Prayer is Hard

Good morning. It is Sunday, July 5, 2015.

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is bunkum. Bunkum is a noun, meaning, “insincere or foolish talk : nonsense.” The origin of this word appears to be political. “Some words in our language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents’ behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker’s district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome “speech for Buncombe.” His persistent—if insignificant—harangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.”

Today is Bikini Day. I swear it was the only choice I had! Anyway, it marks the invention of the scandalous swimwear, in 1946, by Parisian fashion designer, Louis Reard.

We had a really nice day yesterday. After I finished my morning blog, we cooked breakfast and had a nice meal around the table (that doesn’t happen much at this house, these days). After some quick showers, we took my mother up to Half-Price Books and just shopped around for a bit. I left $5 richer than I went in, which is always a good thing. After picking up some drinks at Sonic, we headed back to the house for about an hour, then went up to where our church meets for the July 4th cookout. We had a nice time hanging out with the church family, eating hot dogs and brats (the sausage, not the kids), and playing a few games. Around 7:00, we left there to get my mother packed up so we could take her back to Mineral Wells.

We had a very pleasant drive both ways, and didn’t stay long in Mineral Wells, as it was already after 8:00 when we arrived there. We were both exhausted, so we didn’t stay up a long time after we got home. Over all, I would say it was a very pleasant day, and has been a delightful weekend, so far. I do believe Rachel and Justin are supposed to come over this afternoon, so we will need to go do our grocery shopping this morning.

On this date in 1865, The Salvation Army was founded in London. In 1937, Spam was introduced by Hormel Foods. In 1947, Larry Doby signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first black player in the American League. In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right,” which would be his first single, and the BBC broadcast its first TV news bulletin. And in 1971, the 26th Amendment was certified by President Nixon, officially lowering the voting age to 18.

Today’s birthdays include Thomas Hooker (English Connecticut colonist), Mary Walcott (American accuser at the Salem witch trials), P.T. Barnum (American circus owner), Warren Oates (American actor), Shirley Knight (American actress), Robbie Robertson (Canadian musician, The Band), Michael Monarch (American musician, Steppenwolf), Huey Lewis (American singer), Goose Gossage (American baseball player), Bill Watterson (American cartoonist), Marc Cohn (American singer/songwriter), Claudia Wells (American actress), and Jason Wade (American musician, Lifehouse).

Marc Cohn was born on this date in 1959, making him 56 today. Here is a wonderful song of his, “Walking in Memphis.”


To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.

Psalm 81:1-3

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

“I can think of nothing great that is also easy,” says Tim Keller. In that case, he says, prayer must be “one of the hardest things in the world.” I am inclined to agree with him. Sure, in many ways, prayer is easy. How hard is it to say grace before a meal? But to really get into deep prayer with God, having all of our senses consumed by his presence . . . this is a truly difficult thing. I cannot say whether I have ever fully accomplished this. However, when we admit that this is a difficult thing, it can be encouraging, because we can be assured that we are not alone.

Keller quotes a book by a nineteenth century theologian, Austin Phelps. The book is called The Still Hour, and begins with a chapter called “Absence of God, in Prayer.” The author begins with Job 23:3, which says, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” Phelps is quoted as saying that, “a consciousness of the absence of God is one of the standing incidents of religious life. Even when the forms of devotion are observed conscientiously, the sense of the presence of God, as an invisible Friend, whose society is a joy, is by no means unintermittent.”

Even though we know that God is always here and never absent, I firmly believe that we would be less than honest if we said that we never experienced the feeling of God’s absence. But there are reasons for this feeling, and for the feeling of dryness in our prayer lives.

One thing we learn when we try to pray is “our spiritual emptiness.” In fact, we get quite used to being empty, to the point that we don’t truly recognize it until we begin to attempt prayer. “We don’t feel it until we begin to read what the Bible and others have said about the greatness and promise of prayer.” And while it is a crucial first step, it can be very disorienting.

What happens when our prayer lives begin to flourish? Well, we might be experiencing self-pity, or in the process of justifying anger and resentment. Then, when we begin to pray, we come face to face with the pettiness of those feelings. “All your self-justifying excuses fall to the ground in pieces.” Perhaps we come to our prayer session, feeling great anxiety. As we get into prayer, we find that we wonder what we were so worried about, maybe even laughing at ourselves, thanking God “for who he is and what he’s done. It can be that dramatic. It is the bracing clarity of a new perspective.”

Over time, the experience described in the previous paragraph can become normal. But it doesn’t start that way. At the beginning, that feeling of the absence of God, along with a feeling of desperate spiritual poverty, dominates. But we must persevere, pushing forward to that place that Packer and Nystrom call getting “through duty to delight.”

Let us not understand, though. Even when the good experiences become “normal,” there will be times of dryness and emptiness that return. But, when we persevere, “the vivid reorientation of mind, and the overall sense of God on the heart, comes more frequently and sometimes in startling ways–interspersed with times of struggle and even absence.” The pursuit will bear fruit, “because God seeks for us to worship him (John 4:23) and because prayer is so infinitely rich and wondrous.”
(pp. 24-25)

Father, how well I know that prayer is hard. So many times, I have experienced this dryness, this emptiness, sometimes right on the heals of a seemingly victorious and fruitful day of prayer. I do not believe that it is you that is inconsistent, though. I know it is me. But I also know that you will take me through periods of testing, and periods of walking through the desert, in order to make those times of closeness and fruitfulness that much more blessed. And it is the promise of those times that keeps me persevering through the struggling times. Sometimes, I know that the struggles are due to my divided heart, and for that reason, I continue to pray that you will unite my heart to fear your name. Teach me through the difficulty of prayer, knowing that “nothing great is also easy.”

I pray for this day. I lift up Christi to you, who is struggling, this morning, with pain in her legs, as well as some sickness in her stomach. I pray for relief for her. May you grant us safety and success as we go out to do our chores, in a bit. And I pray for a good visit with Rachel and Justin, this afternoon. May your presence shine down on us, whatever we find ourselves doing.

Thank you for such a wonderful times over the past couple of days. Thank you that you provide for us, so that we could do the things we do, and so that we could bring my mother to participate. I pray that all of us may get some good rest today, as we prepare for another work week, ahead.

Your grace is sufficient.

Prayer is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you different. But the joy and reward that we receive, when we struggle through the difficult times, is without comparison. Don’t give up when the dry times come; don’t give up when you don’t feel the presence of God. It may feel as though he is absent, but he is NEVER absent! Never!

Grace and peace, friends.


Good morning. It is Sunday, February 1, 2015. Welcome to the Weekend Edition! 64 days until Opening Day. 19 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Today’s Word of the Day is audible. A more standard word than we are used to, audible can be either an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, it means, “1. Perceptible to the ear; capable of being heard,” and, more obsolete, “2. Capable of hearing.” As a noun, it means, “1. A thing which may be heard,” or, in American football, “2. A substitute play called (typically by the quarterback) at the line of scrimmage which alters strategy in response to the (defensive) arrangement of the opposing team; the verbal signal initiating such a play.”

Today is Decorating with Candy Day. How delightful. I think I’ll decorate my mouth with some chocolate!

We had a somewhat challenging day, yesterday. With me not feeling well, and continuing family drama for Christi, it was not one of our better days. I’m still “under the weather,” a bit, but the chest part feels better. It’s more into my face and sinuses, now. I woke up earlier than I wanted to, because I was having trouble breathing through my nose. I took some Dayquil right off, and am breathing better, now, but still feel generally “bleah.” I’m thinking we may not do very much today. So far, I don’t know of any plans. Will we watch the Super Bowl? I have no idea. I’m mildly rooting for the Seahawks, but don’t really care that much. I do like Russell Wilson, and would like to see him repeat.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1884 that the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary (A to Ant) was published. The store of the making of the OED can be read in Simon Winchester’s book, The Professor and the Madman.

Today’s birthdays include Clark Gable (actor), Langston Hughes (writer), George Beverly Shea (Gospel singer), Boris Yeltsin (Russian President), Bob Shane (Kingston Trio), Ray Sawyer (Dr. Hook), Garrett Morris (comedian), Don Everly (Everly Brothers), Sherman Hemsley (actor), Joe Sample (jazz pianist), Terry Jones (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Rick James (musician), Mike Campbell (guitar player), Sonny Landreth (blues guitar player), Bill Mumy (actor), Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Brandon Lee (actor), Sherilyn Fenn (actress), Pauly Shore (comedian), Lisa Marie Presley (actress), Patrick Wilson (Weezer), Michael C. Hall (actor), and Rachelle LeFevre (actress).

Terry Jones is a comedian and actor who is best known for his participation in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He was born on this date in 1942, and turns 73 today. I present, for your entertainment, the infamous “Spam” sketch. Terry Jones is the “woman” behind the counter.


O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

Psalm 15:1

Today’s reading from Solid Joys is “Included in the Covenant.”

There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.

Psalm 132:17-18

The Lord makes promises to David. The question is, who will benefit from those promises? We have the one quoted above, from Psalm 132. There is also Isaiah 55:1 and 3: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. . . . Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

When we come to Jesus Christ, thirsting for him, rather than depending on “who we are or what we do,” God makes a covenant with us. This covenant is defined and secured by God’s “sure love for David.” As John Piper says, “I take that to mean that I am included in the Davidic covenant. What David gets I will get in Christ Jesus.”

What does this include? First, “a horn” will sprout for me. What in the world does that mean?? Typically, when the word “horn” is used in this way in the Bible, it signifies strength and honor. So, as a result of this covenant, the strength of the Lord will rise up and fight for me. God has also prepared a lamp for me, which will cause light to “surround me and darkness will not overcome me.” Eventually, I will receive a crown and reign with the Son of David. Revelation 3:21 says, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

“It is an astonishing thing that I will benefit from the promises made to David. God means for me to be astonished. He means for me to leave my devotions astonished at the power and authority and surety with which I am loved by God.”

That last statement gives me pause. Does that happen to me very often? Do I leave my devotions “astonished at the power and authority and surety with which I am loved by God?” Sometimes, I do. Yes. But not every day.

Father, make me astonished more often. Too often, I go through the motions of a morning devotional, get up and go to work, and it has no effect on me at all. There are days when I do reflect on what you have shown me, as I drive to work, and even beyond. But not every day. I pray that there would be more consistency with which I am astonished by your power and authority in my life and the certainty of your love for me. Cause me to be astonished, as well, at the covanental benefits that I receive as a result of my binding to Jesus Christ.

I pray for this day, that we would have a nice, restful day. I pray that my cold, or whatever it is, will move on out of my system today, that I might be fresh and alert for work tomorrow. I pray that Christi will also get some good rest today, and that our week ahead will be full of your grace and mercy, as we go out to share your Kingdom with people in our lives.

Your grace is sufficient.

When was the last time you were astonished by the certainty of God’s love for you?


Grace and peace, friends.

The Appearance of Being Good

“The preoccupation with projecting the perfect image, of being a model Christian and edifying others with our virtues, leads to self-consciousness, sticky pedestal behavior, and bondage to human respect.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, February 1, 2014. Welcome to February. The only thing I like about February is that baseball’s Spring Training starts during this month.

It seems that they are coming up with more “holidays.” I have six to choose from today! And while “Ice Cream for Breakfast Day” is certainly tempting (I know, right??), I have to go with “Take Your Child To the Library Day.” You really can’t go wrong there. The library is a world of wonder and information. I am so very grateful to my parental units for introducing me to the awesomeness that is the library, at a very young age. I still remember the creaking wood floors of the Mineral Wells Public Library, on the second floor of the City Hall building. I still remember the librarians (was one of the named Madeline?), and the smell! Oh, the smell of those old books. . .mmmmmmm. . . Anyway. If you have kids, take them to the library. FREE BOOKS, for crying out loud! FREE! BOOKS! Is there anything better??

Well, I have learned something new today. It was on this date in 1887 that Harvey Wilcox officially registered Hollywood at the Los Angeles County records office. Harvey and his wife, Daeida, moved to So-Cal from Topeka, Kansas. Harvey had gotten pretty wealthy from real estate. “They bought 160 acres of land in the Cahuenga Valley, located in the foothills to the west of the city of Los Angeles.” Now here comes the freaky part. Harvey Wilcox “envisioned the land as the perfect site for a utopian-like community for devout Christians, where they could live a highly moral life free of vices such as alcohol.” Daeida was the one who named it “Hollywood,” taking the name from a Chicago friend’s summer home in the midwest.

Talk about a failed dream. . . (Source:

Today’s birthdays include John Ford, director, 1895, Clark Gable, actor, 1901, Langston Hughes, poet, 1902, George Beverly Shea, gospel singer, 1909, Boris Yeltsin, Russian President, 1931, Bob Shane, singer (Kingston Trio), 1934, Don Everly (Everly Brothers), 1937, Ray Sawyer, aka Dr. Hook, 1937, Garrett Morris, comedian, 1937, Terry Jones, comedian (Monty Python), 1942, Rick James, funk musician, 1948, Wade Wilson, QB, 1959, Sherilyn Fenn, actress (Twin Peaks), 1965, and Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis, 1968.

Terry Jones is a member of the comedy team, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here is the “Spam” clip.


(From The Divine Hours)

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! Psalm 97:12
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Psalm 86:1-2
Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. Psalm 28:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Put the Mask Down.” Brennan Manning believes (and I agree) that Jesus calls us to “let go of the desire to appear good, to give up the appearance of being good.” What point is there in trying to appear to be “good” when Jesus, himself, told us that there is “none good but God?” “The preoccupation with projecting the perfect image, of being a model Christian and edifying others with our virtues, leads to self-consciousness, sticky pedestal behavior, and bondage to human respect.” If we could give up the act of trying to look like a saint, it would be better for everyone around us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7

Father, I pray that I have long ago given up this pointless activity of trying to look good. But should I be tempted to fall into it again, please yank me out of it. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, “good.” We say this about people, “He’s a good person,” and maybe, by human standards, he is. But by your standards, there are no good people. So let us live in that, accept our reality and revel in your grace! That’s why we need your grace so badly! Let us cease this insane act that we put on to try to impress everyone with our “goodness.” After all, you are the only one worth impressing, and we can’t impress you at all. Let us, rather, concentrate on imitating Jesus, who WAS, in fact, “good.”

I pray for this day. May our activities find a way to glorify you, even the most basic of chores. Keep us safe as we get out and about, and may the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Let our worship this evening be honoring to you as we lift up your name.

Stop trying to look good. It’s a waste of time, plus it’s annoying to everyone around you.

Grace and peace, friends.