have the longest losing streak, now at five games. The Dodgers have the highest positive run differential, at +74, and the Reds have the highest negative differential, at -62. The Rangers are close to the middle of the pack, with -11. Last night’s loss by six runs tied the worst lost they have had this season.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, almighty and holy One, whose glory shines upon the earth so that we may find joy in you and may live rejoicing in all your loving-kindness, spread out your hands in blessing over all people. Spread your blessing over the happy and the sad, over the courageous and the weak. Shepherd them in your love, in the great grace you have given through Jesus Christ, confirmed in us through the Holy Spirit. Do not let us remain degraded and worthless. Lift our hearts above what is transitory, for you have given us something eternal to live by. Help us every day so that we can reach the goal you have set for us, for many others, and finally for all peoples of the earth. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
(Romans 5:1-2 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we have peace with God because of what Jesus has done
2. for the light and truth of God, sent out from Him to guide me into His presence (Psalm 43)
3. for the example of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, given by Jesus in Matthew 6
4. for Paul's command in Romans 12 to outdo one another in showing honor to each other
5. for the community of saints, in which we all help each other stay on the path
Send out your light and your truth; 
let them guide me. 
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
 to the place where you live. 
There I will go to the altar of God, 
to God—the source of all my joy.
 I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God! 
Why am I discouraged? 
Why is my heart so sad? 
I will put my hope in God! 
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
(Psalms 43:3-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “blossom.” Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet, is quoted as saying, “Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”

This is not a word that appears in Scripture very often. It is normally associated with Spring. The appropriateness of this reading for today would largely depend, I suppose on where one lives. It’s mid-May, so “Spring is in the air, right?” Except I live in the DFW area of Texas, where we are currently edging toward triple-digit temperatures. We already had our “week” of Spring.

However, I do find some references to “blossom” in places like Isaiah.

The time is coming when Jacob’s descendants will take root. Israel will bud and blossom and fill the whole earth with fruit!
(Isaiah 27:6 NLT)

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
(Isaiah 35:1 NLT)

The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.
(Isaiah 51:3 NLT)

Then there are a couple references in the last chapter of Hosea.

"I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. 
“O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” 
Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.
(Hosea 14:5-9 NLT)

It is the Lord’s great mercy and grace that give life. When our hearts feel barren, or bereft of hope, the Holy Spirit will cause us to blossom with new life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray for Your grace and mercy to flourish within Your people, blossoming into hope and joy, as we walk through this world in Your kingdom. We definitely have reason to be concerned, if we allow our awareness to focus on the wrong things. But help us to focus on You, and on Your promises, those “great and precious promises” that You have given us, that we might share in Your divine nature.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
(Romans 12:10 NLT)

This is something that I will never stop writing about, whenever the opportunity arises. This verse comes right on the heels of verse 9, which I have featured a few times, here.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

There are, of course, a variety of translations for verse 10. While the NLT says “take delight in honoring,” the ESV words is, “Outdo one another in showing honor,” almost making it a competition to see who can honor each other the most. How cool would that be, if the church (small c) would do that, rather than people seeking their own honor? The NIV simply says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Not so much a competition, just a simple act of looking at someone else as being more important than one’s self. I like that, and the NLT, a little better. Because, if we take the mindset of the ESV and attempt to outdo one another, then it might be done in the pretense that is forbidden in verse 9.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
(1 Peter 3:8-9 NLT)

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
(Colossians 4:5-6 NLT)

Here’s the thing. We never know when someone is in desperate need of some grace. When someone cuts us off in traffic, or drives aggressively, we seem to always assume that that person is just rude and inconsiderate. But, in truth, we know absolutely nothing about that person (more than likely). I believe that the Lord would have us assume something different. I believe that, if we are going to make the mistake of assuming (we all know what happens when you assume, right?), we should err on the side of grace, and assume that something is troubling that person. What if we prayed for them instead of grumbling, or, ever worse, flipping them off?

The world is in desperate need of grace, right now, and I fear that what it is seeing from the “church” (small c, again) is anything but grace. They are seeing whining and complaining about “freedoms” and “rights.” When, all the while, the Gospel message is telling us, quite plainly, that we are supposed to be honoring one another above ourselves, even to the point of outdoing one another in this effort.

I also believe that this is what we will see coming out of the true Church (Capital C, the Body of Christ). There’s an old Gospel song that I used to sing. “The Church Triumphant (Is Alive and Well).” That’s true, when you use the capital C Church, the Body of Christ. Not so much the “church,” which is, for the most part, a human institution.

Father, teach us to live in the country of grace, where we willingly and eagerly honor one another over ourselves. Help us to take our focus off of “freedoms” and “rights,” and remember that we have surrendered those to You. Yes, in Christ, we have been made “free,” but this freedom is the freedom that enables us to obey Paul’s commands in Romans 12, to not just pretend to love, but to really love, and to outdo one another in showing honor, to consider others to be more significant than ourselves. By doing this, we will show the world that there is truly a better way to live.

In light of the recent examination of some of Martin Luther’s words, in the past week, we might also consider that our reaction toward people might be a symptom of our own failure to trust God with our anxieties. Consider the following questions.

  1. “Are there time when I am crippled by anxiety and stress? Do I sometimes take my feeling of worry and anxiety out on other people in my circle? How can Jesus’ counsel help me with this?”
  2. “What concrete steps might I take to develop a deeper trust in God?”

The reference to Jesus’s counsel in the first question refers to the passage in Matthew 6 that was examined during those readings from Martin Luther.

Jesus spoke of birds and flowers, so it might be wise to do what He said to do. Jesus said, “Look at the birds. . . . Look at the lilies of the field.” Don’t just think about them. Actually go out and look at them; watch them.

At one point, Luther mentions “the concern of love.” This, we believe, is “a focused concern for the well-being of others,” while a “greedy concern,” well, you can imagine . . . it refers to the concern of the selfish heart.

These are all issues with which we must wrestle, ourselves. There is no cookie-cutter answer, for all of our circumstances are unique. Luther’s writing gives us “the idea of a life free from ulcer-generating anxiety,” and leaves us “with the responsibility of translating the reality into [our] life circumstances.” And, to help us, “we have as many teachers and preachers as there are birds in the air, as many theologians and masters as there are flowers in the field.”

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

Father, these are words that help us to continue to grapple with the issues of loving one another and considering one another more significant or honorable than ourselves. When we get caught up in “greedy concern,” we are focusing on our own needs and our own selfish hearts. And I certainly know how selfish my own heart can be. I still grapple with this, every day. Your Spirit, though, helps me set self aside and care more for others, and I thank You for this! I pray that this would be a common occurrence within the confines of Your Church, Father. May the Body of Christ live as Christ lived, caring for each other, and caring for those around us.

I also pray, Father, that You remind us how much we need each other to keep us on the path. It is too easy to lose our focus and forget that our lives are pretty much simply wrapped up in You and us. When I began this journey of faith, it was You and me. But things get cluttered and I frequently lose my way as I get sidetracked by things of the world and distracted by my own selfish ways. When I get back in community, when we, the Church, embrace one another and greet one another and pray for one another, it gets back to where it is just us and You. Jesus, Your Son, is the center of it all. Help us to keep Him the center.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
(John 13:34-35 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Complete and Equipped

“Reading Scripture academically is only interesting. Reading Scripture superstitiously is merely silly. Scripture must be read devoutly so God’s Word will craft us from the inside out, shaping our awkward, ill-formed lives until we are ‘complete, equipped for every good work.'”

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

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,431

Just in case anyone is wondering, we will be in the season of Easter until June 5, which is Pentecost. I’m pretty sure that, after that, we will be in “Ordinary Time,” until Advent. I’m still learning the liturgical calendar, and different groups of people have different Ordinary Time periods.

The Texas Rangers have already been postponed, again, today. They must be having some wicked bad weather up there in NYC. So now, there is a double-header slated for tomorrow, and a makeup game on Monday, where both teams were supposed to have an off day. The Rangers remain in fourth place, and still are working on a four-game win streak. They are a game ahead of Oakland, who has now lost seven consecutive games, apparently trying to catch up with Cincinatti in that column.

The NY weather must not be extending all the way to Boston, but I wish it had. They lost yet another game, last night, to the Other Sox, 4-2. JBJ made some great defensive plays, though, in the ninth inning. Boston has now descended into the cellar, embarrassingly behind the Orioles, who have won a couple games in a row. Boston is 10-17 for the season, and are now a half game behind Baltimore. They will attempt to get a win, today, against the Other Sox, at 4:10 EDT.

Speaking of Cincinnati, their game was also postponed, yesterday. In fact, there were six games postponed, yesterday, in total! There appears to be a huge storm system covering that whole area. Games were postponed in Chicago, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, and Cleveland. So far, only the NYC game has been postponed today.

Anyway, the Reds still hold the worst record in MLB, but it didn’t get any worse, yesterday. They have still lost nine consecutive (only two more than Oakland, at this point), and are 3-22 for the season. There are still five teams who have yet to win ten games, and Boston has the fifth worst record, in spite of not being one of those five teams.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. While many believe this to be a “Hallmark Holiday,” it actually originated, in the U.S., in 1907, on May 12, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial service at her late mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday. However, there are instances of a similar “holiday” as far back as the Middle Ages, when people who had moved away visited their home parishes on “Laetere Sunday,” the fourth Sunday in Lent. This eventually became “Mothering Sunday” in Great Britain, where, according to Britannica, it still continues into modern times, even though largely replaced by Mother’s Day.

We will not be traveling, since my mother now lives with us. I will be cooking steaks and baked potatoes for lunch. C and I will have a couples’ massage tomorrow afternoon, my gift to her. We did not buy any Mother’s Day cards because they are almost $10 this year. That’s just ridiculous. We got my mother a new table to go between her bed and easy chair in her bedroom.

Today, we will be going to a friend’s house to help celebrate the one year birthday of her grandson, Charlie. Good times. Outside of that, there are no plans.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
Taste and see that the LORD is good. 
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 
Fear the LORD, you his godly people, 
for those who fear him will have all they need. 
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, 
but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing. 
Come, my children, and listen to me, 
and I will teach you to fear the LORD.
(Psalms 34:8-11 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and I have experienced the joy of taking refuge in Him
2. for the closeness of the Holy Trinity, as I constantly experience the presence of Christ in me and around me
3. for the Name of Jesus, a light that the shadows can't deny, and that Name cannot be overcome
4. that reading Scripture devoutly allows me to listen to what God is saying to me and participate in the ongoing conversation that He is having with me
5. that reading Scripture devoutly will ultimately make me complete and equipped for every good work

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.”
(Acts 17:24-25 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “close.” I’m a little confused about the Scripture reference, but I’ll put it in here and see where they go from there.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”
(Matthew 7:3 NLT)

The contextual meaning of the word “close,” for today’s reading, is the idea of being near something, “a short distance away or apart in space or time.”

Something being close can be good, or it can be bad. The writer of today’s reading, Buck, explains by comparing the closeness of his wife with her arms around him (definitely good) to a stranger in the plane seat right next to him, who has “dead rat breath.”

This is also where the Scripture verse comes into the picture, as Buck has a “conversation” with God in which he complains about the stranger’s breath and God replies with, “You think your breath is better?”

Even the closeness of God can be good or bad. It is certainly good to me, as I derive great comfort from the belief that God is always close to me. I love this quote from St. Patrick:

“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 when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

That is a wonderful example of “close.”

But the closeness of God is not such a good thing for those who either don’t believe in Him or are rebellious against Him.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I praise You for Your constant closeness. Realizing the truth of St. Patrick’s words, above, gives me great comfort and reduces, sometimes eliminates entirely, any fear that I might experience. When worry or fear assails the doors of my heart, I am always tempted to give in, and sometimes I do, because I forget, momentarily, how close You are to me. But then Your Holy Spirit reminds me, I call out Your name, and the fears are gone. Indeed, “Your Name is a light that the shadows can’t deny; Your Name cannot be overcome.”

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
(Psalms 37:5 NLT)

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.
(Proverbs 16:6 NLT)

I am grateful, my Father, that You have led me down a path of trusting in You. I have experienced Your help so many times in my life, and have witnessed the truth of Psalm 37:5. Help me to have a better, healthy “fear” of You in my life, as I walk in Your kingdom. There are many things with which I am grappling, at this point in my life, in terms of truth and its relationship to humanity. I pray for Your Spirit to clarify things in my mind and in my heart. I commit the way of my future to You.

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 RSV)

The word “complete,” which is in most modern translations of these verses, comes from a Greek word, “artios,” which, according to Eugene Peterson, means “‘skillfully put together’–not thrown together haphazardly but carefully crafted.” In fact, the KJV translates the word “perfect.”

Many peoples’ lives appear to be haphazardly thrown together, being held together only by “a lot of foreign matter: drugs, hobbies, money, diversions, and fads.” It’s interesting that he chose to put “drugs” first, because I expected to see things like “alcohol, and sex” after that. But no, the next thing on the list is “hobbies,” so we are immediately humbled and stop that tendency of pointing fingers at the people whose lives are torn apart by substance abuse.

Says Peterson, “the skillful reading of Scripture is the means that God provides to put us together in the right way so that we are complete. It’s what he uses to shape, correct, and train us as human beings with dignity and eternity rather than as conditional consumers salivating at every commercial or as bundles of animal sensations enslaved to impulses of greed or lust or violence.”

Wow. That last sentence is kind of brutal, isn’t it? But when I look around, I see a lot of that, even among the people of God who have been led astray by the wiles of a greedy and capitalistic society.

“There are wrong ways to read Scripture, and Scripture is often read wrongly.”

Side note: I totally concur with this sentiment and have seen it in action. For example, I once had a conversation in which a more conservative person than I told me that he believed a woman couldn’t be a pastor because the Bible says that the pastor must be the husband of one wife. I challenged this by stating that, if that is true, then the pastor must also be married. He was not willing to follow his own logic to that end. I have little tolerance for such tomfoolery.

“Reading Scripture academically is only interesting. Reading Scripture superstitiously is merely silly. Scripture must be read devoutly so God’s Word will craft us from the inside out, shaping our awkward, ill-formed lives until we are ‘complete, equipped for every good work.'”

I know someone who basically only reads Scripture academically. He knows more about the Bible than I do, for sure. But his spiritual life is practically nonexistent. I also know people who pretty much only read the Bible superstitiously, searching the Scriptures for proof-texts to validate their wrong thinking about God.

Let’s be clear. I do not always read Scripture correctly, either. I used to be guilty of reading it academically, trying to memorize every nook and cranny. I have also been guilty of reading it superstitiously, thinking that, somehow, reading a portion of the Bible every morning would make my day go well. I have also been guilty of thinking wrongly about God, and probably still do about some things. And I’m getting quite weary of hearing from people who think that they’ve got it all figured out and are right about everything. Because only Jesus was right about everything.

Several things happen when we read Scripture “devoutly.” By the way, one meaning of “devoutly” is “in a totally committed and sincere way; earnestly.” So (my thinking, here) reading devoutly means that I am totally committed to allowing God’s Word to . . . what did Peterson say? “Craft [me] from the inside out, shaping [my] awkward, ill-formed [life] until [I am] ‘complete, equipped for every good work.'”

One thing that happens is that “we deepen and extend our involvement in the conversation that God has with us.” Yes, God is constantly having a conversation with us. We may or may not be paying attention to that conversation, but it is there. And He constantly invites us to participate in said conversation.

Another thing that happens is that “we become more at home with his ways of working and more familiar with the way his mind works.”

And the third thing that happens is “we are listening to God speak to us. His Word addresses the centers of our beings and calls forth responses that complete our lives into wholeness.”

Father, there is a lot of depth in this reading and a lot to consider/ponder. I am very grateful for Your Word and have loved it for as long as I can remember. As far as I know, I have been reading Your Word since I was able to read, and was always fascinated with it. As I grew and read it in different ways, my understanding changed (or perhaps lack, thereof). I do not claim to fully understand it, now, and know that I never will, at least not until I have shed this mortal coil and stand in Your presence in Glory. And then, if I understand correctly, at that moment, I will “know as I am known,” and all of the clouds and shrouds and fog will be lifted. Oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be. I will know all of the places where I was wrong and understand it all. And then, I am certain, I will fall on my face before You at that same moment, worshiping Your almighty and magnificent Name, for all eternity.

There will be no sorrow for the areas in which I have been wrong, only rejoicing to finally grasp and understand the totality of truth. Why do I believe that there will be no sorrow? Because Your Word tells me that that emotion will not exist in heaven. And, somehow, we will all be changed so that we will have no ill feelings toward everyone who disagreed with us on earth. That is almost incomprehensible! But I believe it will be true.

I pray for that day when I will be “complete and fully equipped.” I do believe I am moving in that direction, but really, really slowly. May Your Spirit work within me to help me read Your Word devoutly, every day, that I might become complete, for that is my heart’s desire. I ask for no riches or possessions, no fancy cars or homes, no more “stuff.” What I want is You, and to fully understand You, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:15-17 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Listen

Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,424

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful day that we had yesterday
2. for the prediction of a pretty day today
3. that the journey I am on is a marathon not a sprint; I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I cannot accomplish everything that I'm supposed to accomplish in a short amount of time; I must have endurance
4. for the conviction that I need to do better at listening
5. for the boldness to proclaim that a) humanity is terribly broken, and b) that God is working mightily to fix that

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’”
(Acts 13:38-41 NLT)

Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
(Joshua 21:45 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “listen.” This is a pretty important word. Our culture, in general, has forgotten how to listen.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey

It is my opinion that most people who claim to be followers of Christ think that prayer is asking God for stuff. Primarily, that means that they talk to God for a few minutes, then “close the door” and go on about their day.

Trust me, I have been guilty of that.

And, while most of the definitions of prayer that you can find only seem to indicate our part of outward expression, it also includes listening to what God says back to us. And, in some ways, it could be said that, even in prayer, God initiates, not us.

I kind of like the Wikipedia definition of prayer. “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.”

The writer of today’s reading, Evan, speaks of being assigned to a specific ministry where his job was to listen, not talk. “It occurred to me, that’s what I’d been doing with God. I’d been talking up a storm to Him, but listening, really quieting my mind and hearing Him speak? Not so much. The difference was amazing, as if an entire world had been opened up to me, simply by learning to listen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

If you were to listen in on a conversation in my family, you might surmise that not a single one of us knows how to listen, because we constantly interrupt each other. I catch myself doing it all the time. We don’t intend to be rude to one another. It’s just a habit that has been developed in our society.

I have, for many years, now, been captivated by what God said to the three disciples, upon Jesus’s transfiguration.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT, emphasis mine)

Ever since I took note of that little three-word command, I began to try to pay more attention to the words of Jesus, recorded in Scripture. But I need to carry that even farther. I need to work more at listening to the Holy Trinity in my spirit. And this is the intent of meditation and contemplation.

Father, help me to be a better listener. Today, in my conversations, help me to stop and listen with intent to understand. And, when my tongue revs up to speak, help me to stop it, especially if the other person is not through speaking. Moreover, help me to listen better to You, the Son, and the Spirit, as I walk through my days. And in moments like these, help me to be in a more meditative state, fully concentrating on what You would say to me.

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
(Psalms 37:5 NLT)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NLT)

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
(Proverbs 21:5 NLT)

"You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last"
(Rush, Marathon)

We live in a culture where everything is instant. Everything has been “instant,” now, for decades. We get so impatient when we have to wait for things. Yesterday, on our trip back from Mineral Wells, we were delayed in traffic at least four times. Two of those times were because of accidents on the freeway.

But I can truthfully tell you that we never once got impatient or stressed. If you knew me, you would know how huge that is. We enjoyed our time together and it simply didn’t bother us. Although I did joke, a time or two, about what the Waze app told me would be our ETA if I had avoided freeways (I was thinking about that, because we would be hitting Fort Worth in the thick of rush hour).

In todays’ Daily Guidposts article, Tia McCollors remembers a time when one of her kids told her, “Big things take time.” Our lives are “big things,” although in the scope of eternity, they are but a speck of dust. They are big things to us. And the Christian life, this journey that we are on, is a marathon, not a sprint. We cannot accomplish everything in a few days or weeks.

Every one of those passages up there is applicable. Trust is the most important thing in living the Christian life. We must trust that our God knows what He is doing, and that He will, in fact, direct our steps. We can make plans, yes. But we must be prepared for the times when God has other ideas.

Father, I believe I have gotten better at trusting You, but there is always room for improvement. I still get frustrated with myself when I don’t progress as quickly or as much as I believe I should have. Help me to trust You more in everyday things. Help me to believe that You are directing my steps, and that You will work all things out for good in my life. Give me endurance; help me last and not “burn out.” Honestly, Father, I believe with all my heart that there is no excuse for a Christian to ever burn out.

There are two things that the Psalms tell us, both of which are astonishingly accurate. Peterson calls them “the most accurate mirrors of the human heart we have.” But they tell us these two things: “humanity is involved deeply in unhappiness and wrongdoing, and God is cosmically involved in both a glorious creation and a gracious redemption.”

There is a boldness in which we must live, based on these two truths. First, “we must be bold in admitting who we are: people who fall far short of God’s will and who often are active accomplices in plans to thwart or destroy his will. If at any time we fail to do this, we become self-righteous, arrogant, pontifical, and almost insufferable to those outside the church.”

I want everyone to read those last two sentences again. And then I want to point out that it’s not just “those outside the church” who find those to be insufferable. I am constantly saddened by the rampant self-righteousness of those who claim to be Christ-followers who can’t seem to admit the truth of those two sentences.

There is a reason that confession is included in the early part of the Christian worship service. It is not to make us feel bad about ourselves. That is not the point at all. It is to “get the whole human affair into perspective and have a base from which to work.” It’s a good starting point.

We must also, however, be bold in “proclaiming God’s mighty acts.” One of the primary reasons we exist is “to tell a world already full of doubt, skepticism, contradictory evidence, hopelessness, sorrow, and death that God is the creator and redeemer, that God loves his creatures and will redeem and restore them to full health and fellowship with himself. This is the boldness that our time, more than most, needs us to proclaim.” (Emphasis mine)

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

Father, I know my condition, because I believe the things that Your Word tells me about us. But I also know what You are doing and have done to fix that condition. The work of Christ on the Cross was the primary means of fixing our condition. And after that was completed, You sent the Holy Spirit to continue the work in sanctifying us, daily.

I am broken. We are all broken. This world is terribly broken, and it is sin that has done this. The Cross of Christ has done its work to erase sin in our lives. It has not simply covered it up like the OT sacrifices, but has effectively washed us clean. You have tossed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and have promised that You remember them no more. This astonished me to a degree that I cannot comprehend, because I, as a human, am incapable of intentionally forgetting things. I still remember sins from my adolescence, even though, in Jesus Christ, it is as though they never happened.

Thank You, Father, for all the might works that You have done and continue to do. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when all of this is completely restored and we will dwell in peace and safety with You for all eternity.

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Looking for the Good Stuff

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the ninth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,403

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. There was a period of tenseness, at one point, because I made a bad decision about when to go pick up Freebirds for dinner. I foolishly decided to go between 4:30 and 5:00. Not only was the restaurant behind, but traffic was horrible, as I tried to get home. Lesson learned.

Otherwise, the day was great. Well, hold on. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox both lost their opening day games. The Sox went extra innings to lose to the Yankees, and the Rangers’ bullpen blew a 7-0 lead against the Blue Jays. It’s just one game, though. One out of 162.

The cake was very delicious. Did I mention that C made a strawberry cake?

The cats want to eat the flowers

Those are the flowers that I went out and bought before I even started my morning routine, yesterday. And that’s Rocky on the left and Luna on the right.

Fortunately, in spite of the difficulty in obtaining it, the food from Freebirds was delicious. And we enjoyed watching the Rangers game together.

Today, we plan to go out for lunch in a little while, and then head over to a gift shop in Keller, where a relative of mine is autographing copies of her newest children’s book. She’s the sister of my aunt-by-marriage, so I’m not sure what you call that. I suppose she’s sort of my aunt, as well, but only by marriage . . . there is no blood relation. So far, the Internet has been no help in answering that question.

Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Minerals Wells, to FBC, for their Easter music presentation, as it is Palm Sunday. We plan to pick up something and have lunch at the home place, and Mama will probably pick out a few more things to bring back to Fort Worth. At some point, there’s set of chairs and a table on the back deck, that we want to bring over and put on our back porch. But I don’t think we will be able to fit that tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Answer Is Yes,” by Daryl Madden

The question from our God
Of our life to bless
Will you accept my love?
Let our answer be yes!

The precious gift of grace
A humble soul, confess
Will you receive my mercy?
Let our answer be yes!

With your gifts bestowed
Our purpose to profess
Will you live my calling?
Let our answer be yes!

Of our life’s unknowns
In times of fear and stress
Will you trust in Me?
Let our answer be yes!

For life is a practice
So, we don’t have to guess
With Me to dwell, forever?
With joy, we answer, yes!
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another day to celebrate with my family
2. for the ability to sing praises to God
3. for the therapeutic value of humming a happy tune
4. to be a sheep of Jesus Christ
5. that the "good stuff" is found far beyond "the crowd"

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is interesting. It is “hum.” You know, as in when you don’t know the words, you just hum?

“There’s no better way to calm your mind and boost your spirits than by humming a happy tune.” ~ Psychology Today

The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of exhortation to sing praises to God. But what if you can’t sing? I know people who couldn’t carry a tune in an iron-clad safe! What are they supposed to do? Well, I know . . . the Bible also says, “Make a joyful noise.”

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
(Psalms 98:4 ESV)

I once knew a man who would whistle during the hymns at church.

Jennie, today’s writer, brings up the idea of kazoos. If there is anyone out there who does not know what that is (and I’m not talking about the little green guy that troubled Fred Flintstone), it’s a musical instrument through which sound is created by humming! There is a mouthpiece, followed by a piece of thin paper of some kind, a membrane that vibrates when you hum through it, making a buzzing noise.

Of course, if you can’t really sing in tune, I don’t know that you could hum in tune, either.

In all seriousness, though, our writer for today has a good point. Even if one has a decent singing voice (I’ve been told that I do), humming can be therapeutic, and even cathartic.

It can also annoy people, though, so discretion is advised.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 28:2 ESV)

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
(Deuteronomy 28:6 ESV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(Psalms 32:8 ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(John 10:27 ESV)

These are some good verses. Especially the bit in John 10, which is one of my favorite chapters.

Daily Guideposts 2022 writer, Tia McCollors, uses her son’s Easter egg hunt experience to illustrate a great concept, that of not going along with, or going beyond, “the crowd.” I would like to think that I fall into that category.

You see, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I am an only child. No brothers and sisters to play with. One would think that this would cause me to grow up not knowing how to share. I don’t think that is true. I like to think I’m pretty generous, these days.

And, while I did have friends, it never bothered me to play alone. And it still doesn’t. In fact, I struggle, sometimes, with playing with others. The phrase “does not play well with others” comes to mind.

I even wrote a song, once upon a time, in honor of my mother (it was called “Mama Won’t You Hold Me Just A Little Longer”) that talked about being left out a lot. The bridge went something like this:

I'm still the one who gets left out 
because I don't like to play their games.
But now I run to a different One
Because my Mama taught me well
To the One who knows all my pain
To Him my sorrows I can tell

There are actually a couple of lines up there that I can’t remember, and the song lyrics, sadly, have been lost, I’m afraid. There may be a recording of it somewhere, but it’s likely on a cassette. Also, the last chorus shifts from “Mama, won’t you hold me” to “Jesus, won’t You hold me.” I thought it was clever.

The point is, though, that I don’t tend to “follow the crowd.” Yet, I would gladly consider myself a “sheep” for Jesus’s sake. I am one of His sheep. I like to think I know His voice, and follow Him. And it is exactly those truths that make me tend to not follow even the “religious” crowd.

Like Tia McCollors’s son in the Easter egg hunt, I realize that all the “good stuff” is beyond where the crowd tends to be.

Continuing to speak of Jesus, Eugene Peterson reminds us that His parables often make us look beyond what we call our “real world.” We tend to reduce His words to make them fit into our own preconceived ideas about what life should be like.

But, says Peterson, “Jesus’s words bring us the news of an expanded world, a bright world, a full-dimensional world – a world in which God rules, mercy is a common experience, and love is the daily working agenda, not an occasional romantic interlude. Jesus’s words orient us to the world that is changed from the inside out by his arrival and rule.”

That is the world I want to be part of. I don’t want to be part of a world where people who claim to be following Jesus spew hatred and meanness to anyone who looks different from them or thinks different from them. And that’s why I look beyond the crowd for the “good stuff.”

That is not “Christianity.” That is a cult.

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

Father, first, I thank You for the ability to sing Your praises. You have blessed me with that ability, and I strive to use it for Your praise and glory. I am also grateful for the concept of humming. Sometimes it makes one feel better just to hum a happy tune.

I am also grateful to be considered one of Your sheep. Some people use the term derogatorily, but it doesn’t offend me. I’m glad to know Your voice, at least I hope I do, and follow Jesus as He leads.

Help me to always be looking for the “good stuff,” far beyond the crowd. Help me to never try to water down Your words by trying to make them fit into our concept of what reality is. I know that reality is what I bump into when I am wrong about something, or when I make a bad decision. Reality doesn’t always fit where I want it to be. But You are the true Reality and Jesus is the Truth and the Life, and my Way to reach You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Courage and Joy

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the second of April, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today!

Day 23,396

Yesterday turned out to be pretty productive for me, as I got quite a few things done around the house. I also managed to squeeze in two episodes of the recent adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, which I checked out last Tuesday from the library. It’s a miniseries, with nine episodes. I won’t likely be finished by this coming Tuesday, but I should be able to renew it at least once. Unless, of course, someone has placed a hold on it, in which case, I will have to take it back and finish it later.

Today, I’m due at work by 9:30, and it’s almost 8:00 already. I actually managed to sleep until almost 7:00, this morning, and probably could have slept later, but decided I should get up. I’ll be taking C’s car so Mama and she can take mine to galivant. Oh, and Mama’s birthday is next Friday, April 8. And, to celebrate her birthday, MLB decided to have Opening Day on it! Well, some of the teams, anyway. It looks like some of them are opening on the seventh. The Red Sox and Yankees are playing on Thursday, the seventh. But the Texas Rangers are opening on the eighth.

Anyway, I need to get moving with what’s important, so here we go.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"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)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalms 34:8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the love of family and friends
2. for the courage God gives me to follow in the words and steps of Christ when it frightens me or threatens to shake my faith
3. for joy in the face of tragedy and sadness
4. for the "good news"
5. for the grace of Christ that puts our lives back together

Today’s prayer word is “courageous.”

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 ESV)

I’ll confess, right up front, that I’m not a fan of this word. But that’s mostly because of the modern connotations of it. It tends to carry a lot of baggage in the arena of toxic masculinity; you know, “being a MAN!” But that’s a discussion for another day, and, frankly, someone else’s blog.

There is also a misconception that courage is the absence of fear. And the reading for today seems to perpetrate that misconception. I disagree with that. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to do something that causes you fear or frightens you! Courage is being scared out of your wits and doing it anyway. John Wayne is alleged to have said, “Courage is being scared to death . . . and saddling up anyway.”

I don’t know much about saddling up, but I agree with the sentiment. And, considering what Joshua was about to take on, I would imagine that young man was scared to death. On the one hand, he had a land full of enemies ahead of him, and on the other hand, he had a bunch of rebellious ignoramuses behind him. So God gave him that command.

I have not had a whole lot of opportunities in my life to be truly courageous, and I dare say not many people have. I guess it took a certain amount of “courage” to get on one of those rides at Six Flags, last year. I was pretty scared. But I haven’t been all that scared, too many times in my life.

Sometimes, I believe courage takes us into places of deep faith, though. Maybe we don’t have to be “scared to death” to show courage. If we feel the hand of God on us, and feel that God is asking us to do something that we wouldn’t normally do, there is going to be a measure of fear in the decision, and if we choose to follow His direction, we have displayed courage. And that is where I believe today’s word comes into play.

We need to be “courageous” when we approach life in God’s kingdom, because it will take us places we never expected, and it will most definitely stretch our faith. And, frankly, if it doesn’t scare you, sometimes, I question your whole belief system.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Here’s another verse that I believe shows courage. It takes courage to work through anxiety. I know people who experience anxiety so badly that it literally debilitates them, for a period of time. To take that anxiety and cast it on the Lord is courageous!

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
(Proverbs 15:1-3 NIV)

These are wise words to remember when we find ourselves in a situation that induces anxiety or worry. Especially if we know that there are others watching us. How we react in these situations can also display courage.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

The word “gospel” is misunderstood, a lot. We call the first four books of the New Testament “Gospels.” It comes from a Greek word, “euaggelion,” pronounced “yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on.” That is also the basis for our word, evangelism. Essentially, it means, “a good message.” We sometimes call it “the good news.”

“The Christian life is an invitation to hear something good – not something sad, morose, or tragic. One of the fruits of the Christian life is joy. Praise and gladness are characteristic marks of the worship that Christians offer.”

These are words from one of my favorite wordsmiths, Eugene H. Peterson. We get this quality of life, this joyfulness, “not by avoiding sin or by sidestepping evil or by carefully constructing one’s life so that one will not be troubled by misfortune.” Rather, the joy that we have is so powerful that it can “confront what is tragic and overcome it. Christian good news is solid enough that it can absorb the world’s bad news and still maintain itself as good news.”

I absolutely love that statement. It is so powerful!

“Christian good news is solid enough that it can absorb the world’s bad news and still maintain itself as good news.”

There is a lot of bad news out there, these days. And, sadly, there are a lot of “Christians” who are really freaking out about it. That out not be so. Our joy should be so powerful, the strength of the “good news,” the “Gospel,” should be so powerful that we should be able to maintain our own sense of good news and joy in the midst of it all.

Peterson tells a fable. “Two frogs fell into a jar half full of cream. One frog soberly appraised the situation, realized struggle was useless, put its little fingers together, and drowned. The other frog was not so intellectual and did not stop to analyze the situation. Since it did not have the same information as the other frog, it went on struggling for its life. The rapid strokes of the frog’s hands gradually thickened the cream and created a lump of butter. The emotional frog crawled onto this solid lump and jumped out of the jar.”

In some ways, this summarizes Christian faith. Not to say that we are totally emotional and not intellectual. I like to think of myself as somewhat of an intellectual; I have a brain, and I like to think I use it. But I’m also one who allows my emotions to run amok, at times. And I see the value of the struggle. We can “experience the deepest kind of humiliation and rejection and still have life make sense, finally, because God” works in us.

“The suffering that Jesus experienced and confronted didn’t produce a morose, depressed man but rather resulted in the gospel, the good news.” (Emphasis mine)

The grace of Jesus Christ (that we experience with courage, by the way) “puts things together again in a way that feels strangely like joy.”

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

Father, time is short, so I must condense, here. I thank You for courage, regardless of how it comes about in our lives. I thank You for the sense to acknowledge when something makes me afraid, and then Your courage to go ahead and step into it, leaning on the faith of Jesus that is within me, infused into my life.

I also thank You for the joy that comes from knowing Jesus, and the way that faith takes bad news, tragic news, and our messed up world, and turns it around so that, while it may not actually make sense, I can still walk through it with my head held high, experiencing joy. This is Gospel. This is Good News. And that is what we are supposed to be projecting in this world.

Father, help Your children display this faith, this joy, this Good News. Help us to stop being sidetracked by the bad news, and dear God, PLEASE help us to stop acting like we don’t believe You are in control of things!

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

SHINE!!!!

We need to “develop lives that connect what God did in the past with what he will do in the future. Will we live in spasms and jerks, in fits and starts, in fads and fashions? or will we live coherently and organically, believing that God will complete what he has begun? The expectant command is for us to love.”

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,389

I’ve been looking forward to this day for a couple weeks. Why? Because, today, C and I are going out to “celebrate” my birthday, which was two weeks ago. She had to work that weekend, and I had to work last Saturday, so we now have this Saturday to get out and do some things.

She has one thing planned for us that is a surprise. After that, we will have lunch and then head to Grapevine for a couples’ massage. I’m really looking forward to that. I have no idea where we will have lunch, nor do I really have a clue what the first activity will be. I do know that it’s not axe-throwing.

Next week will be busy, but not bad. I have a podiatrist appointment Monday morning, and a vein clinic appointment on Thursday morning. I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, so there is something going on every day. It will be okay, though.

My schedule may change slightly, going forward. One of the aides who works exclusively in the Computer Center got a job at the Irving library. he is not quitting Hurst, but may have to shift hours some, which may leave a whole in Computer Center coverage. Not sure what that will look like, just yet. But my manager told me yesterday about it, during our monthly one-on-one. It won’t increase my hours, and it sounds like the sixteen hours a week in circulation will stay the same, so I may not be doing shelving every Tuesday. We shall see.

Speaking of my manager, who is the coolest ever, well, let me give a tiny bit of back story. We have posters spread around the library, that simply have the word “READ” on them, featuring various celebrities holding books. There is one in particular, on the back wall in the non-fiction section, that I had expressed interest in having, should they ever change them or replace them. I believe I expressed said interest multiple times.

When I arrived at work, yesterday, there was a rolled-up poster in my inbox.

My boss is awesome! And yes, I might have a bit of a “crush” on Rachel McAdams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"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)

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
(Matthew 5:15-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this lovely Saturday and its forthcoming events
2. that we, followers of Christ, are to be light in this world; go forth and shine!
3. that our relationship with God gives us dignity; may we extend that same dignity to our fellow human beings!
4. for the expectancy that God is going to move and that He will finish what He started
5. that I am loved, and that you are loved; YOU ARE LOVED!!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 

Today’s prayer word is “light.” Now, there is a word that is replete with meaning. I mean, how many different meanings can you think of for the word “light?” In this case, it refers that that which obliterates the darkness.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
(Ephesians 5:8 NIV)

Now, what I find interesting in this verse (and admit having not noticed it before) is that the verse, at least in my favorite translations (ESV, included) states that the recipients of the letter WERE darkness and ARE light. This is a state of being, not a characteristic that was possessed. NLT and MSG indicate that the people were once full of darkness, but now have light. Honestly, I’m not a Greek scholar, so I don’t know which one is correct.

But the idea that one could be so full of darkness that one actually becomes darkness, and the resulting change of knowing Christ is that one actually becomes light . . . that idea appeals to me, greatly. And we have the admonition, that is pretty much the same in each translation, “Live as children of light.”

The writer, known only as “Becky,” speaks of entering a friend’s home, shrouded in darkness, as the friend wallowed in depression, and throwing open curtains to allow the light in. I like that example.

“Maybe that’s what Jesus wants me to do – throw open the curtains for others, allowing His light to illuminate the darkness around them.” I like that. But here’s what that doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean noisily and hatefully expressing our opinions in the name of “right” or “light.”

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
(1 John 1:5 ESV)

But, the following is also true:

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
(1 John 4:8 ESV)

And . . .

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John 4:16 ESV)

So don’t go trying to be “light” without also being “love.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
(Psalms 133:1 ESV)

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
(Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

Two are better than one, 
because they have a good reward for their toil. 
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. 
But woe to him who is alone when he falls 
and has not another to lift him up! 
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, 
but how can one keep warm alone? 
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, 
two will withstand him—
a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
(1 Corinthians 12:24-26 NLT)

As God’s people, we should live lives of expectancy. Instead, a large number of us seem to live lives of reaction. We react to circumstances around us, and we are not reacting well. We are complaining and whining about minor inconveniences, as though we believe the world is about to end. It may be about to end, but that is not because gas prices hit $4 a gallon again.

God’s typical movement is to approach us. He “comes,” He does not “leave.” He comes and He speaks, and we need to be awake to this truth.

We need to “develop lives that connect what God did in the past with what he will do in the future. Will we live in spasms and jerks, in fits and starts, in fads and fashions? or will we live coherently and organically, believing that God will complete what he has begun? The expectant command is for us to love.”

And then this:

“We ought to cultivate the skills that equip us to live in cheerful anticipation of what God will do tomorrow. Will we live anxiously, complaining and querulous, because we don’t have all we want or because we don’t know what is coming next? Or will we live in confident joy, sure that God’s next move will be a good one? The expectant command is for us to rejoice.”

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

So let’s pull this all together, here. We are light. We are expected to imitate Jesus in being the “light of the world.” We are also supposed to be love, as God is love. So we can be light, removing the darkness, not by violence and fighting, but by shining and loving! When you turn on a lightbulb in a room, there is no fighting or violence. There is no explosion, and there is no noise. The lightbulb simply and quietly shines.

Father, oh, Father! My heart is full of praise and expectation in this moment! You have filled me with light, and love! Thank You for the Light of the world, Jesus! And thank You for infusing us with that same Light, so that we might also be light in this world. I pray for us, Your children, Lord, that we might truly shine as light, blocking the darkness. But remind us, oh, please remind us, that we do not accomplish this with violence and fighting, but simply by allowing Your light to shine through us.

I pray for unity within Your Church, Lord. And I desperately pray that, if there are those who will not be unified, that they would just leave. I’m serious. I would love to see the ones who insist on fighting, complaining, and whining, just get out. Let them go start their own “church.” Let Your Church be filled with people who want to live and walk in the words of Jesus Christ, loving You and loving others as themselves. Let the witch hunters and haters be brought down, Lord. There is no place for hatred in Your kingdom!

That being said, I would rather see said folks repent and begin to shine and love.

Help me to live a life of expectancy, being awake to Your coming and speaking in my life, being filled with love, fully believing that You will finish what You started, both in me and in this world/universe, and rejoicing, believing that what You are going to do next will not only be good, but will be excellent and praiseworthy!

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

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Seeds of Joy

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the nineteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ fall on you, today.

Day 23,382

Funny story, but not. The Computer Center manager and I started going through my PC, yesterday morning. He determined, right away, that it was not my hard drive, and thought it was a fan hitting something. So we cleaned and sprayed air, everywhere. Finally, the noise stopped. We celebrated. I took the PC back out to the car and finished the day.

Got home from work, unloaded everything, and we had dinner. Then I came back here to the study an plugged the PC back in, and it started making the noise again. I was quite upset. In the process of checking it out again, I tilted it forward, toward the front. The noise stopped. I set it back down on its bottom, the noise started. Something, I believe, is rattling or vibrating. So the PC is currently sitting on its front, with the rear panel facing up. I don’t believe this hurts anything, based on what I can read on the Internet, because there is still ample ventilation space for the fans. Everything else seems to be working fine.

C is taking Mama back home, today, but only for a few hours. They will pick up any held mail, and begin the change of address process for her to move in, permanently with us. There will be many trips, back and forth, in the coming weeks, and we will likely be renting a truck, maybe next Saturday, to move some of the bigger things that she wants to bring here, like her recliner and other things. And we will likely have an estate sale, when we finally figure out what we want to keep and what we want to let go. Prayers for sanity and patience and endurance would be appreciated. 🙂

This is my Saturday to work, so I will be in the circulation department, today. I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing an old friend, yesterday, during my lunch time. One of my best friends from my high school days lives and works in Hurst, and was at the library, so we got to chat for a few minutes. That was nice.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Song of Ascents. 
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; 
he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in 
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalms 121:1-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace that God gives me in challenging circumstances
2. for the unlimited forgiveness that God gives (and expects from us, in return)
3. that God makes known to me the path of life; that there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in His presence
4. for the fame and awesome deeds of the Lord, and that He does not grow weary when we ask Him to repeat them
5. for the mystical relationship between Christ, believers, and the Church

Today’s prayer word is “again.”

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
(Habakkuk 3:2 NIV)

Of course, the word “again” is not in that verse. But the verse is asking the Lord to do something again, to repeat it. Many of us remember times when our children, when younger, would ask us to do things again. And again. And again. We, of course, grew tired and needed rest. But our God does not grow tired. He who watches over us does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121). And, as we famously know, His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). So He does not get tired or weary when we ask Him to repeat His great deeds. In fact, I believe that He rather likes it.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

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

This is one of my favorite verses. It is rich with meaning, yet simple to remember. It displays completeness in the presence of God, which, at my best moments, I experience. I have known that fullness of joy and those pleasures forevermore. Well, I haven’t known them “forevermore,” yet, have I? But I look forward to that. And through all of this, the Lord makes the path of life known to me, just as He has made it known to all of us. That path lies through the faith in Jesus Christ, walking through this world, in His kingdom, in His “easy yoke.”

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

Eugene H. Peterson writes about seeds. First, he describes the Word of God as “the seed of the Christian.” The Parable of the Sower describes this, as Jesus tells it in Matthew 13. God’s Word comes into our lives “with divine power and can, if received rightly, multiply and produce itself in a great harvest to God’s glory.” That Word gives us “reason, strength, direction, and sense,” and makes it possible for us to live “a new life in Christ.”

But Peterson also describes the Christian as “the seed of the church.” This is a little more mystical, I think. He says, “The Christian is to the church what the Word of God is to the Christian. . . . The church is not just an aggregate of Christians. It is not simply a collective term for talking easily about many individuals who have similar beliefs about God.” (For one thing, our beliefs may or may not be all that similar.) But the Church, as the Body of Christ, is organic, an entity unto itself.

This is not visible, of course. It cannot be seen from the outside, just by looking. We cannot tell if someone is a Christian just by looking at them, “because the life of Christ is a hidden life. it is revealed in many particular visible expressions, true, but its essence is hidden.” The Church looks, visibly, just like any other organization or institution. Unfortunately, in some cases, it acts that way, too. “But from the Word of God, we know something else is really taking place. It is an organic spiritual body, with Christ as head and all of us are members. As we are incorporated into it, we live lives not our own. We become participants in the church’s life. We become seeds.”

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

Father, I thank You for Your presence in my life. I am grateful that You make known to me the path of life, that there is fullness of joy in Your presence, and that there are pleasures forevermore at Your right hand. I look forward to experiencing those, not only in this life, but when I finally arrive Home.

I am thankful for Your great deeds and the awe for You that Your Spirit has grown into my life. I do ask You to repeat Your marvelous works in our world and in our lives. Help me to remember the great things that You have done for Your people, over the centuries, that I might ponder them and ask You to do them again. I thank You for the peace You place in my life, and ask You to keep it constant, especially through these uncertain times, times when new things are happening in our lives.

I thank You for that mystical relationship between us, Christ, and the Church. It is not always easy to comprehend, but it something that we can certainly ponder and contemplate, to our benefit. It is something that we will never fully comprehend, until that day when the shadows are removed from our eyes and we know as we are known.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Of Cats and Crocuses

“To become like him, we must be changed, shaped, and deepened by the Word of God.”

Today is Saturday, the twelfth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,375 (and my last day to be 63 years old)

And, for my birthday, I get to lose an hour of sleep. For it is time, once again, for us to convert to Daylight Saving Time for most of the rest of the year. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Today is my normal Saturday off from the library, so the day is wide open. We supposedly have someone coming around 11:00 to get our old bedframe and mattress set. I hope they show up, as it is taking up quite a bit of room in our garage. Groceries are scheduled for delivery between 1-2, and C is going to pick up a cookie cake for my birthday, around that time, as well. At some point, I have to decide what I want for dinner tonight, as I’m pretty sure I don’t want to cook burgers. But we will see.

I’m going to go ahead and jump into the devotional, now.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Two things I ask of you;
    deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we got none of the freezing stuff that was predicted, yesterday, and it's well above freezing, today
2. for the way God chisels away at me, perfecting me (eventually), making me more like Jesus
3. that we have enough
4. for crocuses and cats
5. for the example of Jesus on how to be human

I had to go back and re-read yesterday’s blog on transformation. And there is something that was in yesterday’s Daily Guideposts reading that I didn’t include in yesterday’s blog, which gave me great pause and something to ponder deeply.

The whole reading revolved around someone who, when playing soccer, was content to pass the ball to the others who would then score. The writer of the page compared this to a common phrase known as “servant-leader.” “A servant-leader thrives on making the great pass and even on seeing cheers for the one who scores. A servant-leader doesn’t need praise from the crowd but knows that the good he does is seen in heaven.”

As I continue to ponder these thoughts, I am drawn to confession; to confession that I have struggled with envy when others have received praise for doing similar things that I have done, when I perceive myself to be better. This is human emotion and desire overshadowing spiritual, godly emotions. My goal is to rise above such things. If I am called to “pass” to someone else so they can score, what of it? I am the vessel of the King, who has the right to craft me however He wants. And I must be, should be satisfied to know that He sees the “good” that I do, even if no one else does.

I pause to remember the words of Jesus who cautioned us to not give our offerings for praise of men, because, if we do that, then the praise of men will be the extent of our reward. I can’t truthfully say that I don’t want reward. But my reward is in heaven, and my reward is to spend eternity in the presence of my Father and my Savior, whatever that will look like.

Today’s prayer word is “morning.” There is a quote from Analiza Garcia, and I cannot find anything to say who that is. “Morning is the best time to thank God.”

At the risk of sounding critical, I don’t agree with that, and that is the kind of thinking that led to the legalistic practice of stressing “Quiet Times,” back in the seventies and beyond. It became something to check off on the list, you know.

Of course, that being said, I always try to begin my day with thanksgiving and some form of worship. But all times of day are the best times to thank God. And I get the intent of the day’s reading. The idea is to not jump into the day’s tasks before taking time to be thankful and pray. “Each morning is an awakening of a new day and the beauty God has surrounded me with. I am grateful,” says “Carolyn.”

And this, I do not disagree with. However, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you have failed if you don’t start your day with such thoughts. Anytime is the best time to thank God.

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
(Psalm 4:4 NRSV)

Another thing the new day brings, each morning, is a new perspective on life. We often hear the admonition, “Don’t go to bed angry.” While that may be a good practice for married couples, it’s not always possible. God’s Word says it’s okay to ponder our anger while in our beds, as long as we control ourselves and maintain silence.

It is also good to see the context of that verse in the entire Psalm.

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
Selah

But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Selah

Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.

I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
(Psalm 4 NRSV)
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.
(Lamentations 3:22-24 MSG)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
(Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV)

In the reading called “On Growing,” Eugene H. Peterson speaks of how difficult it is to be human. First he compares us to a crocus.

“It is easy to be a crocus: no decisions to make, no schedules to keep, and no disappointments to endure. The crocus sleeps all winter, and then as the snow recedes and the sun warms the earth, the crocus breaks through the ground with blossoms that bring standing applause from all of us.”

He then compares us to cats (dangerous ground, in my opinion).

“It is easy to be a cat: no anxieties about aging, no perplexities about world affairs, and no guilt about real or imagined adulteries. The cat grooms itself on the carpet, purrs on any convenient lap, and holds the opinions of the servile humans in haughty disdain.” Obviously, brother Peterson had experience with cats.

In comparison, being human is not easy. “The seasons do not automatically develop us into maturity. Our instincts do not naturally guide us into a superior contentment. We falter and fail. We doubt and question. We work and learn. And just when we think we have it figured out, something else comes up that throws us for a loop.”

Our best example, of course, is Jesus (who didn’t see that coming?). “We look at him and see the incredible attractiveness and profound wonder of being a woman or a man. We also see how difficult it is. We see him in contest against every force that would diminish us into something less than human. We see him confront and deal with every influence that would divert us from living to the glory of God.”

We can get the best example of these things by looking at the things He did during those forty days of temptation. “To become like him, we must be changed, shaped, and deepened by the Word of God.”

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

And, of course, during those forty days, Jesus was also fasting. And those forty days are the inspiration for the practice of Lent. The question is brought forth, in Spiritual Classics, “Who do I see the correlation between fasting and prayer?” I see them intricately linked, almost inseparable.

Sure, I can pray without fasting, and I can pray effectively without fasting. But, I believe, if I fast without praying, I am not effectively fasting; I am missing the point.

I saw a Facebook meme the other day that showed someone’s ignorance of what Lent was all about. It said something to the effect of (and this is not a direct quote), “Maybe what people should give up for Lent is the idea that giving something up for Lent makes God love us more.”

My friends, that is NOT the purpose behind giving things up for Lent. The purpose for Lenten fasting is for prayer. It is to the end that, when tempted to indulge in something from which I am fasting, my spirit is moved to prayer. Maybe it is to pray for strength to continue the fast, but hopefully, it is to bring us to simply the idea of prayer, perhaps praying for friends, brothers, sisters, the world, countries who are in the midst of war and oppression, and things like that.

So, if I am fasting for any reason other than prayer (for example, fasting to lose weight), I am fasting for the wrong reasons. And, while I have spoken somewhat about my current Lenten fasting, we are actually not supposed to bring attention to ourselves regarding the fasting. So I repent of that, today.

As Jesus showed, in His temptations, fasting is also tied in with “spiritual warfare” (unfortunately, that is another one of those “trigger” phrases for me, not unlike “breakthrough”). But let it be known that modern man did not “discover” spiritual warfare. John Henry Newman shows us that, as a nineteenth century writer. He most definitely viewed fasting as “an accompanying means to the work of prayer; that is to say prayer is the overarching category under which fasting functions.” Note the word “means” in that sentence. Fasting is never the “end,” it is not more important than Scripture. It is “subordinate . . . in the ongoing life of prayer.”

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

Father, I am thankful for cats and crocuses, and how they can help us see the difficulties in being human. I am also thankful for the work of Jesus, as He showed us how to be human, perfectly. While we will never be able to completely mimic Him, it is not beyond us to at least try. And that is my goal, my sole purpose in life, to try to walk in the steps of my Savior, and to try to live by His words. My desire is to allow my heart to be “changed, shaped, and deepened by the Word of God.” And that “Word of God” is, indeed, Jesus Christ.

So may my life be always being changed by Him and the words He spoke and taught us. May my fastings, whenever they occur, be for the correct reason, to engage in prayer, and to, in the spirit of spiritual warfare, conquer evil as it applies to me. In the spirit of Jesus’s model prayer, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one.

I also oh, so grateful for those new mornings and those new mercies that come with each day. I am thankful for the new perspective that morning brings to my life, as I stop and ponder You and Your Word each morning. But I am also thankful that we are not locked into the legalistic idea that our devotions to You must happen at a certain time of day or they don’t count. What a silly notion, silly and “human.”

Help us humans, Father. We need all the help we can get, for we are selfish and contrary. We are also quite hypocritical, the lot of us. Help us, above all, to love one another the way Jesus loved us, in that He gave His life for us. I don’t think that we all have to physically die for each other, but we most definitely could do a better job of denying ourselves, carrying crosses, and considering each other more significant than ourselves.

Oh, and help me, please, be more willing to “pass the ball” so someone else can “score.”

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

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.