A Desolate Place

Today is Saturday, October 13, 2018.

Day 22,129.

Last full day in Galveston.

“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, U.S. Novelist, 1896-1940, The Quotations Page

The word of the day is chantage, “The extortion of money or other benefit by threats or pressure, esp. by threatening to reveal a damaging or incriminating secret; blackmail; an instance of this.”

Yesterday was a day of mostly relaxing around the house and enjoying the ocean. C and I spent most of the day out on the deck, reading. The temperature was nice, and the breeze blowing off of the ocean made it nearly perfect. C cooked breakfast at some point, I don’t even remember what time.

At 5:15 PM, we headed into the Seawall area for our anniversary dinner at Fish Tales. It was delicious, of course. I will say this, though. The “Coastal Cuisine” at The Gumbo Diner was better than what I had at Fish Tales last night, and about half the price. It was still a nice dinner, though, and C shared her clam chowder with me, and it was also delicious. We came back to the house, and relaxed and read before going to sleep. My mother and I watched a little bit of the NLCS game. When we quit watching, the Brewers were up 6-1. The final score was 6-5, so the Dodgers made it close, but could not prevail. The Brewers are up 1-0 in the series. Their game 2 is today, while the Red Sox and Astros begin their series tonight. I imagine I will be watching that.

Today, we plan on going to The Strand at around 11:00 AM, to catch the salt water taffy being made fresh at La Kings Confectionery. We’ll do a little more shopping in the area, then have lunch at a Mexican restaurant, probably the one called Salsa’s. This is at S’s request, as she is hungry for some Mexican food. We plan on ordering pizza from Mario’s tonight.

Sadly, we must depart our house by 11:00 AM tomorrow. But we do plan to hit up The Gumbo Diner one last time on the way out.

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

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Psalm 61:1-3

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

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 
And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:

Luke 6:12-13

David needed a refuge. He was a “man after God’s own heart,” but he needed a refuge, a “strong tower against the enemy.”

Jesus, the Son of God, the incarnation of God Himself, even needed time away from the crowds. Especially when a huge event was about to take place, such as the choosing of the twelve who would be His closest disciples.

Jesus also encouraged His own disciples to “come away by yourselves to a desolate place” for rest.

One of the Spiritual Disciplines is solitude. It is one that I struggle to practice, because I live in an area where it is quite difficult to be alone, even for a few minutes. I can be “alone” in my study in the house, but even there I am still distracted, because I have this thing called a computer on the desk.

The point of solitude, as described by Jesus in Mark 6, is to be by yourself and, if possible, in “a desolate place.” One of the definitions of “desolate” is “solitary, lonely.” So it doesn’t have to be a barren wasteland. Just someplace to be alone and quiet, with no technology or people to distract. Obviously, it would be best to leave the cell phone in the car.

We all need some time to be away. This week in Galveston has been great for that. C and I have both been able to spend some good time alone, just sitting and watching the ocean, appreciating God’s beauty in creation. I have great appreciation for all of God’s creation. I love mountains (the real ones . . . we don’t really have any of those in Texas), but, for some reason, I am drawn more powerfully by the ocean. Perhaps this is because it appears to be infinite. We know it is not, but it looks like it is, as it stretches out across the horizon, with nothing else visible for miles.

It is inviting, yet frightening, just like God. It is beautiful and terrible, just like God. It is deep and wide, just like the love and grace and mercy of God. I guess that’s it. The ocean is the best example in nature, for me, of the characteristics of God.

However, to get back to the point of this, the discipline of solitude is important for us. It was necessary for Jesus; how much more necessary for us!

Father, I believe I have prayed this before, but I’m praying it again, and probably will again. Help me find that place where I can practice solitude and silence before You. Help me find that “desolate place” where I can simply sit and consider You for a time, perhaps meditating on some Scripture that I have memorized. I thank You for this place where we have been for the past week, where we have been able to sit and watch the ocean and consider You. But, like “all good things,” this must end, and we head back to the “normal” life tomorrow. It is there where I need the place of solitude. Somewhere around there is a place I can go to be alone with You. Lead me there.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Grace and peace, friends.

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Solitude

Good morning. Today is, um, Friday. Yeah, that’s it. Friday, July 5, 2013. We had a great day yesterday. After discovering that my external hard drive was, in fact, okay (I’m still not sure what happened, but I unplugged it from my main pc and took it into the living room to plug it into the laptop, where it worked fine; when I brought it back in here to the study, it worked okay), I finished up yesterday’s blog and ran up to Best Buy where I bought a new WD My Book 2 TB hard drive. I’m still in the process of figuring out the software on that one, so nothing has been moved over yet. But I’ve left the old one on, just in case. While I was going to Best Buy, Rachel and Justin arrived. We had already decided that Christi would just cook the steaks in the oven and boil the corn, instead of cooking out on the grill. I was only gone for about 30 minutes, as it didn’t take long to decide which drive to get. Lunch was delicious. Christi did a spectacular job on all of it. While we ate lunch (and a while after), we watched a “Twilight Zone” marathon on the Sy-Fy channel (I still pronounce that “siffy” in protest of that horrible re-branding of the network). Then we played a game of 42 (dominoes) and ate some cheesecake. After R & J left, Christi and I watched this week’s episode of “Major Crimes,” after which she, Stephanie, and I went to Braum’s to get some ice cream. We watched one more TV show and then went to bed. We didn’t try to go see fireworks. Too late for us. They don’t start unto close to 10pm around here. And, fortunately, there weren’t a lot of “private” fireworks displays going on around here, so Tessie didn’t bark a lot after we went to bed.


Today is (ahem) Bikini Day, so named in recognition of the invention of the bikini by Parisian fashion designer Louis Reard in 1946. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. 😀


I’m sorry, but time has run short today, and I have no time left for history and birthday trivia.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
Psalm 55:16-17
Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. Psalm 50:3
For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Psalm 25:11
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Psalm 109:26

Father, I pray that, as I look into your words this morning, you will reveal yourself to me, by the power of your Holy Spirit.


Today’s, in A Year With God, I’m beginning a new section on the discipline of Solitude. Solitude is defined as “The creation of an open, empty space in our lives by purposefully abstaining from interaction with other human beings, so that, freed from competing loyalties, we can be found by God.” We see in the Gospels that Jesus’s public ministry was mixed with periods of solitude, when he left the crowds, either completely alone or with his disciples, so that he could spend time in prayer. “These times of solitude appeared to nourish Jesus for those times when he was in the public eye.” The very beginning of his ministry was preceded by 40 days of solitude in the desert, immediately after his baptism.

This is not about “becoming a hermit or misanthrope.” (A misanthrope is one who hates or mistrusts all people.) Times of solitude can enhance not only our relationship with God, but with others as well. And solitude is not loneliness in that we are completely and utterly alone. It is intended to be time spent solely with God. It seems like something that should be completely natural, but it is a difficult thing in our culture. We have to work to create this space. In Mark 6:31 Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Rest; abide; it is what we need to do more of.

Today’s reading is called “Withdrawing to a Deserted Place.” The scripture reading is Luke 5:15-16.

But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

The ten-day challenge is to do exactly what Jesus did each day. “Withdraw to a place where you can be alone with God and use that time to pray.” It is suggested that it is most valuable to have these times immediately before or after times when we have to be around many others. If necessary, work to create that time. The amount of time is not so important, as much as achieving that solitude with God, “even if all you can manage is a solitary cup of coffee in the morning or a few moments of prayer in your car before your drive to work.” These times will nourish and refresh us. I already spend a few moments in the middle of my work day in a solitary place. Typically, I shut myself in an unused office for five or ten minutes during my first break time of the day. During that time, I pray through the “Midday Office” of The Divine Hours, and then pray for the ten people that God has placed atop my Facebook friend list. It tends to be a very sweet time each day, and helps me stay focused on abiding in him throughout the day.

Here is a suggested “Celtic Daily Prayer” to begin with:

Here am I, Lord,
I’ve come to do your will.
Here am I, Lord,
in your presence I’m still.


Father, may I find refreshment and sustaining power in times of solitude today. Even now, I sit alone in my study, tying out this prayer to you. May you use these times in my life to keep me focused on you, to teach me more about how to abide in you as I reflect on your awesome power and the promises that you have given us regarding our lives with you and in you. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Create in me a clean heart and renew my spirit. Teach me the value of solitude.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi to have a good work day today, and that her foot will continue to heal as it has. It seems to be getting better all the time, and we are most thankful for this. I pray for Stephanie to have a good day today, and that she will find rest and nourishment in your word, searching for your promises. I pray that you would show her how to live in those promises. Finally, I ask for a good work day for me, as I continue to learn new things. Give me a sharp mind and help me focus on the task at hand throughout the day, that I might learn these new responsibilities and have them firmly in my grasp.


Find some time to get alone today. Seek the wisdom of God and his nourishment before or after you have to deal with people.

Grace and peace, friends.

Clap and Cheer

It’s Saturday afternoon, and all is well, pretty much. I made it through the colonoscopy yesterday morning, and they said everything looked fine. They removed one very small polyp, and will do a biopsy on it just because it’s procedure. The doctor told Christi that there was zero percent reason to worry about it. The whole experience was much less unpleasant than I was expecting. I don’t really want to run out and do it again tomorrow, though. Right after the procedure, we went home, picked up Stephanie, and went straight to the Bosses Pizza buffet. Heh. I was hungry.
As is our custom, we went to the middle school where The Exchange meets and helped with the set up this morning. After that, we went straight to Kroger for the grocery shopping, grabbed some lunch, and came home. And now I’m sitting down for my Bible reading, which, on Saturday only, is an afternoon devotional.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude for all of your prayers and positive thoughts that were sent forth on my behalf yesterday. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem enough. But it’s all I have, so thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 2:1-10; Isaiah 66; Proverbs 15:18-25

Let me just say, right off the bat, that I LOVE Ephesians 2. I mean, sure, I love the whole Bible. Okay…I’ll confess…there are some parts in Leviticus that I’m not crazy about, okay? But tell the truth: Aren’t there parts of the Bible that you like better than other parts? No? Liar.
The first words of Ephesians 2 are very important. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… (v. 1) Did you get that? DEAD! I’ve heard various explanations of salvation that went something like this. You’re drowning out in the water and someone throws you a life-saver. (One of those round, floaty things…not a piece of candy.) That life-saver is JESUS, and all you have to do is GRAB ON TO IT!! I submit to you that that analogy of salvation is “dead” wrong. Read the verse again. You were DEAD! Not drowning. Dead. A dead man can NOT grab on to a life-saver. He must be made alive before he can do anything.
Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are contained in verse 4 of Ephesians 2. BUT GOD! If it were not for “But God,” we would still be dead! Because why? Because look what he did in verse 5! God “made us alive!” Remember that part where we were dead? God MADE US ALIVE!! He made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. And then come two of almost every Christian’s favorite verses. Ephesians 2:8-9. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. There are so many sermons packed into those two verses. You’re lucky I’m not a preacher. But we are saved by GRACE, through FAITH! It is very important to notice the next statement. It is not by our own doing, but by the gift of God. Which? The grace or the faith? YES!! The grace is a gift of God, and the faith to believe in that grace is a gift from God. None of it is of our own doing so that we cannot claim any part in it whatsoever.
So why did God do this? Verse 10 sheds a little light on that. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. One of the reasons is so that we can walk in the good works that have been prepared for us beforehand.
I realize that not everyone believes as I do, about predestination. But I believe that it is clear from Paul’s writings in Ephesians that all of this was planned out before the foundations of the world. I was chosen in Christ to believe in Christ, I was made alive by God, and the “good works” that I am supposed to walk in were planned and prepared long before I was here.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Christus
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Soli Deo Gloria


In Isaiah 66, God declares who it is he will favor. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (v. 2) The final judgment of the Lord is described in verses 15-16. “For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. Verse 24 seems to be a symbolic description of the eternal punishment of those who did not believe in Christ.


The weekend reading in “Tabletalk Magazine” is about solitude. Many of us are wondering what that is any more. The author of the article, Donald S. Whitney, writes of a time long gone, in the 1900s, when his grandparents were married. Solitude was pretty much a way of life for them. If they wanted any music, news, or other entertainment, they had to go to town or to church. Fast forward a hundred years. (Well, not quite…) In 2011, it is almost impossible to find solitude. Yet, it is important to us, if for no other reason than to find time to commune with our heavenly Father. “Scriptural solitude is the biblical practice of temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. Generally is is sought in order to engage in other spiritual disciplines without some of the distractions typically experienced by the presence of people.”
Jesus gave us a good example of the practice of solitude. In Matthew 4: 1-11, we read that he was alone in the wilderness for forty days before what was probably the second most intense period of his life, the temptations. In Matthew 14:23, we read this: And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… In Mark 1:35, we get this: And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And in Luke 4:42, this: And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. Jesus needed times of solitude to commune with the Father. How much more do we, who are not perfect, need the same? God knows each of us by name and he relates to each one of us one to one.
Do we delight in, or take pleasure in, times alone with God? I can say, with no hesitation, that I do. That’s what these times are for me. However, I sometimes allow myself to be distracted, even in my “solitude.” For, even though there might not be any human beings in the room with me, in case you didn’t notice, I’m typing these words on a computer, into an internet browser. And guess what? Right next to the tab where my “WordPress” is open, there’s a tab open with my email open. Sometimes, there’s another tab with Facebook open. Not today, but sometimes. A few minutes ago, I had a tab open with the Red Sox/Evil Empire game. I closed that one. Talk about distractions!!! They will win or lose without me, and this time “alone” with God is much more important than any Red Sox game.

Yes. I just said that. And I meant it. Folks, I love baseball. And I love the Boston Red Sox. But if my identity is wrapped up in either one of those things more so than in Jesus Christ, I have seriously missed the mark!! I must have my priorities straight. So I have to minimize any distractions, whether human or otherwise, because I do delight in spending time alone with my heavenly Father. What do I do during those times of solitude? I pray; I read Scripture; I meditate on Scripture; I worship. “Withdrawing from the presence of all but God affords an excellent occasion for focused thinking about gospel truths and realities, to freshly apply the gospel to our souls again, and to reflect on the blessings and hopes that are ours through the gospel.”


In today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado says, “Get Over Yourself.” He writes of how a touchdown is a team effort. The person who caught the ball and ran into the end zone did not do it alone. “Get over yourself,” he says. He writes of an elementary school boy who came home excited one day to jubilantly tell his mother that he got a part in the school play. “I’ve been chosen to sit in the audience and clap and cheer.” When we get an opportunity to “clap and cheer,” do we take it? Or are we upset because we didn’t get the lead role? Does our head fit our hat size? At one point in my life, I was a worship leader. I like to think that I still am. However, right now, my role is to “clap and cheer.” And help set up on Saturday mornings. There may come a day when my God chooses to allow me to lead again. But for now, I joyfully accept my role in his service.


Father, I am grateful that I have any role at all in your service. I thank you that I am still able to “clap and cheer.” I praise you that I have been chosen and saved by grace. My God, I cannot say enough words of thanks to tell you how grateful I am that you chose to make me alive when I was dead in trespasses and sins! You made me alive and you saved me by grace. I pray that I will, in turn, be faithful to walk in the good works that you prepared for me beforehand. Not so that I can repay you! Perish the thought! I could NEVER repay you! Just so that I can be faithful to you, and to show the world what you can do in a person’s life.
I pray that, by your Spirit, I can be better at these times of solitude; better at eliminating all distractions, even those wrought by cyber-space. Help me to use the time wisely in reading your words, thinking about what you said, praying over them, and worshiping you. Let me be one that will will look upon, according to Isaiah 66; one who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at your word.

I thank you that everything went smoothly yesterday, Father. I thank you for the many who said prayers for me during yesterday’s procedures. They are very precious to me. I thank you that everything seemed to be normal, and I pray that the biopsy on the polyp will also show that.

I pray for the rest of this day, Father, that we will have an enjoyable and restful evening. And I pray for the worship celebration tomorrow morning at church. Open our ears that we may hear what you have to say to us through our pastor. I pray that you will use him in a mighty way tomorrow morning.

I pray that Stephanie will have a successful day at school Monday, and a successful week.


Whatever the Lord has given you to do, do it with all your might.

Grace and peace, friends.