Unleash Your Inner Child

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, September 25, 2014.

Today is Psychotherapy Day, so I’ll give a shout out to our daughter, Rachel, who is studying to be a Psychologist.

Well, my case of the “crud” is moving on down to my chest. The good thing about that is it seems to be moving quickly through its course, and my throat isn’t nearly as sore today as it was yesterday. Of course, I will be coughing a lot soon. Christi is feeling much better. In her own words, she started feeling “human again,” yesterday afternoon.

We learned yesterday that one of the sons of a family that has been coming to our church has Juvenile Dermatomyositis. I was especially interested in this, since my father has Inclusion Body Myositis, in the same family of diseases. In Dermatomyositis, the muscle weakness has something to do with inflammation of the blood vessels in the skin. Or something like that. Several years ago, I had never heard of Myositis, and now I know two people who have it. It is a very uncommon disease.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.

Psalm 86:12

(From The Divine Hours)

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5
Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Psalm 93:5
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118:26
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:3-9

“Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly;
and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those
that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

This is the conclusion of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. It reminds me of two things. First, there was a children’s song I remember singing when I was a young boy, “The wise man built his house upon the rock, house upon the rock, house upon the rock . . .” I’m sure it had motions. Most of the songs we sang had motions. The other thing it reminds me of is this:

I always think of Big Tent Revival’s “Two Sets of Joneses” when I read this passage.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Inner Child.”

“If the Pharisee is the religious face of the impostor, the inner child is the religious face of the true self.” It is here that we discover “a winsome wedding of psychology and spirituality.” The point of psychology is to discover neuroses and, in doing so, move the patient away from the deceptions of their neuroses, their lack of authenticity, “toward a childlike openness to reality.” Jesus gently nudged toward a similar state when he said, “unless you become like little children.”

There is a stark difference between the inner child and the Pharisee. One is “aware of his feelings and uninhibited in their expression.” The other “edits feelings and makes a stereotyped response to life situations.” Brennan follows this up by sharing a story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s first visit to the Vatican. The Pope (then John XXIII) asked an advisor what the proper way would be to greet her. He was told that it would be proper to say, “Madame” or “Mrs. Kennedy.” “The secretary left, and a few minutes later the First Lady stood in the doorway. The Pope’s eyes lit up. He trundled over, threw his arms around her and cried, “Jacqueline!”

For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord.
Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:22

Father, there is still, at time, too much of the Pharisee within me. I pray for more release of my inner child. Help me to see life with the joyful eyes and innocence of a child, being unafraid to express the feelings that result. Help me to love unconditionally, as a child would love. May the life of Christ be the life that expresses itself through my life. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Help me to express my “true self” in you, Lord.

I pray for this day, that we would, once again, have safe travel to and from work. I pray that Christi continues to feel better, and that my cold would works its way through quickly. I pray for a good work day for both of us. I also ask for your gracious mercy and love for Stephanie, that you would draw her closer to your heart. I pray for healing of the pain that Rachel has been having in her hand.

I also lift up our sister, Cindy. A heart irregularity was found while she was under anesthesia for knee surgery. I pray for your healing hand on her, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.

matthew_18-3

May we all let loose our inner child as we follow Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Good Humor Man

Good morning. It is Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Hump Day.

Today! Is? Punctuation Day. Let’s use those apostrophes correctly today!

It started late in the day, yesterday, around the time I was clocking out from work. The drainage from my sinuses began. I wasn’t feeling great all evening, much to Christi’s chagrin, as she is still suffering from her cold, or whatever this is. I’m guessing it’s the “crud,” as we affectionately called it when I was in college. Actually, we called it the “Commerce Crud.” I will be eating up generic “Dayquil” pills today, to try and feel better.

Work is getting frustrating again, this time because it seems to be that the people who do the most work get “rewarded” by getting more work thrown on them, and the people who do the least work are allowed to continue to be lazy. But I guess that’s the way it always works, isn’t it?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

(From The Divine Hours)

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

Psalm 96:9
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Psalm 25:20-21
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

Psalm 85:8-13

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
Matthew 7:21-23

Once again, Jesus speaks some harsh words to his disciples. These words are a warning to people that it’s not enough to have intimate feelings or even “good works.” To truly know the Father, one must do the Father’s will. In other places, Jesus says that to do the Father’s will is to believe in the one whom the Father sent. He also warns that outward confessions are, in this case, meaningless. While it is true that he does say that, unless we acknowledge him before men, he will not acknowledge us before the Father, not everyone who speaks his name is truly a disciple. If we call him “Lord,” yet do not do the will of the Father, we mock him.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Good Humor.”

“Effectiveness in the ministry is enhanced by good humor.” Teresa of Avila had a prayer: “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, spare us, O Lord.” What is “good humor?” “It is rooted securely in the faith conviction that I am loved by God as I am, not as I should be.” It is not always walking around with a “superficial smile” on your face, or an “everything is peachy” attitude, because, at least most of the time, everything is most definitely NOT “peachy.” Having good humor “invites others to love and admire the gospel style of life.” One frequently heard complaint about Christianity is the sour appearance of many “saints” who always walk around as though they are never allowed to have a good time, because if it is fun, we have to give it up. This is simply not true. There is nothing wrong with having a good time, and there are appropriate times when we must show this to the world. In addition, if we are securely rooted in that conviction that God loves us as we are, then we are also able to accept others as they are, not as they should be, which is a huge step in effective evangelism. “A zealous but ill-humored evangelist can cause others to say, ‘If that’s what religion does to you, sit on it!'”

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Father, I confess that there are times when my “good humor” is out the door. I pray that your Holy Spirit will shield me from such times. All too often, I get into a bad mood, during which nothing is funny, at all. I don’t like these moods any more than the people around me. At the same time, let me not every be too concerned with what others think about me. Help me find the balance. Most of all, help me maintain a good humor about life, in general. Everything is certainly not “peachy,” but I can be content with things. Help me to develop a “holy contentment” in life, in such a way as to always demonstrate good humor. Yes, the life of a Christ-follower is eternal, but life on this earth is too short to live it in ill-humor.

I pray for this day. I pray for healing for Christi and me, that these colds or whatever they are would move on through quickly, that we might both feel better. Help us to function as best we can, the way we feel. I pray that you would help me not be in a “pity party” today, at work, even though I don’t feel up to par. I pray for safe travel to and from work. I pray for Stephanie, that you would keep her close to your heart and show you great love to her.

Thank you for helping Rob make his decision yesterday. Now, give him confidence and motivation to do what must come next.

We don’t always have to be smiling or laughing. But neither should we always be “frowny and meany.” Let us allow the nature of Christ to show outwardly in our lives.

LaughingChrist

Grace and peace, friends.

Captivated

“Allow yourselves to be captivated by joy and wonder at the surpassing greatness of my Father’s love for the lost; set it over against your own joyless, loveless, thankless, and self-righteous lives.”~~Brennan Manning, paraphrasing Jesus

Good morning. It is post-Monday, September 23, 2014. Welcome to Autumn! My favorite season of the year.

Today is Checkers Day. But it has nothing to do with the board game. It’s all about a Cocker Spaniel named “Checkers,” and a speech made by Richard M. Nixon in 1952.

Christi is still not well, and feeling kind of “draggy.” But her job is still going great. It seems that she has finally landed the “dream job.” Let’s hope this will be the one she can stay with until retirement, should that ever happen.

The Texas Rangers won another game last night, guaranteeing that they will not lose 100 games this season. That’s a big relief for a lot of fans. Now, the only problem is, if they keep winning (6 more games), they may not get that coveted first round draft choice. So poor Rangers . . . they can’t even lose right this year. 😀

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

(From The Divine Hours)

Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

Psalm 31:23
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.
Psalm 118:28
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

Psalm 145:18-20

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus utters some harsh words about “false prophets,” whose message may appear orthodox and harmless, but, when examined further, turn out to be “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” The idea that “you will recognize them by their fruits,” means that snap judgments are not possible. Time must be taken to examine their teachings and actions to see what kind of “fruit” they bear. Later in the New Testament, Paul will discuss what kinds of “fruits” these false prophets will bear. We have “false prophets” today, many of whom have already been identified and called out. Unfortunately, there are still thousands who follow them and their erroneous teachings. We must pray for discernment, know the Bible, and pay attention to the teachings of the false prophets. (And sometimes, even their wives. Wink, wink.)

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The New Era.”

Jesus said to his opponents, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) Brennan has paraphrased some of the words of Jesus in this way: “The harlots who have no imagined righteousness to protect will be dancing into the Kingdom, while you have your alleged virtue burned out of you! Hear me well: I have come to announce the dawn of a new age, an era of incredible generosity. Allow yourselves to be captivated by joy and wonder at the surpassing greatness of my Father’s love for the lost; set it over against your own joyless, loveless, thankless, and self-righteous lives. Let go of your impoverished understanding of God and your circumcised notion of morality. Strike out in a new direction. Cease from your loveless way, and be compassionate. Celebrate the homecoming of the lost, and rejoice in my Father’s munificence.”

I love the way Brennan has stated this. (I had to look up “munificence.” It means lavish generosity.) How often have I been guilty of living a “joyless, loveless, thankless, and self-righteous” life? These words prick my spirit, especially the admonition to “cease from your loveless way, and be compassionate.”

. . . that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation.

Psalm 9:14

Father, keep teaching me to love! It seems to be a hard lesson for me. Oh, I do okay for a day or two, but then someone will do something that I feel is selfish or that I otherwise don’t agree with, and I will scowl in judgment at that person for days, if not weeks, before your Spirit convicts me again. I want to be captivated by your joy and wonder. I want to be enthralled with your love for the lost. I want to completely dismiss my joyless, loveless, thankless, and self-righteous life! I want to feel only love and joy in my life, and be so thankful for everything that words fail me. And I certainly have no self-righteousness! I think I’ve had a pretty good understanding of that for a while. Yet it seems to still rear its ugly head, from time to time, because, what else is judgment, if not placing my own righteousness up against someone else’s perceived righteousness? You have, indeed, been munificent toward me and my family, Father, and I am very grateful for this. Don’t let me take you for granted, ever. Give me love and compassion, both for the Church and for the lost. Teach me, Father; teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. I will never stop praying that. Captivate me!

I pray for this day. Help me to live out these principles during the drive time and work time. I pray for safe passage for Christi and me, as we drive to work. I pray for a good work day. I pray that Christi will feel better, that this cold, sinus, cough, whatever it is will simply go away today. I believe that you are more than capable of doing this. I pray for Stephanie, as always, that you would show your overwhelming love to her and hold her close to your heart. Give her wisdom and understanding.

I pray for my brother and friend, Rob, this morning, as he has a difficult decision to make. Please give him wisdom to make the right choice, this morning, regarding the separation package offered by his job. Give him a clear vision, Father!

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all be captivated by the joy and wonder of the love of God today!

Grace and peace, friends!

True Love

Good morning. It is Monday, September 22, 2014. Last partial day of summer! Fall begins at approximately 9:30 tonight, CDT. And to celebrate, the temperature is not supposed to hit 90 all week!

Today is Hobbit Day, celebrated worldwide by fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, as the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

We had a great visit with Rachel and Justin yesterday afternoon. We had steaks and baked potatoes for lunch, which were very delicious, then we played “Cards Against Humanity” for a few hours. I’ve mentioned this game before, I believe. It’s great fun, with lots of laughter. If you’re easily offended, you should never even look at it. In fact, you pretty much have to turn off your “offended” button to play this game. After R&J left, I went up to Taco Casa for some dinner, and to Braum’s for some ice cream sundaes, and we settled in to watch a few episodes of CSI:NY. We’re in season 3.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Jesus, thank you for everything.

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

Psalm 103:1-2
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 16:1-2
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:1-2
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Psalm 119:33-40

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Today’s Gospel Reading

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus never paints a rosy picture of the Christian life. He lets people know that it is not easy. Contrast this with modern “evangelistic” approaches. In some circles, there is a prevalent message that, once saved, it’s a walk in the park. But if you truly “listen” to the words of Jesus, it seems that he is almost discouraging to people who would try to follow him. I find that very interesting. We might also be aware that this wide gate with the easy road will not have a sign hanging over it that says, “This way leads to destruction.” You see, if our “enemy” desires to mislead us and have us walking on the wrong path, he will advertise it as the true path, the road to heaven. This may be what Jesus refers to as he speaks of the false prophets that will be in the passage I read tomorrow.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Learning To Love.”

Paul tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2} We sometimes get caught up in abstract theology, “impersonal ethics, and fixed formulae,” as we try to learn to love God. We think that knowing all the proper theology is the best way to love God. But the Bible tells us differently. John tells us in the first of his three little letters, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12) Brennan follows this up by saying, “To love one another means that the love of God has reached full growth in us.” I don’t know that God’s love will ever reach “full growth” in me, as long as I wear this mortal coil, but I do understand that we show our love for God by loving people. You see, earlier in that same letter, John tells us, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (4:8 ) So we can spout out theology and ethics rhetoric all day long. If we do not love, we do not know God. Period.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return,
and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 35:36

Father, thank you for returning to this topic in my life today. The concept of loving others has been a thread that has been running through my life and heart for several years now, and I still struggle with it, don’t I? There are still too many days when I come to the conclusion that I just don’t like people. I would rather run away and hide, being a hermit in the hills somewhere, existing in a cave. But you did not create us to do that. At least you did not create me to do that. And how can I truly be interceding for people if I do not love them? Thank you for the reminder, this morning, that if I am not able to love, then I have no true knowledge or relationship with you.

Help me to stay on the narrow path. I believe that I have walked through the narrow gate. But I believe that I sometimes manage to stumble off of the path, and, while I never get “lost,” sometimes get seriously distracted and delayed. I pray that you keep me on the path. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Such a wonderful verse, Father.

I pray for this day, that we would have safe passage to and from work. I pray for our work day, that it would be smooth and lack stress. Let us throw all of our cares on you, that we do not experience anxiety. I also pray for my parents, who will be travelling to Dallas today for my Dad’s regular doctor visit. Keep them safe as they travel, and I pray that the appointment goes well. May you bring blessing on Ann for driving them to Dallas! What a great help she has been, Father! Please bless her for her generosity. May you bring Stephanie wisdom and understanding today, and give her peace. I pray for healing for Rachel, Father, that she might be free from pain.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we do a better job of loving each other, thereby demonstrating true love for God.

Grace and peace, friends.

It’s Your Breath In My Lungs

“Paul’s cheeks are still streaked because of the ignorance of God’s Word, tepidity, rank insincerity, spiritual adultery, indifference to prayer, comfortable piety, and apostolic sloth that dapple the Christian life in America today.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Sunday, September 21, 2014. Fall begins tomorrow, somewhere around 9:30 PM.

Whoa! Today is Wife Appreciation Day! Why didn’t someone tell me earlier?? I cannot properly put into words how much I appreciate my wife, Christi Bickley. She puts up with so much from me, especially these little rants I go on when I’m uncertain about things in my life.

It’s also International Day of Peace. That was a tough choice. But I figured that if everyone would appreciate their wives, we would have peace. So, there. 😀

Outside of Christi not feeling well, we actually had a pretty good Saturday. The prayer time and worship time went well, and Jacob’s sermon really hit home last night. He was naming off four things to look for to see if we are guilty of having a “love of money,” which, of course, Paul warns Timothy, is “a root of all kinds of evils.” All too often, this verse (1 Timothy 6:10) is misquoted and it is said that money is the root of all evil. Not true. Money is neutral. But what you do with it, or how you feel about it can be the ” root of all kinds of evils.” Anyway, the first thing to look for was envy. As I listened, I was thinking, “I’m okay on that one. I don’t really have an envy problem.” Not that I don’t ever envy anyone, but I’m not really all that terribly concerned if someone has more stuff or money or a nicer car than I do. I do, sometimes, get envious at position, but that doesn’t involve money or stuff. The second one was shallowness, and I’m struggle to remember exactly how he described that, but I remember thinking that I don’t have a real issue with that one, either. It was on the third and fourth ones where I got blasted. The third one was ingratitude. Now, mind you, I thank God a lot. But how often do I stop and thank him for providing for me/us? We are so used to just going and getting whatever we think we need (Jacob talked a lot about that word) that we don’t stop to think that God provided it for us! “God didn’t give me that! I ordered it from Amazon!” I used to struggle a lot more with the difference between “want” and “need.” Jacob discussed this at some length last night.

“I NEED the new iPhone 6!”
“Really? What’s wrong with your current phone?”
“Well, nothing. But it’s ‘old.'”
“Does it still work?”
“Well, yes, but. . . ”
“Then you don’t really NEED it, do you?”
“. . . ”

See? We get those two words confused a lot, don’t we? There are people standing in line, sleeping outside of stores, to get the newest iPhone! Every year, on “Black Friday,” people start lining up outside of Best Buy hours before the store opens, so they can get those “door busters.” Jacob said, as he combined quotes from several different people, that as we get more stuff and lower the bar of what makes us happy, we shrink our souls. Now, there’s something to think about. It was also during this part of the message that I become convicted that I really don’t need to get a new iPhone 6 for Christmas. I’ve got a perfectly functional Galaxy S4. I don’t need another phone until that one quits working or gets broken somehow. And no, I’m not going to “accidentally” drop it.

The last point was greed. I never thought I was “greedy,” until last night. That one hit me pretty hard, too. I’m not greedy in the sense that I’m always scheming ways to get more money and stuff. In fact, there have been multiple times in the past few years that I have been convicted of my love of stuff, and God has been doing a great job of weaning me off of that. I actually haven’t bought any new books or music in a while, now. My accumulation has slowed down, and I’m now working on making myself get rid of some of it. But I still tend to look at the numbers in our bank account and either experience peace or panic. My peace should be in the God who provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, not in the numbers in my bank account or how many cool t-shirts I have.

After the service, we had a nice time of food and fellowship. There were some silly games afterward, but Christi wasn’t feeling well, so we left. That was a bit awkward, because she kind of wanted to stay, but thought I didn’t want to, so she suggested leaving after a friend talked her into it, because she was coughing quite a bit. But I didn’t know she was suggesting it because she thought I wanted to leave, and I would have been okay with staying, even though I had no intent of participating in all of the games (Dizzy Bat Race? No thank you!). And then Stephanie almost had a meltdown because she wanted to “stay and watch.” Ah, well. Sometimes, even couples who have been married 29 years have miscommunications, don’t they?

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1782 that the Continental Congress authorized “Robert Aitkin to publish the first English-language Bible printed in America.”

Today’s birthdays include Dave Coulier, Bill Murray, Stephen King, Faith Hill, Liam Gallagher, Larry Hagman, Luke Wilson, Leonard Cohen, Allison Scagliotti, Chuck Jones, H.G. Wells, Cheryl Hines, Nancy Travis, Frederick III, Henry Gibson, and Don Felder.

There are quite a few in this list that I’m fond of. I’m posting two clips. First, Allison Scagliotti, who played the adorable Claudia in Warehouse 13, turns a mere 24 today. Here is a pretty well-made clip of highlights from the show.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chuck Jones, the animator who gave us Bugs Bunny and friends, would have been 102 today. He passed away in 2002. Sadly, I couldn’t find a complete clip of “What’s Opera Doc” on You Tube. Instead, I found this nicely done live presentation of the cartoon.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
Psalm 98:1
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
Psalm 119:141
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Psalm 71:5
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

Psalm 84:2-3

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant that I, Lord, may not be anxious about earthly things, but love things heavenly;
and even now, while I am placed among things that are passing away, hold fast to those
that shall endure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

Often called “The Golden Rule,” Jesus has taken a teaching that was taught by other contemporary and ancient thinkers, and made it positive. The phrase was reportedly heard as “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you.” Jesus has rephrased it immediately after his talk about God’s goodness and willingness to give to us. The new paragraph heading in most Bibles probably is misplaced. I think this sentence belongs more with the previous verses than with the one that follows it. Since God is so good to us and willing to give to us, we should be more willing to do good things to those around us, especially as we would prefer them to do good things to us. As we take this even further, it affects the principle of retribution. If someone does evil to me, and I repay it by doing evil to him, I have violated this rule.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Enemies To the Cross.”

Paul wrote to the Philippians, For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19) Brennan says, “Paul’s cheeks are still streaked because of the ignorance of God’s Word, tepidity, rank insincerity, spiritual adultery, indifference to prayer, comfortable piety, and apostolic sloth that dapple the Christian life in America today.” Those are strong words, aren’t they? Do you think they are unfair? How many people do you know that think that “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible? How many people have you heard, lately, say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle?” There’s your Biblical ignorance. How many people grace the doors of their “church” on Sunday morning (or whatever day/time they go), sing a few songs, casually listen to a message, and then go out and act exactly the same way they always do, with their lives not changed one bit? There’s your rank insincerity. How many people attend prayer gatherings at your church? We average five. And there are six people on our Intercessory Prayer Team!! There’s your indifference to prayer. (Not that attendance at a prayer meeting is by any means mandatory to exhibit a passion for prayer . . . but doesn’t it say something?) How many people believe that, because they show up in church every week, they must be doing pretty good? Comfortable piety. I’m not sure what he means by “apostolic sloth,” other than perhaps he is saying that our ministers have gotten lazy. The Church in America is suffering, and not because of anything that could be remotely considered “persecution.” It is suffering because it has gotten lethargic. It is satisfied with the status quo. To quote C.S. Lewis, “We are far too easily pleased.”

“When Jesus Christ reveals himself through his Word, which is acting and creative, he calls for a spontaneous response. His message is not a reassurance to keep right on doing what we have been doing but, writes Edward O’Connor, ‘a summons to the labor of eliminating from our lives, faithfully and perseveringly, everything in us that is opposed to the work of and will of his Holy Spirit for us. Faith means that we be ready to act on the Word.'”

. . . to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment,
so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Galatians 2:5

Father, I pray for the Church in America and in the rest of the world. I pray for your Holy Spirit to set us on fire for the Gospel of Christ. I pray that we would represent the Kingdom of Heaven rightly, wherever we are, whenever we are. The Gospel permeates life in ways that we cannot imagine, and if we stop to consider the effects of our actions before we act, what a difference we could make in our world. In particular, Father, I pray that you would help us to dispense with our envy, shallowness, ingratitude, and greed. May we not be guilty of having a love of money. It’s okay to have money, but we cannot serve or love both money and you! May we serve and love only you, and, thereby, use the resources which you have given us to bless and provide for others. Help my family to be more faithful with what you have given us. Help us to be better stewards and gather only what we need, and not as much of what we just want. May we be better at showing gratitude for everything you have given us, which is, of course, everything we have. All that I have, even the breath in my lungs, belongs to you. There is nothing that I have that was not given to me by you. Nothing. Lord, my Father, deliver me from ignorance of your Word, tepidity, rank insincerity, spiritual adultery, indifference to prayer, comfortable piety, and apostolic sloth. Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth.

I pray for this day. May we have a restful day, preparing ourselves for the week of work that awaits us. I pray that we will have a good visit with Rachel and Justin this afternoon, as we share lunch with them. Keep us all safe, Father, and thank you so very much for your provision for us as we go our way each day.

Think not that you have obtained anything around you by your own abilities and resources. All that you have is the Lord’s and all that you have was given by him.

Grace and peace, friends.

Failure IS An Option

Good morning. It is Saturday, September 20, 2014. I have to hurry this morning, because I have an 8:00 appointment to get a recall notice service performed on my car. The dealership is in Irving, so I’ll need to leave pretty soon.

(Thanks to Robert Warden for suggesting that song.)

Today is Gymnastics Day. I have had a great appreciation for gymnasts for many years. It’s one of my favorite part of the Olympics. The amount of strength and stamina that a gymnast must have is amazing. Some of the things that they do on parallel bars, rings, and that beam thing are phenomenal.

There’s not much to write about, personally, so I’m going to move on to the devotional portion right away.

We’ll have our Anchor prayer gathering at 4:45 this evening, followed by our worship time at 5:45. We are having a family fellowship time after the worship tonight, with food and some wacky games (or so I hear). We are The Exchange.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:9-10

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

Psalm 118:22-23

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-11

This is an often quoted passage, and is usually applied to either faith or prayer. Or praying with faith. I believe the point Jesus is trying to make is that our Father is eager to give us good things. He is not a stern taskmaster, just waiting for us to fail so he can punish us. Jesus has taken the punishment for our sin, and their remains “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God will give us what we need. Now, I’m not a believer in the idea that he will give us everything we ask for. I don’t believe that Jesus teaches that, even though some of his statements can be interpreted that way. If that were true, I would have a lot of things that were most definitely wrong or not good for me.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Success in Failure.”

Who among us has not failed? If you say you haven’t, just move on and read someone else’s blog. You’re either delusional or a pathological liar. I can identify with Brennan, this morning, as there have been times in my life when I have failed miserably, and saw “my life as a complete waste – not only for the things I was doing, but for the things I wasn’t doing, the meager, paltry, stingy response I was making to Christ in the least of my brothers.” There were feelings of “discontent, guilt, fear, shame, and unbearable hypocrisy.”

But Brennan says that “living out of the center” has taught him that “every failure succeeds in some way.” When we fail, there is opportunity to humble ourselves. When we fail, we learn “to be with the failure of others.” If we never failed, how would we ever minister to others or understand the depths of the human heart?

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:19

Father, I thank you for the failures in my life, even as dismal as they have been. I praise you that you took those failures and brought me through to where I am today. Not that I have “arrived,” by any stretch of the imagination. I still fail, sometimes very badly. And you still pick me up and bring me along, sometimes having to retrace steps that have already been taken. Your patience with me is astounding. I thank you that you still have work for me to do. May I be faithful to do it.

I pray for this day. I pray that the car work will be done quickly, and properly. I pray for Christi as she has to do the things she normally does this morning, and is not feeling well. I pray that you bring healing on her as she continues to sleep this morning. May our worship time tonight be honoring and glorifying to your name. May our fellowship together be pleasing in your sight.

The next time you fail, stop and think about where you’ve been and where you are. Allow God to turn your failure into success. Run to Jesus.

Grace and peace, friends.

Lose Yourself

“I simply lose myself in the experience of just being alive, of being in a community of believers, simply knowing that it’s good to be there, even if I don’t know where ‘there’ is or why it’s good.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Friday, September 19, 2014.

I’m going to have to skip the song of the day thing, this morning. I want to leave the house a little earlier today.

Oh, yes. Arrrr. Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day, me mateys!

It was seventeen years ago today, that we got the horrible news. Rich Mullins had died in a horrible auto accident.

Yesterday was a frustrating day. It started out with bad traffic, got worse with more bad traffic, and then got more frustrating at work. I confess I did not do a good job of “representing the Kingdom.” Perhaps today will be a better day. I really need to find something closer to home.

We had a good evening, though, and got completely caught up with House of Cards, the Netflix original series starring Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
Psalm 86:12

(From The Divine Hours)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Psalm 105:4
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.
O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Psalm 69:6
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
Psalm 65:3
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Psalm 51:1-4

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Psalm 32:8
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.:
Mathew 7:6

I almost forgot to go back an include this verse, thinking I had included it in yesterday’s reading, but I stopped at verse 5. I have always felt that this verse was a little out of place here. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the teachings on judging. The way I have interpreted this verse over the years seems to agree with what the Reformation Study Bible notes say about it. In my opinion, “casting pearls before swine” consists of constantly throwing the Gospel message to those who have absolutely no desire to hear it. There is a prevalent theory that we are supposed to share the Gospel with everyone we meet. I have never been comfortable with that idea. For one thing, we would never get anything else done. I believe that there are specific moments, some call them “divine appointments,” in which we have golden opportunities to share the Kingdom or the Gospel with people. Our job, again, in my opinion, is to be ready, willing, and able to step up to the task, when it presents itself. Perhaps, on second thought, this verse does fit after the passage on judging, because it actually calls on us to do a different kind of judging.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Alive In Jesus.”

“Living out of the center enables us to blend for a moment into a greater background than our own fears, to merely be still, and to know that God is God.” I don’t have to figure it out. I don’t have to analyze. “I simply lose myself in the experience of just being alive, of being in a community of believers, simply knowing that it’s good to be there, even if I don’t know where ‘there’ is or why it’s good.” It is simply enough to know that I am centered, I am in Jesus, “and that gratefulness is both the heart of living and the heart of prayer.”

I believe this, in a way, hearkens back to the idea of running to Jesus. When we just run to him, in the midst of our circumstances, we then have the ability to simply be alive in him, to exist in his grace and mercy, and we don’t have to struggle to figure things out or analyze them. There are moments in time when all we need to do is “be.”

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Psalm 23:2

Father, help me to just “be” today. I pray that I will do a better job of running to Jesus today, and losing myself in his love, in the experience of being alive in him. I am always in a community of believers, even when we are not all together in one place. Help me hold onto the strength that brings us. When I get frustrated, because it is sure to happen again, help me to remember whence comes my help! “Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you! I will seek you in the morning; I will learn to follow your ways, and step by step you’ll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days!”

I pray for this day, that we might have safe passage to and from work. I pray for Christi to feel better, as her throat is hurting a bit this morning, and she is coughing. I pray for healing for her. May your grace and mercy fill Stephanie’s day, drawing her closer to you.

Your grace is sufficient.

If you care to, take a moment to listen to that Rich Mullins tune again. Center down into the glorious grace of Jesus, letting him hold you.

beyond_infinity_by_flowgraphic

Grace and peace, friends.

What Is God’s Will?

Good morning. It is pre-Friday, September 18, 2014.

Today is Cheeseburger Day. I was torn between “Respect Day” and “Cheeseburger Day.” I guess you can respect the cheeseburger.

I didn’t make it to work quite as early as I had planned, yesterday, but that was largely because I forgot that I had planned to do that. How embarrassing. It was an okay day, though, even though I stayed a little more than an hour over, as we got 191 packages from UPS yesterday morning.

Not much else going on, other than Christi still having vertigo when she tilts her head to the right. Also, the Rangers have won five games in a row. Too little, too late, but they have a chance to seriously damage Oakland’s wild card possibilities. That’s always fun. Unless you’re the Athletics.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock,
in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.

Psalm 101:6
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:15-18

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:1-5

This passage is, of course, abused a lot. “Don’t judge!” say the people who are guilty of sin. But that’s all of us, isn’t it? The problem is that we tend to do exactly what Jesus warns against, here. We judge people without checking our own baggage first. One of my favorite phrases that has been thrown around Facebook is, “Don’t judge people because they sin differently than you.” Do you go to the office and participate in destructive office gossip, tearing down individuals, and then proceed to throw bricks at homosexuals? That’s our favorite “sin” right now, isn’t it? That and abortion. We are quick to thrust the harshest penalties on anyone who violates one of our “pet sins.” But then we take our ichthus adorned cars out on the road and drive like maniacs, cutting people off and giving them one-finger salutes. Then we wonder why the world won’t listen to our “good news.”

Yes, we are all sinners, and we are all hypocrites at one time or another. But if we act high and might and self-righteous in our hypocrisy, we cannot expect to have any success in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. In order to display the Gospel to people, we must stop the judging and begin to have compassion for everyone. EVERYONE.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Discerning the Father’s Will.”

Our Father knows each of us by name. That boggles the mind, doesn’t it? But he cares. he really cares. Somehow, he manages to be “deeply involved in the little drama of our personal existence.” Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Luke 12:7) “Within this climate of trust the Christian confidently searches to discern the Father’s will.” This is the environment from which our decisions become clear and our actions grow. It can be much more clear than we think. “The sounds of inner peace, harmony, and consonance resonate in the heart attuned to the Father’s will, while agitation, conflict, dissonance, and contretemps resonate in the untuned heart singing its own song.”

‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance,
and how you cannot bear with those who are evil,
but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not,
and found them to be false.”

Revelation 2:2

Father, I have let too much time go by. I pray that you continue to move me away from judgment and toward compassion. You have done miracles in me over the last decade, and I praise you for this. The “log” in my eye is much smaller than it used to be, and I am not quite so quick to point out the speck in the eyes of others. However, I still have my moments, and I pray that these moments will become fewer and fewer. Make me a person that is driven by the compassion that have for all men. May I display the life and attitudes of Jesus Christ in all that I do every day.

I pray that this day will go smoothly. I pray that Christi’s vertigo will go away, and that we will have safe passage to and from work today. May our work day go smoothly, and may we accomplish whatever needs to be done, while, at the same time displaying your Kingdom to those around us. Teach us your way, that we may walk in your truth. I pray for Stephanie, as always, that you would show your love to her and give her wisdom and understanding.

I still cringe when I read some of the stuff I see on Facebook that is posted by Christians. I long for the day when we will stop the name-calling, stop idolizing political stands and moral issues, and begin to follow Christ and share his Kingdom instead of throwing bricks. If we are called by Christ to do anything, it is to make disciples.

Grace and peace, friends.

Silent Sentinels

Good morning. It is Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

Today is Guacamole Day! What a wonderful day!! Unfortunately, I had guacamole yesterday. If I had known . . .

Yesterday was an okay day. Work went well. We had free lunch catered by On the Border (hence the guacamole), and I ate too much, which made me drowsy and sluggish all afternoon. Other than that, though, I’m feeling pretty good. Christi, though, was feeling like she was catching a cold, and still has the vertigo going on, when she turns her head certain ways. This morning, she says she is feeling better, but still has the dizziness.

I guess we have our Huddle meeting tonight, being that it is Tuesday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 95:1-2
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123:1-2
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 7:17
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD; exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Psalm 68:4-5

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-33

Following up on the heels of the passage I ready yesterday, Jesus expounds a little more on the foolishness of being concerned about our earthly treasures. He tells us we don’t need to be concerned with the clothes we will wear or the food we will eat. God knows what we need, and will provide it, IF we seek first his kingdom. There is an implication here that, in my opinion, goes along with his statements about seeking the approval of men. If we give to the poor in front of others, their approval will be the only reward we receive. If we pray loudly and boisterously in front of men and receive their approval, that will be the only reward we receive. If we fast, making it obvious to others, their approval will be our only reward. If we spend our lives toiling and straining for material things, constantly worried about the clothes we wear and the food we eat, that will be our reward. All of these things are temporary. Another “reward” will be the constant anxiety of worrying about tomorrow; the constant “what if?”

But if we seek first the king of God and his righteousness, not only will we get THAT (which is much more important), we will also get all those other things that we chose NOT to strive after.

Jesus finishes up with a statement that is similar to what my mother used to say when I was a boy. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” My mother used to tell me, “Don’t borrow trouble.”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Sins of Omission.”

Brennan tells a story of a time when he was with a group at Coney Island. “A few yards away in the center of the boardwalk, a man was pouring a can of beer on the head and down the blouse of a pregnant girl of maybe fifteen. He was describing aloud in lurid detail how he had sexually abused her and what he had in mind later. She appeared slightly intoxicated; at any rate, she was crying.”

The group Brennan was with decided to leave. As they were walking toward the car, Brennan heard, deep in his soul, like a bell resounding, “Who are you?”

“I stopped as if my shoes were stuck to the pavement. ‘I am a son of my Father,’ I said.”

The voice responded with, That girl is my daughter.

Brennan went back, took the girl aside and talked with her for a few minutes while people around taunted. Then he says, “That night I wept, not for them but for myself, for the countless times I have played the silent sentinel, afraid to acknowledge the presence of the Son of Man in the least of my brothers and sisters. How often I’ve seen human dignity being degraded and been content to moralize about the situation and walk away.”

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us in his little letter, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ((James 4:17)

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:16

Father, I’m not quite sure how to pray over this one. I know that there have been plenty of times that I have not spoken up or not acted when I knew what the right thing was. I confess these times and pray that you will give me the courage to speak up or act when those time occur. I know that there are some times when the fear is more for my own safety than simply being ridiculed. These days, you never know how someone is going to react. I pray for wisdom and courage to do the right thing when necessary. May we, your Church, not continue to be “silent sentinels” in our world around us and speak up when the circumstances call for it. But let us also be very, very sure that we are speaking your words and thoughts, not just our own misguided opinions!

I pray for this day. I pray that you would give us grace to seek your kingdom first today, in the midst of our daily work day. Give us safe passage to and from work, and show us how to walk with you through the work day. May the Gospel be present in our lives; may we display it to others in all that we do. I pray that you show Stephanie your overwhelming love today, and bring healing to her mind. Show her the path to walk.

May we be wise with the wisdom of God in our actions and circumstances, not being “silent sentinels,” but speaking and acting in the grace and mercy of the Lord, who is the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows!”

Grace and peace, friends.

Consistency

“Here is the essence of perfect sincerity in conduct – to care for nothing but God’s judgment on our actions, not to vary our attitude to suit the company we are in, not to hold one opinion when alone and adopt another in conversation, but to speak and act as in the sight of God who can read our inmost thoughts.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Monday, September 15, 2014.

Today is Felt Hat Day. I have one of those, but I don’t wear it too often, these days. It’s been to warm to wear hats to work. Maybe when it’s fall and winter, I will again.

Speaking of which, fall, I believe, begins next Monday night, at around 9:30. I’m very happy about that! I haven’t been a fan of summer since my school days. These days, summer is just a run of scorching hot days on which I still have to work.

As is our custom, of late, Christi made steak and baked potatoes last night, which were very delicious, after which we had banana bread, which was also scrumptious. She has found, I believe, the winning recipe for that stuff!! We got some good rest, as we watched several episodes of “House of Cards” on Netflix.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

(From The Divine Hours)

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Psalm 96:2-3
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Psalm 5:3
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
Psalm 21:13

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross
that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we who
glory in the mystery of our redemption may have the grace to take up our cross
and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
in glory everlasting. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:19-24

The first part of this reading is pretty straightforward. All of the “treasure” that we could gather in this life will decay. The word translated “rust” refers to more than just the oxidation process of metals. It also refers to such things as wood rot, mildew, and so on. Everything in our material world decays. And if we put our stock in those treasures, we will decay right along with them. Instead, we are to gather treasures in heaven, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The statement that follows is chilling, and brings to mind the story of the rich young ruler that we see in Luke. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The next paragraph is not quite so clear. What kind of “light” does your “eye” allow in? If your “eye” is good, it will let in the “light” of God’s will. This eye is the one that stores up treasures in heaven. If the eye is bad, it only lets in the “darkness” of greed and material hoarding. This eye is the one that stores up earthly treasures. Jesus follows this up with the famous statement of verse 24, “You cannot serve God and money (mammon).”

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Being True to Self.”

My first reaction to this title is, “What??” But let’s see what he has to say.

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

“Here is the essence of perfect sincerity in conduct – to care for nothing but God’s judgment on our actions, not to vary our attitude to suit the company we are in, not to hold one opinion when alone and adopt another in conversation, but to speak and act as in the sight of God who can read our inmost thoughts.” We must strive to make sure the outward man and the inner man match up. This is what Brennan means by “being true to self,” to the point that the thought of human opinion cannot sway us to be false.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more,
with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent,
and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

Philippians 1:9-10

Father, time grows short as I conclude this, this morning. I pray that I would be consistent. May my outward and inner person be one and the same, mirroring Christ in all things. Keep me from falling into sin; keep me from swaying my opinions based on who I am around; keep me from reacting harshly to situations; fill me with your Spirit today.

Keep us safe today as we drive to and from work. May our work day be productive and honoring to you. Keep Stephanie safe at home and fill her with your love. I also pray that her headache will go away.

Your grace is sufficient.

May our inner convictions and our outward actions always match.

Grace and peace, friends.