In Solitude, But Not Alone

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-ninth of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,392

As expected, my work schedule is changing, pretty much immediately. It’s not a terribly drastic change, and there is only a mild down-side to it. I was asked, yesterday after noon, if I would consider switching from Fridays to Thursdays for my every-week Computer Center shift. I will be working from 11:15AM to 8:15PM every Thursday, going forward. The down-side to this is that it will be two nights a week that I basically don’t have any family time. But, I now have Fridays off, and every other week, I will have a four-day weekend! Of course, it is also true that every other week I will be working three consecutive days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

As this is beginning right away, I will be off this Friday, but will not work Thursday until next week, as I already have twenty hours scheduled for this pay period. The pay week begins on Fridays, so for the next pay week, I will be working Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday for my twenty hours. Another bonus is that I will now be off for Mama’s birthday, which is a week from this Friday!

C and I enjoyed the couples massage so much that we are scheduling one for Mother’s Day.

And today is R’s birthday. Happy birthday to R!


"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that "God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind" (Numbers 23:19)
2. for times of solitude, essential for re-energizing the spirit
3. for Biblical accounts of dreams and visions
4. that there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus
5. that nothing, not even my sin, can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see number 4 if you doubt that)

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “solitude.” To me, this is not so much a word to be used in prayer as it is a condition that is helpful to prayer. Solitude is one of the classic spiritual disciplines, going hand in hand with silence, meditation, and prayer.

I find the quote at the beginning of the reading to be interesting. “The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” (Voltaire)

The thing is, when we observe solitude, we are not truly alone. To be certain, there are no other humans around, and, hopefully, we can find a place where the outside noise is either at a minimum, or purely nature sounds. I can sit in my back yard and be in solitude, but there is a lot of noise around. Even so, I am not “alone,” because my Father is with me, via the Holy Spirit.

Here’s another thing about solitude. My wife and I have sat in canvas chairs, on the banks of the Paluxy river, in Glen Rose, and I have felt “solitude.” So, yes, I believe that solitude can be observed or practiced, even in the presence of another.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
(Mark 1:35 NIV)

At about that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God.
(Luke 6:12 MSG)

In the Luke passage, I believe solitude is implied. We see, in the life of Jesus, that He spent both time with people, and time alone with God. Both are important. As a mostly introvert (INFJ), I can recognize this, but being around a lot of people is tiresome for me, especially when I don’t know some of them. The INFJ person is energized by alone time, but also prioritizes people and emotions.

So solitude is important, not just for introverts, but for anyone who desires discipline in their lives, especially discipline regarding prayer and meditation.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.
(Psalms 104:33-34 NIV)

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
(Joshua 1:8 NIV)

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
(Psalms 77:11-12 NIV)

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
(Psalms 119:147-148 NIV)

These are also verses that go well with the concept/discipline of solitude.

I’m reading, in Spiritual Classics, an excerpt from a book by John Wesley, called The New Birth. In this excerpt, said to be from Chapter 3, he is discussing sin and condemnation. We are all familiar with the popular verse from Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 ESV)

And, when we read the Old Testament, we see all kinds of sacrifices and provisions for unintentional sin, sin that might occur either by accident, or simply out of ignorance. But for intentional sin, or flat-out disobedience, there doesn’t seem to be any provision.

I like what Wesley has to say about this. “Believers who are weak in faith may be overcome by these assaults; they may become inordinately angry or think badly of others with only a very slight concurrence of the will.” God will show us, in such cases, that we have “acted foolishly,” and convince us that we have “swerved away from the perfect law, from the mind which was in Christ.” As a result, we will feel “grieved with a godly sorrow and lovingly ashamed before God.” However, there is no need, he says to feel condemnation! “God does not charge them with folly, but has compassion, even ‘as a father has compassion on his children’ (Ps. 103:12).” We have the confidence to say,

See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
(Isaiah 12:2-3 NLT)

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

“Most of life consists of what we cannot usually see. Dreams and visions are means of seeing the reality that is inaccessible to our senses.”

Thus begins a reading by Eugene Peterson, called “On Dreams and Visions.” He goes on to describe the implements that we use to see very small things (microscopes) and things very far away (telescopes). But, he says, “we use dreams and visions to see the truth.”

For modern Christians like me, this is a difficult thing to “wrap my head around.” Sure, I’ve had dreams. But not the kind, at least as far as I know, that reveal truth. And, to my knowledge, I have had no “visions.”

Nevertheless, this world fights to “externalize us.” In other words, it wants to “diminish the rich interiors of our lives and reduce us to what we can see and pick up and buy.” Even the most well-meaning Christians fall prey to the extravagance of showy production “worship services” with flashing lights, smoke machines, and loud, boisterous music.

“We define ourselves by what we can put on a job description. God gives us dreams and visions so that we have access to the whole thing: the world for which Christ died, the whole person in whom Christ lives.”

The Bible is full of accounts of dreams and visions: Abraham, Jacob, Balaam, Solomon, Mary, and Joseph, to name a few. I have to ask, why would it be different for me, for us? I read about these remarkable events, and my life deepens and my world changes a little bit.

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

And, I come around, full-circle again, to the prayer word.


Solitude, which accompanies and enhances the discipline of meditation and contemplation, which is where we know the strength of God, His great salvation, His awesome forgiveness (and lack of condemnation), our hope, our success and prosperity (not necessarily material, mind you), and reflection on His wonderful and mighty deeds, both in our own lives and in history. And solitude, where the possibility of dreams and visions increases.

Father, I’m not worried about dreams and visions. In the same way that I’m not all that concerned that I don’t witness astonishing miracles that people in biblical times saw. I do wonder, sometimes, why we do not see those, but it does not shake my faith, any more than questioning things that I grew up believing shakes my faith, because that has happened, as well. I guess it could be said that, for me “deconstruction” is nothing new . . . I’ve been doing that since I got to college, and here I am today, with faith as strong as ever.

I praise Your marvelous and holy name that there is no condemnation for my sins, even for those of outright, blatant disobedience, because of the fact that I am in Christ Jesus. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorrow for those sins, or shame because of my failure. Those are the same thing as condemnation. I firmly believe that my sin does not separate me from You (there are some who still teach that, and I think they are wrong). But I thank You that Your Holy Spirit is there to convict me and remind me when I do fall into doing/saying/thinking things that a follower Christ should not do/say/think.

I thank You for the times of solitude that I am able to find. Sometimes, they are simply the act of sitting here, alone in my study, reading Your Word, meditating on Your truth, and praying to you. My favorite times are when I can get away from all the technology and noise and simply sit outside somewhere and observe Your creation while contemplating Your presence and Your glory. Thank You for those times and those places. I pray that we will be able to escape to one of them, soon.

I will say, though, Father, that, should You choose to bless me with dreams and/or visions, I would welcome them. I would welcome anything in my life that would draw me closer to You, both in body and in spirit.

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.

The King of Thorns

Today is Monday, January 25, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,964

It’s the last week of January.

Today, on the Church calendar, the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle is celebrated.

Yesterday was a good day. Our morning Zoom church gathering was one of the best that we have had. I’m not sure why or what happened, it just was. We read and discussed Acts chapter 28, then talked a bit about where we are going from here. No decision was made, but we are leaning heavily toward including some kind of book in our journey, possibly a devotional on Psalms.

The rest of the day was nice. C took our box of socks for the homeless over to our friend’s house, who organized this whole thing, and I walked on the treadmill while she was gone. After that, we just relaxed, doing what ever we wanted.


"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."

Today I am grateful:

  • For music and the effect it has on my soul and spirit
  • That I have a place of solitude in my own home, where I can pray and meditate and seek that “secret place” with You
  • That our present troubles are small (“footstool problems”) and won’t last long, and will produce glory that vastly outweighs them (2 Corinthians 4:18)
  • That Jesus became King of Thorns, to whom I can bring all of my brokenness
  • For the great things that You have done for us, which fill us with joy

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



The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
(Psalms 126:3 NIV)


For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
(Psalms 22:1-5 NIV)


Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
(Luke 4:38-44 NIV)


The psalmist feels forsaken at the beginning of Psalm 22, which turns out to be a foreshadowing of what Jesus would cry out while on the cross. Later in Psalm 22, there is a passage that eerily predicts the circumstances of the crucifixion.

Yet, as he continues to write, the psalmist affirms the trustworthiness of the Lord, remembering how his ancestors trusted God, and how He came through for them. This is the value of testimony. If we don’t hand down things like this, the legacy of our faith is lost.

In the Gospel passage, there are several things that draw me in. One is how Luke says that the people brought all who had “various kinds of sickness.” All.

Yesterday morning, as we finished the book of Acts, we took note of verse 9 of chapter 28. Paul had just prayed for the father of Publius, the chief official of the island of Malta, where they had shipwrecked. Publius’s father was subsequently healed.

Then verse 9.

Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.
(Acts 28:9 NLT)

All. Not some. All.

These testimonies of mass miraculous healings in the New Testament always intrigue me. And I, just as some of my other brothers and sisters in Christ, wonder why we don’t see such miracles today. We wonder what we are doing wrong? Why don’t we see God acting as He did in those days?

For now, it is something we will just have to keep wondering. And praying about. It’s not that we want to heal people, necessarily. I’ve said, repeatedly, that I don’t want power. But what I do want is to see the name of the Lord God Almighty lifted high in this land and in this world.

Another thing that stands out is the note that Jesus went out “to a solitary place.” You see this happening frequently, in the Gospels. I’m sort of in a solitary place, at the moment. I’m in my house, in the study, which is just off of the master bedroom. The door is closed. At this moment, everyone else in the house is asleep. No pets are bothering me. So I’m alone. It so happens that, this morning, I have closed all other Internet browser tabs, so I am not distracted by the next notification on Facebook or a new email.

I am alone. I am, in a sense, “isolated.” It might even be said that I am in my “secret place.” I’m not sure I have quite achieved that, yet, though. (For more on that, see yesterday’s post.)

Jesus needed that isolation for His prayer times. If the perfect Son of God needed that, how much more do we?

Father, I pray for understanding for myself and the rest of Your children. Help us to grasp the concepts taught and lived out by Jesus. Help us to mirror His good works. He said that we would do greater works than these, so make us able to do that. If it be faith, if it be holiness, whatever we need, please grant us that. I also pray for this continued need for isolation. I have longed for a way to practice that discipline, along with the disciplines of silence and simplicity. I haven’t mentioned those in a while, and need to get back into thinking about those. Thank You for this little room where I can get a little bit of that. I pray that we would grasp the importance of these things in our lives.

"God of peace and rest,
in Jesus you call us to punctuate our hard work
and committed ministry with times alone with you.
Instill in our heart the deep desire to be
still in your presence and 
seek in you everything that we need
spiritually and physically;
in Jesus' name,
(Heidelberg Catechism 118)


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

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.”
(Isaiah 58:8 NLT)

“May the bolts of your gates be of iron and bronze; may you be secure all your days.”
(Deuteronomy 33:25 NLT)

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.
(Proverbs 3:24 NLT)

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
(2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT)

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
(3 John 1:2 NLT)

Jesus, shortly before being crucified, had a crown of thorns placed on His head. More like hammered on to His head, actually. And the thorns were no lame rose-bush thorns. “Experts” believe that these thorns were two to three inches long!

But that’s beside the point, which is that, by wearing this “crown,” Jesus became the King of Thorns, the King of the Curse.

“King of the Broken, King of the Pierced and Wounded, King of the Rejected, and King of Tears. So all who have fallen can come to Him and find redemption. For the One who wears the crown has authority over these things . . . to turn sorrow into joy, death into life, and thorns into blossoms. He who wears the crown is Lord of the Fallen . . . the King of Thorns.”

“The Mission: Today, bring the thorns, the wounds, the same, the sorrows of your life to the King of Thorns, and commit them to His authority.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
(Isaiah 53:3-5 NLT)

They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!”
(Matthew 27:29 NLT)

But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
(Galatians 3:13 NLT)

Father, I thank You that Jesus became the King of Thorns, and that I can bring everything that is broken in my life to His feet. Help me to lay down my own brokenness, my fears, my insecurities, my anxieties, and everything else that falls into those and similar categories. None of these things matter. They are all insignificant in the scope of eternity. They are all “footstool” issues. Help me to focus on that which is eternal. Help me to focus on my eternal reward, and my eternal relationship with You, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Lord, may You give me, along with the rest of Your Church, the ability to deny ourselves and, in doing so, serve others. May we take seriously Your command from Scripture to consider others more important than ourselves. Give us the commitment to do justice and love mercy, and to walk humbly with You. I lift up a special prayer, this morning, for the elderly and infirmed, that You would grant them a strong feeling of Your presence in their lives. Especially those who may be alone, today. Be their Companion; may Your Spirit fill their lives with Your joy!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

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.

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.


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.


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.