The Love that Comforts and Provides

Today is Friday, the eighth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign within you, today!

Day 23,402

Today is a very special day. It is my mother’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mama!! I love you!

I’ve already been out and got flowers and donuts to help the celebration, and we plan to have Freebirds today, at some point, probably for dinner tonight. C also made a strawberry cake for the occasion. Yum!!

My first Thursday at the library was a good day. It was a lot busier in the Computer Center than a typical Friday, which helped the day go by faster. I had a couple of patrons that needed extensive help, and I was able, for the most part to get them what they wanted.

I literally have nothing else on my agenda for today, other than going out to pick up the Freebirds (and Sonic drinks of course) later. Oh, and watching the Texas Rangers opening game, later, this evening, as they open the season in Toronto.

In baseball news, the Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Mets, Reds, Astros, and D-backs, won their opening day games. The Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins games were both postponed and will hopefully happen today. Everyone else is scheduled to play today.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
Oh give thanks to the LORD; 
call upon his name; 
make known his deeds among the peoples! 
Sing to him, sing praises to him; 
tell of all his wondrous works! 
Glory in his holy name; 
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 
Seek the LORD and his strength; 
seek his presence continually! 
(Psalms 105:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the lifelong instruction and wisdom of godly parents
2. the comfort that God gives us in our sufferings and afflictions; comfort with which we can, in turn, comfort others
3. the love of God that results in His provision for our lives
4. the things I can learn from studying my past experiences
5. that God gave me a brain and the ability to use it

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
(Deuteronomy 10:12-22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “comfort.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days.”

We all have difficult days. Some of us have more difficult days than others, seemingly more than our fair share of them. There are some good words in 2 Corinthians about comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The word appears a few more times in 2 Corinthians, as well. God comforts us, why? Not so that we can just feel better and not be sorry for ourselves. It is so that we can, in turn, comfort others.

The Bible is very clear, throughout, that this life is not all about me, and is not for me to benefit. Yes, I do receive benefits from the Christian life. But it doesn’t stop there. I’m not like the Dead Sea, that is all receiving and no giving. Anything I receive, I should be, in some way, giving away. The phrase “pay it forward” comes to mind. We cannot pay God back. That is simply impossible. But we can “pay it forward.” We can take the comfort which God gives us in our sorrow and in our difficulties and comfort someone else who has experienced loss or is having a bad day.

“God often redeems our sufferings by equipping us and giving us opportunities to extend comfort to others. Sometimes we do that in person by sitting or crying with a struggling or heartbroken friend, but always we can pray for God’s comfort to visit them.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 
And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 
And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
They said to him, "Twelve." 
"And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" 
And they said to him, "Seven." 
And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 
(Mark 8:14-21 ESV)

When we re-read these miracles of Jesus, what is our intent? Is it just to refresh our memories? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, with Jesus and His disciples. He wants them to dwell on the two particular miracles of which He speaks. “For they had already forgotten or had failed to see their central revelation – the eternal fact of God’s love and care and compassion. They knew the number of the men each time, the number of the loaves each time, the number of the baskets of fragments they had each time taken up, but they forgot the Love that had so broken the bread that its remnants twenty times outweighed its loaves.”

Jesus warned them against the teachings of the religious leaders, teachings which would have us believe that God withholds blessings based on legalities; teachings that resemble those of today’s “religious leaders.” Finally, the disciples did understand. “He who trusts can understand; he whose mind is set at east can discover a reason.” The lesson here was that God cares for His children, and will provide for their necessities. And it is love that is the driving force of this provision.

You see, the disciples were failing to trust. Look at verse 16. They discussed among themselves the fact that they had not brought any bread. After all that they had seen Jesus do. “The miracles of Jesus were the ordinary works of His Father, wrought small and swift that we might take them in. The lesson of them was that help is always within God’s reach when His children want it.”

All too often, we, as humans, remember the loaves but forget the Father, even as, in our theology, we “forget the very Logos.”

The care the Father has for us is care for the day (see Matthew 6). “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years – in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

“The moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.”

(All above quotes from Creation in Christ, by George MacDonald, referenced in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

The Spiritual Discipline being highlighted, here, is that of study. That may sound odd, as we normally consider study to be a discipline that involves books and reading. However, Jesus has called His disciples, here, to study, dwell upon, and learn from their experience. We should do the same. It is worthwhile to look back upon our experiences and learn from them. We can learn much, both from experiences when we felt God moving in our lives, and experiences when we felt far from Him.

Here is another nugget from Eugene Peterson: “The Christian faith does not turn us into robots who are conditioned to behave in moral ways by reflex. The Christian faith does not lobotomize us so that we don’t have to think through anything. Jesus said, ‘Learn from me’ (Matthew 11:29). He intends to shape our minds, inform our intelligence, and mature our judgment so that we can understand and participate in the meaning of new life.”

The disciples were so fortunate to have that in-person experience with Him. We, on the other hand, must learn these things from a distance.

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

Father, I thank You that You have given us brains and the ability to think things through, and that You do not expect us to be pre-programed robots, conditioned to behave in certain ways. While I am expected to surrender my “rights” and walk according to the words and steps of Jesus, I still have the ability to make decisions and think about things. Those decisions are not always the right ones or, perhaps, not the best ones. But I am still me because You did not use cookie cutters to create us. If that were the case, all eight billion of us would have the same DNA, wouldn’t we?

I am grateful for Your work in my life, and that I can and should look back on my life and study it and learn from it. It is not a looking back, like Lot’s wife, where I regret that I have left some things behind. That is looking back and longing. I prefer to look back to learn, to learn from the times where I can see Your hand at work, and to learn from the times where I ignored Your hand and went my own way. It turns out that Your love and compassion for me worked through those times, even.

I am also thankful for that love and compassion that drives Your provision for Your people. We are quick to be able to quote the numbers, how many people were fed, how many loaves the little boy had, and how many baskets of food were left over. We like to memorize statistics. But we miss the point when we do that. With only a couple of fish and some loaves of bread, the miracle would have been just as powerful if fifty people were fed. The numbers are not the point. Your love, compassion, and overwhelming provision are the point. The same love that dropped manna from the sky for Your people, Israel, who were also quick to forget Your love and compassion only days after they had seen the miracle of the Red Sea parting and their enemies’ chariots drowned in the same sea.

Forgive us for being so quick to forget, and help us to remember to study; both Your written Word as well as the past events of our lives. I thank You for people like George MacDonald, Eugene Peterson, Richard J Foster, and Emilie Griffin (and others) who have written so that we can more easily remember.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Blessed in Time

Today is Monday, the twenty-first of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.
May the peace of Christ be upon you today.

Day 23,384

I missed that yesterday was the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of Spring, in which both daylight and dark were exactly equal. From this point until the Summer Solstice, which will be Tuesday, June twenty-first, the days will grow longer.

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day around here. C and Mama rested a bit, since they worked really hard on Saturday.

Today, I have a doctor appointment at 10:00, for my yearly checkup. I haven’t been since last February, because of various life circumstances, the most major being that I retired right at the end of July. I was supposed to go see them in August, but I wasn’t sure what my health insurance was going to look like, or what my weeks would look like, as I was still looking for a part-time job to supplement my SS. So here I am, in March, finally going back.

I originally had an appointment scheduled for two weeks ago, March seventh, but canceled postponed that one because a plumber was supposed to come to the house that same morning. And I got a call last week to tell me that the PA that I had scheduled with would be out today, so I’m now scheduled to see a NP (Nurse Practitioner). The downside of this appointment is that I have gained at least forty pounds since last November. Oh, well. “It is what it is,” as “they” say. Whoever “they” is.

I do plan to get back on track, though, and perhaps “facing the music” in today’s checkup will be the impetus for that.

Tomorrow, we take S to a doctor for evaluation as to her disability status for the SSA. And then, on Wednesday, it’s back to Mineral Wells to pick up Mama’s cable box and Internet modem so we can send them back to Suddenlink. C and her successfully got that service canceled yesterday. One more thing marked off the list.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
(Romans 15:7 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my health; I have some issues, but for the most part, I am quite healthy
2. for God's provision in the life of my family, and our willingness to share His generosity with others
3. for my "lucky" (or "blessed") life
4. for today, this moment, which is truly all I have
5. for the community of saints, as we share in each other's blessings and burdens, and as we care for one another

Today’s prayer word is “time.” This is a good one. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” It seems to be verifiable that she said this, but even if it wasn’t her, it’s still a good thought.

Time is relative. We are familiar with the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” A half hour with a good friend will go much faster, in your mind, than, say, a half hour with your hand on a hot stove. Ultimately, thirty minutes is thirty minutes, but perception is everything. The days and years really are not going by faster than they did when I was ten years old, but they seem to be.

Chicago famously said, “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Well, yes. Maybe. Unless it’s Daylight Saving Time, or it’s not, or we’re in a different time zone than we are used to. Greenwich Mean Time has been established as the standard, so someone knows what time it really is. It’s 1:25 PM. Unless you use military time, then it’s 1325. But for me, it’s 8:25 AM, because I’m six hours behind the standard.

In a conversation with John Ortberg about spiritual health, Dallas Willard told him that he needed to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” That is one of my favorite Willardisms. If you hurry, it means your concentration is on the time, you are watching the clock. Ironically, there are two reasons for watching the clock. One is if you are in a hurry, and you are checking constantly to see how much time you have left before you need to be somewhere or do something or finish something. The other is if you are waiting for someone or something, and they are running late. In the first case, time seems to go faster; in the second, it seems to crawl.

But, in reality, it is all going at the same, constant speed, one second at a time. Which is, by the way, how we got so old. One second at a time.

Regret looks back and worries about past decisions. But “Yesterday is gone.” Worry and anxiety fret over things that haven’t happened yet. But “Tomorrow has not yet come,” and those things may or may not even happen.

“We have only today.” We have only this moment. The only “time” that truly exists is this moment. Everything else is speculative.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
(Romans 15:7 NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

These verses speak volumes to us. The world would look vastly different if we could manage to obey them.

Eugene Peterson’s reading today, in On Living Well, is short. It is called “The Good Life.” It features a word that I often try to avoid using, but based on the footnote, can more easily accept.

“Christians launch daily into lucky lives – lives of amazing grace, surprised by joy, where they count blessings. They are not easy lives. They are not cozy lives. Christians go to work exploring and experiencing all the details of new life that Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection pour into them through the Holy Spirit. They are not explained lives, making neat or perfect sense, but they are good lives, robust with a goodness the Christians did not earn. Lucky.”

You might have guessed the word. “Lucky.” You see, I do not believe in “luck,” being defined as random chance. However, the footnote says that the context of Peterson’s word, “lucky,” comes from the Greek word, makarios, which has more of a meaning of “blessed” or “happy.” In fact, “makarios” is the very word used at the beginning of each of the Beatitudes. “Blessed.”

And indeed, my life is blessed, or, as Peterson would call it, “lucky.” it is not easy, it is not always cozy. It is seldom neat, nor does it always make sense. But it is blessed.

Father, I thank You for today, for this moment. Help me to make the most of each moment, realizing that it is really all I have, all that I can call “now.” Help me to, as Michael Card, once said, “know You in the now.” Ease my mind from worry or anxiety about the future, as it has not yet happened, and worry steals moments from today. Help me to not have regrets over the past, as it is gone, already happened, and cannot be changed, so that also steals moments from today. Help me to, rather, celebrate this day.

Thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ, all over the world. I pray for more sense of unity withing the Church, and that we would be more accepting of one another, as we experience differences in opinions of matters that may actually not be that important. Help us to realize that the one thing that truly matters is our walk with Christ and our love for You and our love for one another. Also help us to bear one another’s burdens, as well as sharing in one another’s victories.

Thank You for my blessed life, my “lucky” life. Truly I count myself blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Romans 15:5-6 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Surrounded

“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Today is Tuesday, the first of March, 2022, in the eighth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

February is finally over. For the shortest month of the year, it sure seems like it lasts a long time. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, it is my least favorite month of the year, and has been for well over thirty years. It’s not all because of the fact that we get our harshest “winter” usually during February.

As I mentioned yesterday (I think) today is “Fat Tuesday,” otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It is the traditional day where people indulge their desires before starting the long “fast” of Lent on Ash Wednesday. I haven’t thought a lot about Lent, yet, this year. Which means that I also don’t know if I’m “giving up” anything for the forty day event. I should probably give up candy.

The electrical service went well, yesterday. They arrived on time, if not a little early. It was a bit pricey, but they were very professional and got the job done. The light fixture did not have to be replaced, so we have one to return to the store. It turns out that we had a “loss neutral” (I think that’s what he said) between the panel and the light switch. He was able to locate the place and fix it without having to run any new wiring. He did have to dig into one other switch and two outlets to find it. Based on what he found, I believe it to be an issue that has existed since the house was built, and it just finally got to a point where it “broke” Saturday night. Anyway, the light works, now, and he replaced two switches and outlets, and installed the new ceiling fan in the bedroom. All of this wound up costing almost $800.

C is working from home today, which, it turns out, is good, because her stomach was bothering her a bit, last night. The A/C guy is supposed to come over today, between 12-1 to talk about options for our heating/cooling systems. I didn’t hear from him, yesterday, though.

I work this evening, from 4:15-8:15, and will be back tomorrow at 9:15, as this is my “heavy” week at the library. I may be driving to Mineral Wells on Thursday to bring Mama here for another stay. We aren’t sure about that, just yet.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

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.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that ceiling fans and light fixtures are working properly
2. for the writings of Catherine Marshall regarding a critical nature
3. that I am surrounded by You
4. that You make all things beautiful in Your time; help me to trust Your timing
5. for the upcoming season of Lent, and its help in preparing us for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday

It seems only fitting that my progression in the book, Spiritual Classics, has brought me to the section on the discipline of fasting, as we begin the month of March, and as the season of Lent begins tomorrow. The first of four chapters on fasting examines a selection from Catherine Marshall, from A Closer Walk. In this excerpt, Catherine writes about fasting from criticalness.

Right off the bat, she cites Matthew 7:1-2.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)

She speaks of getting an “assignment” from God. “For one day I was to go on a ‘fast’ from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”

Her typical objections: “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

She strongly felt the Lord telling her to obey Him without question, “an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

My first thought was to think how silent Facebook would be if all of us were able to accomplish this for even an hour.

The encounter has humor to it. For the first half of this day, Catherine speaks of feeling a void, “almost as if I had been wiped out as a person.” And, she observed, as she had lunch with her husband, mother, son, and secretary, her comments about issues discussed were not missed at all. No one seemed to notice that she wasn’t talking. They were all too busy talking, themselves. “The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.”

As the afternoon went buy, though, Catherine began to see what this was accomplishing. She had been praying for a young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. “Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it – joy.”

It turns out that her critical nature, while not fixing one single thing with which she had found fault, had stifled her own creativity “in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing.”

The word translated “judge” in most translations of Matthew 7 could easily be rendered “criticize.” “All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens.” Following are five things that Catherine summed up that God showed her through this.

  1. A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
  2. A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
  3. A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
  4. Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
  5. Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Here is the prayer that Catherine Marshall found herself praying: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

I am deeply moved by this selection, today, as a judgmental or critical nature is something I have struggled mightily with, throughout my life.

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

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, while not directly addressing the above topic of criticism, seem to lend themselves to a similar interpretation.

Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. . . . Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it.  
(1 Timothy 4:12-13,15-16 MSG)

Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane.
(Titus 2:2-8 MSG)

In the words of Eugene H. Peterson, “This is essential reading because ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership causes much damage in souls.”

The reason I compare this to Catherine Marshall’s writing on a critical nature is that this is what I’m seeing, right now, in our culture, and it is largely coming from my generation, as well as the generation or two directly behind me. Nothing but criticism, and all negative, with no positive reinforcement. In other words, all complaining with no solutions, other than ousting the current administration.

And this “ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership” is driving young people away from the church (lower-case “c”) in droves.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.”
(Psalms 75:2 NIV)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “surround.” I like this one. The quoted Scripture verse is:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
(Psalms 34:7 ESV)

“Encamps around” = “surrounds.”

The writer of today’s reading, the ubiquitous “Bob,” writes of using this word as he prays over family members each day. His grandchildren were attending a new school, fresh with new challenges. “Surround,” he prays over them as he drops them off.

“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Immediately, I am reminded by a worship song that I learned a couple years ago. “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You. . . . This is how I fight my battles.”

Our Father surrounds us every day. Whether we are aware of His presence or not, He is there. How much sweeter it is when we are aware of Him!!

Father, again, there is a lot to take in, this morning. I am moved beyond description at Ms. Marshall’s writing on the critical nature. While it may not be the particular “fast” you are calling me to this Lenten season, I believe that You have been and continue to call me away from this nature. I pray desperately that You would remove any form, any remnant of the critical nature from my heart, my soul, and my spirit, Father! I literally hate that aspect about myself. I know that it does not come from You, and that it does not in any way resemble the nature of the Savior in whose steps I am supposed to walk. So please remove it.

I praise You that You surround me. That truth brings me great comfort whenever I remember it and focus on it. I know that You always surround me, but when I know it and acknowledge it, it is so much sweeter and comforting. I thank You for Your presence, Father, and I pray for my entire family, that You would make Your presence known to them. Surround them all, Lord. “Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Grace and peace, friends.

Here

Today is Monday, the seventh of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,342

It was nice to see the temperature above freezing when I got up, this morning. I think that is the first time since mid-week, last week. And one of my weather apps shows the possibility of 70 degrees tomorrow! Judging from the ten-day forecast, I’m hoping that Wednesday-Friday of last week was our “winter.”

There’s not a whole lot on my agenda for today. I’ll be making a trip to a grocery store (hopefully just one), trying to find some bread, this morning, as C wasn’t able to get any at Albertson’s on Saturday. People are funny. We have a two-day winter “storm,” and they buy all the bread. I was actually surprised, last Wednesday evening, because C asked me to try and get some milk on the way home from my library shift (we have a Braum’s on the way home), and I was actually able to get some. In fact, that Braum’s had plenty of milk.

I don’t work today, as Monday is one of the two days that I always have off (three, I suppose, if you count Sunday, but our library is closed on Sundays).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
"Be still, and know that I am God. 
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth!" 
The LORD of hosts is with us; 
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Selah. 
(Psalms 46:10-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sunshine
2. that the Lord is always here with me, present in this moment
3. for Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God"
4. for books and the power of reading
5. for the power of prayer, when coupled with that knowledge of His presence

Changing the order a bit, this morning. If I can remember that I did this, I’m going to follow the gratitude list with the prayer word of the day. Today’s word is “here.” I like this one. That word can mean a lot of things, but, in this context, the meaning is along the lines of “present.” Of course, that word can also mean a lot of things.

Reynolds Price (American poet, dramatist, and essayist) is quoted as saying, “Be here, be now.” God is always “here.” He is always present. And He is always paying attention, which is the thing that I am taking away from this reading today. I need to also be “here,” and “present,” and paying attention to God and to the things I’m reading. This idea convicts me, today, because I am often not fully “here” during some of my devotional times. That seems to especially happen when I’m reading the daily “through the Bible” reading.

But we have all experienced conversations where either the other person or ourselves have not been fully “here.” It’s annoying, isn’t it? Imagine how God feels when we aren’t fully here when we pretend to be praying. That’s not fair, really. We are praying. But we get so easily distracted, and, as we discussed in our church gathering, yesterday morning, we are also far too easily pleased.

So, I’m continuing, this morning, after a prayer to the Holy Spirit to draw me into a place where I am fully present in this moment with the Lord.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
(Psalms 46:10 ESV)

I really like this verse in The Message:

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
(Psalms 46:10 MSG)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7 ESV)

Both of these verses involve prayer. Which is something that we have already been thinking about. One of the first steps in meaningful prayer, according to Agnes Sanford, in her book, The Healing Light, is contacting God. We set aside any worries, cares, or fears and simply “be still, and know . . .” We become “present” or “here,” in His presence! In doing this, we acknowledge that there is “a source of life outside of ourselves.”

This may sound like a no-brainer, but how often do we just start blurting out prayers without doing that? I understand that, in a life that prays “without ceasing,” as Paul tells us, we wouldn’t necessarily stop to do that step every single time we utter a prayer. Fair point. But I think that, at some point during the day, there must be some kind of moment where we center ourselves in His presence, in the “center of His holiness,” so to speak. We become “here” as He is “here.” That’s my general goal, each morning, but it doesn’t have to be in the morning. There is no specified time for this, in spite of what they tried to teach us back in the seventies. (Some people still call it a “Quiet Time.”)

It will be even more of a goal for me, going forward from this day.

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

Father, help me to be “here,” every time that I stop to pray to You. Help me to be fully present when I pause to worship You, in whatever fashion presents itself on a daily basis. That worship may involve music, or it may not. I understand that worship involves more than music; it is more than singing; it is more than praying. My life is supposed to be worship, so I pray that this happens. Let my life be a service of worship to You, a non-stop worship service. I believe this is possible.

Help me to begin each day by being still and knowing Your presence with me. I thank You that You are always here, always fully present with me. You are not distracted by the other 7.5 billion souls on this planet. This, of course, is so far beyond my comprehension that I’m not even going to try to think about it, that You could somehow hear the prayers and thoughts of that many people, and give every single one of them Your full attention. Oops. There I go thinking about it.

Father, as I pray today, help me to be fully present in the moment, thinking deeply about the person for whom I am praying, not being flippant at all. Help me to pray without judging or wondering how they could have avoided the circumstance for which I am praying. That is not my job. It is not my concern.

Help me also to know Your presence throughout the day, even in the smallest, most mundane tasks, such as washing dishes or changing the bed sheets. You are always present with me. That is a glorious thing that we have grown to take for granted.

Glory to You, Lord God of our fathers;
You are worthy of praise;
glory to You.
Glory to You for the radiance of Your holy Name;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You in the splendor of Your temple;
on the throne of Your majesty, glory to You.
Glory to You, seated between the Cherubim;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
Glory to You, beholding the depths;
in the high vault of heaven, glory to You.
Glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
we will praise You and highly exalt You for ever.
(TeDeum)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Panic

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,330

Today feels busy, but the only thing that really needs to happen is getting Maggie (cat) her rabies shot so the city of Watauga won’t penalize us. I plan to take her to the TCAP location in Hurst right after I finish my morning devotional. I’m not sure if this is going to be cost-free or not. We have a voucher from the animal shelter where we got her. I also don’t know how long it will take, because there are no appointments for vaccinations. They only do appointments for neutering. S actually plans to go with me. I asked her last night, and she said, “Yes. She’s my cat, so I’m going.” ❤

I might make a trip to a grocery store after lunch. There are some things we need, and I know that at least one of them is out of stock at Albertson’s, and one of them, we can only get from Walmart Neighborhood. Instant update. I just signed up for a thirty-day free trial for “W+,” their delivery/shipping service. After thirty days, it’s $98 a year, which provides all deliveries and shipping (for items that are not in the store) at no additional cost. So the groceries will be delivered between 2-3 this afternoon (or later, if they get behind, which I have heard they have been struggling with).

Okay. Time to get moving, because I told S I plan to leave around 10:00.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
 in the midst of your temple. 
As your name, O God,
 so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
 Your right hand is filled with righteousness. 
(Psalms 48:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the greatness of the name of the Lord, and His righteousness that fills His right hand
2. for the grace of God, and the willingness to extend that same grace to others
3. for the gifts of God, which I am called to "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1)
4. for the holiness of God, called by Eugene Peterson "a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it"
5. for the presence of God, made manifest in Creation
"It echoes on and on
The sound of heaven's song
Resting over us
The glory of our God"
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 
To Timothy, my beloved child: 
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now,
 I am sure, dwells in you as well. 
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 
(2 Timothy 1:1-8 ESV)

There is a reason that I end every day’s blog entry with “grace and peace, friends.” It’s not just a greeting or a cool way to end a letter or post. Just like the beginning, when I say things like, “May the peace of Christ be with you today,” I sincerely hope that God’s grace and peace would be with you, this day. I don’t say these things lightly, and I don’t believe that Paul did, either, when he opened up his letters like that. He wished/prayed for “grace, mercy, and peace” to be with the recipient of his letter, in this case, his protege Timothy.

I wonder what the gift was, that he is reminding Timothy to “fan into flame.” I don’t know that we are told this. But I am encouraged, here, to consider what gift I might need to do that with. What do I need to “fan into flame?” The first thing that comes to mind is the gift of music. Sadly, my gift has fallen into disuse. But it remains. Playing music is kind of like riding a bicycle. I can still do it . . . there are things that you never forget. However, the muscles and fingertips get out of shape (as do the lips, in the case of brass instruments). Technique flounders. So some “fanning” is necessary. And I have, literally, no excuse for not practicing/playing more, these days. So there’s a gift I need to fan into flame.

But what is the reason for fanning this gift into flame? Verse 7 provides that. Because we are not given a spirit of fear or timidity (which is what the word literally means), but of “power and love and self-control.” Some versions say “a sound mind,” but the word literally means “discipline” or “self-control.” And discipline is something that is needed to fan a gift into flame.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

As Eugene Peterson gets to the book of Isaiah in Symphony of Salvation, he calls the chapter “The Salvation Symphony.” Peterson calls Isaiah a poet, “a maker, making God present and that presence urgent.” He also says that Isaiah’s typical name for God in the book is “The Holy.”

But by working justice, 
GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
 By working righteousness, 
Holy God will show what "holy" is. 
(Isaiah 5:16 MSG)

To be sure, Isaiah is a mountain of work in the approximate middle of our Scriptures. Some of my favorite verses occur in this prophetic book. But I have not examined it in the light of “holy,” as Peterson suggests. “The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word holy changes in our understanding.” Says, Peterson, “Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it.”

"'Who among us can survive this firestorm? 
Who of us can get out of this purge with our lives?'" 
The answer's simple: 
Live right, 
speak the truth, 
despise exploitation, 
refuse bribes, 
reject violence, 
avoid evil amusements. 
This is how you raise your standard of living! 
A safe and stable way to live. 
A nourishing, satisfying way to live. 
(Isaiah 33:14-16 MSG)

“The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being the People of God on this planet Earth.”

"Count on it: 
Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold— real losers. 
Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed— nothing to show for their lives. 
When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them— 
Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 
That's right. Because I, your GOD, 
have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. 
I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 
(Isaiah 41:11-13 MSG)

I added the italics in that passage.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalms 19:1 ESV)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
(Psalms 29:2 ESV)

Father, this morning, I lift up a prayer to You to help me be motivated to fan my gifts into flame for You. I praise You and thank You for the gifts You have given me, and confess my lack of motivation to practice them and put them to good use. I’m not sure what opportunities will arise to do so, but You are in control of that. I simply pray for Your Spirit to move me to work them out.

I thank You for the spirit of power and love and self-control that You give us. I pray that Your Church, the Body of Christ, would exercise those things in unity, to show the world Your truth and love for us.

I also thank You for the book of Isaiah and it’s exploration of Your holiness. May we all enter into that furnace of cleansing and may everything that is not holy be burned away from us. Thank You for Your might presence in our lives, that give us the confidence to “don’t panic.” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Don't panic. 
I'm with you. 
There's no need to fear for I'm your God. 
I'll give you strength. 
I'll help you. 
I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 
(Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Was Job Patient?

Today is Saturday, the fifteenth of January, 2022, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

By the way . . . that is not just a filler that I put in here. While it may seem somewhat “automatic,” I really do wish for the peace of Christ to be with everyone who reads this.

Day 23,319 (the number of days since I was born)

Only eight days until Hamilton, if the show goes on as scheduled.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it was a lovely day at the library, yesterday. There was a flurry of activity around one point, and while I was unsuccessfully attempting to help one patron send a document to our printers from her phone (more on that in a minute), there was one person using the fax, and another waiting to use it.

The reason I was unsuccessful in helping the first patron was that she didn’t seem to know what to do on her phone, and was not patient enough to keep trying. She seemed really jittery, as well, and finally just gave up and said she would go home and do it. I don’t think there was any frustration with me, or at least I didn’t sense that.

In the meantime, the person using the fax finished, and actually helped the next person fax her documents. I thanked her profusely for this after I got done with the patron I was trying to help.

I also spent some time helping with the shelving again. I sorted several carts while sitting at my desk in the computer center, and then, from about 4:00-5:40, I shelved two carts of books in the stacks. The librarian that was on duty in the computer center was fine with me doing that. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I said it really didn’t matter, that I wanted to do whatever they needed me to do. That was the truth, too.

So today is my Saturday off, and we are planning to head to Mineral Wells in a little while to visit Mama and get me a couple cases of Crazy Water #4.

Oh, and C has been given permission to work from home over the next two weeks. As of right now, there were 827,132 new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., yesterday. That number seems to change, though, as I’m looking at two days ago, which now shows 869,783.

While I have had various allergy symptoms over the past couple of weeks, I have exhibited none of the common symptoms of any of the Covid variants.

It’s cold today. Currently 33 degrees, and the high is only projected to be 36. Tonight’s low is predicted to be just below 30, but tomorrow’s high is 57. There is little-to-no precipitation predicted. In fact, I saw something yesterday that indicated that north Texas is experiencing a drought. But that seems to be rather normal for this time of year.

Oh, I almost forgot. I got a call about my new CPAP yesterday, finally. I have an appointment Tuesday morning to pick it up. The total cost is going to be close to $1000. The good news is that all of that will go toward our deductible for the year. I won’t have to pay it all at once, either. There is an up-front charge, a couple months of “rental,” and then a final charge, after which I will own it.

And now, on to the important stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." 
(Luke 12:32-34 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that it is our Father's "good pleasure" to give us the Kingdom
2. that my treasure is in heaven
3. for the capacity God gives us to be kind to one another
4. that God has patience with us and can handle our questions of frustration
5. for the opportunity to look back on the week and assess any growth (or lack thereof)

Have you ever heard someone say something about the “patience of Job?” I have decided, over the years, that that phrase is incorrect. Job was anything but “patient.” He suffered, and he endured the suffering, true. He was faithful, never giving in to the temptations (and advice) to give up. But he was far from patient.

“Job did not take his sufferings quietly or piously. He disdained going for a second opinion to outside physicians or philosophers. Job took his stand before God, and there he protested his suffering, protested mightily.”

"All I want is an answer to one prayer, a last request to be honored: 
Let God step on me—squash me like a bug, and be done with me for good. 
I'd at least have the satisfaction of not having blasphemed the Holy God, before being pressed past the limits. 
Where's the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? 
Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I'm made of iron? 
Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don't even have any boots!"
(Job 6:8-13 MSG)

And Job’s suffering was not unlike our suffering, in this life. He suffered “in the vital areas of family, personal health, and material things.” But Job stayed faithful, having this firm conviction:

Because even if he killed me, I'd keep on hoping. 
I'd defend my innocence to the very end. 
Just wait, this is going to work out for the best—my salvation! 
(Job 13:15-16 MSG)

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
(Romans 14:19 ESV)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

Pray As You Go does a thing on Saturday that they call the “Saturday Examen.” What is examen? “A devotional exercise involving reflection on and moral evaluation of one’s thoughts and conduct, typically performed on a daily basis.” In the Catholic tradition, it is something that is done at the end of the day. I like PAYG’s idea of doing it on Saturday, at the end of the week. There is encouragement to look back on the week, reflecting on things that God has done, or, perhaps, on events that created tension or disharmony, or attitudes that could have been better. What went well? What didn’t go so well?

In the past week, I gained a fresher perspective on the purpose of God’s Word in my life; that it is not so much a moral code to try to live by, but stories told, with an invitation for me to live in them. It is God’s story, and I am invited to see my own story in the context of His story (and no, I am not trying to be clever with the word “history”). One of the keys in this is to never be satisfied with where I am, to never stop learning.

The idea of the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men was reinforced, something we all need to be reminded of, occasionally. I was also reminded that the people God used in the Bible were pretty ordinary, for the most part, and not always the most exemplary of characters.

The concept of doing good things for people that don’t like us was also reinforced, another thing that we need to be constantly reminded of.

One of the things that I need to do better at, going forward, is listening for the “voice” of God. Whether that be an audible voice, or the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, I need to be attuned to what He is saying to me. And I need to be aware of the fact that Jesus is willing to do good things for us, as He was willing to touch the leper and heal him.

Father, as this week draws to a close, I am thankful for the things You have taught me. I am always glad to have a reminder of Your sovereignty in this world, because the world constantly tries to make me think otherwise. The world loves chaos, and seems to thrive on that. But I know that You are in control of all things. I am grateful for the reminder of Job’s persistence before You. I’m not concerned at all with whether Job was a real person or not. The story has value, either way. It shows us that, while You are sovereign, You can take questioning. We cannot offend You or hurt Your feelings. And You will, eventually, answer.

I thank You for the many stories that have been presented to us in Your Word, stories into which we can enter and live. I thank You for imagination, that allows me to consider my own place in Your story by considering how I would have reacted in any of those Bible stories. And I thank You for the prayers of various people recorded in Your Word, that can give me inspiration for my own prayers.

Help me to be a better listener, next week. Let me focus on improving that skill. Increase my faith in You, as well, believing that You are always ready and willing to do “good things” for me. All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.

His Love Endures Forever

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the twentieth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,263

Five days until Thanksgiving.

Of course, we will be having a sort of “Thanksgiving” today, with R & J, up here in Indy.

This is our last full day in Indy, as we must fly home tomorrow. Our flight tomorrow leaves at around 2:20 PM, I think.

Yesterday was a great day, as well. Even with it being interrupted by having to exchange our rental car.

We had a great breakfast at Lincoln Square, in the Irvington community of Indy. The food was delicious. The coffee was only okay. But the food was amazing. I’m going to lobby for having breakfast there again, tomorrow, before we head back to the airport.

After breakfast, we walked around the area for a bit, and wound up looking at a couple of shops. Both were just an assortment of stuff, gift shops, I suppose. S found a journal that she wanted in the first one. The second one was much more “local,” and had a lot of neat stuff in it. We found a nice gift for Mama in there, and I bought a little rock. Yes, a rock. I like having a small stone in my pocket. The last one I had, which I found up in Broken Bow, OK, fell on the floor at my last job, and broke in half. This one is a small Lapis Lazuli stone.

Stones such as this are said to have special properties or “powers.” I don’t know about that, but Lapis is supposed to increase creativity, so I figured, why not, right? Plus they are pretty. It’s also supposed to connect me with “cosmic wisdom,” whatever that is.

After that, we ventured back through the back part of that store, where we found a charming little book/record store. It’s a good thing we are flying on this trip, not driving. I probably would have wound up with at least a handful of used records.

The exchange of the rental car was relatively painless. We were helped by a couple of very friendly folks, though, who made it good for us. I wish I had gotten their names. I will say that we rented from Dollar, and were helped at a counter where Dollar, Thrifty, and Hertz were all represented. We even got an upgrade for our inconvenience. We are now driving a Toyota Highlander, a full-size SUV. And it has more of the features that my personal car has, including push-button start and automatic headlights. Plus, it seats seven, so we can pick up R & J, this morning, and all fit comfortably.

Our meetup with our old friends, Mike and Kay, went great, last night! We met at Edwards’ Drive-In, and had a nice dinner. I had the grilled pork tenderloin, because I hear that you must have one of those when you visit Indy. It was okay, and the fries were okay. C said her burger was good, but felt like her quarter pounder at Mickey D’s was better. I had some of their chili which, not surprisingly, had spaghetti on the bottom. Yes, they do that up in these parts. The best part, for me, was the root beer in the frosty mug. Yum. Actually, the best part was catching up with people we haven’t seen in thirty-plus years. It was wonderful to see them, and didn’t seem awkward at all.

Today, we are returning to Yats for lunch. We will be picking up R & J and heading over there at noon, when they open for lunch. Incidentally, Mike and Kay both agreed that that was an excellent choice. I plan to have the Chili Cheese Etouffee again, along with, hopefully, the Chipotle Alexio, which they were out of Wednesday night.

Not sure what is happening after that. There is talk of a Children’s Museum in the area that is nice and fun. Then, for dinner, we plan to have City BBQ deliver food to R’s house. That’s what we are calling “Thanksgiving.” I’m not sure what we will order, but I’m thinking the thing they call “The Motherload” would be sufficient. Another option might be several of the City Samplers, which include four meats and a couple of sides. The Motherload has pretty much all the meats and six sides, and some bread. But we will decide all that later.

It has been a wonderful time, and I will be leaving Indianapolis with some good feelings about my first visit, and no hesitations about returning, as we will, no doubt do, probably at least once a year.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God,
and I will praise him,
my father’s God,
and I will exalt him.
(Exodus 15:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You are my God, the God of my father and mother, and of my ancestors, and that You have placed it in my heart to praise You
2. for the privilege and responsibility of prayer; may I be faithful in that
3. for Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life
4. that Your love endures forever
5. that it has pleased You to bless my household

to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
(Ephesians 1:6 ESV)

And whatever you do,
in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:17 ESV)

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-SIX – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

Your righteousness also, God,
reaches to the heavens;
you have done great things.
God, who is like you?
(Psalms 71:19 WEB)

As I pause during this quiet moment, I consider the truth that there is no one like You, God. No one, nothing, You are completely and utterly unique; You are “Other.” I am, at my most base essence, completely unworthy and unable to interact with You. I give You thanks for the gift of Jesus, which makes me worthy and able.

BIBLE SONG

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
(Psalms 136:1-4 NIV)

He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.
(Psalms 136:23-26 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I linger over those, repeating them, and I pray my thoughts and meditations to the Father, enjoying his presence in this place.

There is an evident theme to the antiphonal Psalm 136. At least it appears to be of an antiphonal nature, what we called “responsive readings” when I was a child, growing up in a Southern Baptist church. I always liked when we did those readings, and still feel like they weren’t often enough.

In this one, the theme, the repeated line, is “His love endures forever.” Is it strange that we need to be so constantly reminded of this truth? But here, we have it repeated twenty-six times (if you read the entire psalm).

His love endures forever.

This truth is further established by the covenant made between the Lord and His people. We see a bit of this in Jeremiah. The Lord establishes a “new covenant” with the people of Israel. “I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about GOD. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” (vv. 33-34, The Message)

His love endures foverer.

Just like the most-often-repeated “command” in Scripture, which is a variety of “do not fear,” we see this truth repeated often, as well. The more something is repeated, the more important it is, the more sure it is.

His love endures forever. We cannot escape His love; we cannot lose His love; we cannot increase or decrease His love. It is steadfast, it is sure; it endures forever.

Father, I cannot adequately express my gratitude for Your love. Beyond the fact that it endures forever, it is strong and powerful. I cannot even begin to comprehend it. As the psalmist said in Psalm 139, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain it. Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness stretches to the skies, Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, and Your justice rolls like the ocean’s tide. As Third Day, sang, “I will lift my voice to worship You, my King.” I will celebrate Your love, that endures forever, and nothing can take this away from me. I praise You that there is nothing that I can do to either increase or decrease Your love for me, and I most certainly cannot lose this love. May it rain down on me today, and may it permeate everything I do today.

I pray, Lord, that Your Church would experience unity and holiness, and that this enduring-forever love would flow between us all, shutting out all competing entities.

"Covenanting God,
You are my God and I belong to You,
bound to You through the grace of Jesus.
Set me free in Jesus Christ to live in grateful obedience,
not from threat of punishment or persistent nagging but because Your will is imprinted on my heart.
Lord,
You have my heart;
I am Yours because You have given Yourself to me.
Amen."

BLESSING

Now therefore let it please you to bless the house of your servant,
that it may continue forever before you;
for you, Lord Yahweh,
have spoken it.
Let the house of your servant be blessed forever with your blessing.”
(2 Samuel 7:29 WEB)

Father, during these days, I am torn between remaining ignorant of current events, and struggling to be aware of them and dealing with the vitriol that is spewed from both sides of every issue. Give me wisdom, as I navigate these times, and help me above all, to show love to all, as much as is possible, and as much as it is up to me.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

What Makes A Swear?

Today is Monday, the twenty-third of August, 2021.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,174

Fourteen days until Labor Day.

I’ve already written about our weekend, and the day we had yesterday, so there’s not much personal stuff to write, today. This is one of my days off, this week, so I’ll be taking care of some household chores, and basically just hanging out. I work tomorrow from 11:15-8:15 and Wednesday, from 1-5. Then I will be off until next Monday, when I will work the 9:15-6:15 shift. And while it seems that I might be getting shorted hours this week, I’m not really. Hurst’s pay week goes from Friday-Thursday. So last Saturday’s hours are actually on this week’s pay schedule, which will give me exactly twenty hours. The, next week, I have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on that week’s schedule, and will also work that Saturday, which will be on the following week. Confused, yet? I was, too, at first, but I get it, now.

Today is Cuban Sandwich Day. To my knowledge, I have never had one of those. In face, I only know of one place with ten miles of my house where I could get one. I hear they are really good, though.

The word for today is prelapsarian. I swear I’m not making this up. I have always known this as a theological word, having to do with something that happened before the Genesis fall of man. The definition for today, though, is “characteristic of or pertaining to any innocent or carefree period.”

Today’s quote is from Epictus: “People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

And now for today’s birthdays.

1754 Louis XVI, King of France (1774-93) eventually guillotined, born in Versailles, Yvelines, France (d. 1793)

1869 Edgar Lee Masters, American poet and novelist (Spoon River Anthology), born in Garnett, Kansas (d. 1950)
1900 Ernst Krenek, Austrian-American composer (Johnny Spielt Auf), born in Vienna, Austria (d. 1991)
1900 Malvina Reynolds, American folk singer and songwriter (Morningtown Ride, Little Boxes), born in San Francisco, California (d. 1978)
1912 Gene Kelly, American actor (An American in Paris; On The Town) and dancer (Singin' in the Rain), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (d. 1996)

1917 Tex Williams, American country-western singer, born in Ramsey, Illinois (d. 1985)
1922 Jean Darling, American child actress (Our Gang), born in Santa Monica, California (d. 2015)
1929 Vera Miles, American actress (Lila Crane-Psycho, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), born in Boise City, Oklahoma

1931 Barbara Eden, American actress (Dream of Jeannie), born in Tucson, Arizona

1932 Mark Russell, American political satirist and pianist (Real People), born in Buffalo, New York
1934 Christian "Sonny" Jurgensen, American NFL quarterback (Wash Redskins) and sportscaster, born in Wilmington, North Carolina
1936 Rudy Lewis, American pop vocalist (The Drifters - "Up On The Roof"; "On Broadway), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 1964)
1936 Henry Lee Lucas, American drifter and serial killer, born in Blacksburg, Virginia (d. 2001)
1938 Roger Greenaway, English composer and record producer (I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing), born in Fishponds, England
1940 Richard Sanders, American actor (Les Nessman -WKRP), born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
1940 Tony Bill, American actor (What Really Happened to the Class of '65), born in San Diego, California
1943 Bobby Diamond, American actor (Duncan Gillis-Dobie Gillis), born in Los Angeles, California
1945 Rayfield Wright, American football player, born in Griffin, Georgia
1946 Keith Moon, British rock drummer (The Who - "Bell Boy"), born in London, England (d. 1978)

1949 Rick Springfield [Springthorpe], Australian singer ("Speak to the Sky"; "Jessie's Girl") and actor (General Hospital), born in Balmain, New South Wales
1949 Shelley Long, American actress (Diane in Cheers, Money Pit), born in Fort Wayne, Indiana
1951 Jimi Jamison, American rock singer (Survivor - "High On You"), born in Durant, Mississippi (d. 2014)
1958 Julio Franco, oldest regular position player in MLB history, born in Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic
1961 Dean DeLeo, American guitarist (Stone Temple Pilots), born in Montclair, New Jersey
1970 River Phoenix, American actor (Little Nikta, Stand By Me), born in Madras, Oregon (d. 1993)

1970 Jay Mohr, American actor and comedian, born in Verona, New Jersey
1971 Gretchen Whitmer, American politician, Governor of Michigan (2019-), born in Lansing, Michigan
1974 Christian Beranek, American graphic novelist and actor, born in Council Bluffs, Iowa
1975 Eliza Carthy, English singer and fiddler, born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
1977 Nicole Bobeck, American figure skater (US Champ 1995), born in Chicago, Illinois
Malvina Reynolds 1900-1978
Tex Williams 1917-1985
Keith Moon 1946-1978

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

The LORD, the Mighty One, is God, and he has spoken; he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where it sets.
From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance. Our God approaches, and he is not silent.
Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him.
(Psalms 50:1-3 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your perfect beauty, as You shine forth from Your holy city
2. for Your justice, and the hope that it will prevail over all the earth
3. for Your many Names, and what they mean in our lives
4. for Your forgiveness when we misuse Your Name (or take it in vain)
5. for the number of years that You give us, no matter how long or short

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FOURTEEN – DAY TWO

INVITATION

Your name, O LORD, endures forever; your fame, O LORD, is known to every generation.
(Psalms 135:13 NLT)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to shut out distractions and focus on the presence of the Lord, this morning. Holy Spirit, guide me.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
(Psalms 53:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

And God spoke all these words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
(Exodus 20:1-7 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I linger over these passages, I rest in the presence of the Lord, looking for words or phrases that speak to me; thoughts that I can pray back to God.

While the opening line of Psalm 53 might cause some folks to cheer, and feel that it legitimizes their usage of the word “fool” to describe, say, an atheist, I would encourage them to continue reading.

The psalm pretty much leaves all of us in a bad spot. “Everyone has turned away,” it says. “all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good.”

And there it is. Even those of us who have always believed in the Lord, have not true “good” that we can credit to our account. The only good we have is that which has been imputed to us by the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. And, our Savior cautioned us about calling people fools.

So even though King David used the word in this psalm, I daresay we should be careful about being quick to do so, ourselves.

In the Exodus passage, We get the first three of the Ten Commandments, which have to do with our thinking about God, Himself. First, we are to have no other gods before Him. Second, we are to make no image of anything that exists, with the intent of worshiping said image. The KJB rendered this “graven image,” which indicated something carved out of wood or stone. I have seen indications, in the past, that when photography was first introduced, some folks might have rejected it, based on the second command. I do not know if this was actually a thing or not, but it seems possible.

This command does not forbid paintings, photographs, or carvings, such as statues. The context is important. It forbids the intent of bowing down to said carvings or paintings. It forbids having an idol that serves as a “god,” and hearkens back to the first command.

Essentially, the first command covers anything kind of idol, whether it be material, physical, or otherwise. The second command narrows it down a bit, telling us that we should not carve out a “god,” or, perhaps, create one from melted down gold, such as the calf that Aaron created for the people when they got rowdy while Moses was up on the mountain.

The third command is often misunderstood to prohibit a certain combination of swear words. Again, that is not necessarily the intent, although I do not condone or encourage the use of said swears. It goes much deeper than this. I like the NIV translation that tells us not to misuse the name of the Lord. Most of us have heard someone use the name of Jesus as a swear. That would definitely fall into the prohibited category.

But what about “Geez?” Or, perhaps, “Sheesh?” Or even, “Jiminy Cricket?” Or even “OMG!” And let me just throw out there that “Oh, my gosh” isn’t really any better, is it?

I have had conversations with people about swears, before. We all know there are certain words that are considered to be swears. Don’t worry, I’m not going to use them, here. But, we are too much into the “letter of the law” and not enough into the “spirit of the law.” What I mean by that is that “shoot” is just as bad as the word it is intended to replace, when it is used in certain situations.

For example, if you miss your turn while driving. “Oh, shoot,” you might say. Or, you might even say, “fudge!” I tend to say “crap” a lot. What if was say, “Gosh darn it?”

I think my point has been made.

There was this thing Jesus said, once. And before I quote that, let me be open and transparent and say that can, and have been known to, swear with the best of them. But Jesus said this:

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
(Matthew 5:37 NIV)

Granted, the context is in a discussion about a different kind of swearing, that of swearing oaths. But I believe that the principle can hold here, as well.

May we all do a better job of holding our tongues, and not misusing the names of our God and Savior.

Father, I am grateful to You for Your many Names and what they mean to us. I am also grateful that You are quick to forgive and slow to anger, because I must confess that my tongue is quick to swear, sometimes. It’s not always a “bad” swear, based on popular opinion, but a swear is a swear, right? It is the intent behind the word, not the word, itself, that makes it a swear. So give us grace and help us to control our temper, and help us to make our yes yes and our no no and not feel the need to speak further.

Help us to live freely within principles of Your law. Help us to show a better regard for the care of creation. And I pray specifically for those who are involved in caring for our world.

"Liberating God,
your commandments are well placed -
not before you rescue your people,
so they mistake them as a condition for your mercy,
but only after you save.
That helps me get my obedience straight;
not grudging servitude but a free life I offer in worship to you.
Amen."

BLESSING

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT)

Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
(Psalms 90:10-12 NLT)

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Deep and Wide

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-second of June, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,112

Twelve days until July 4th

I actually don’t have anything to write about, this morning, that I can think of. Nothing memorable from yesterday. I could whine about the stress level at work, but I’m choosing not to.

I will say one thing about some thoughts that I have had, recently, regarding Jesus and politics. I need to do some studying and research before I come to any conclusions, but it seems to me that Jesus had very little involvement in politics. At one point, He said, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and render unto God what belongs to God.” And when He was asked if His disciples should pay taxes, He simply asked whose picture was on the money. That’s pretty much it.

As I said, I need to do more study and research to follow up on this, but it could be some interesting study. The only reason I’m even having these thoughts is because of my intense frustration with my brothers and sisters in Christ who seem obsessed with things political. I’m pretty sure I’m going to discover that Jesus couldn’t care less about politics.

But that’s a topic for another day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.
(Psalms 32:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You truly are my hiding place; may I run to You when I feel threatened during the day.
2. that, if I only pay attention, I can hear Your songs of victory that surround me! (Zephaniah 3:17)
3. for the hope of understanding the width, depth, height, and length of the love of Christ, and to know that which surpasses knowledge.
4. that nothing can separate us from this love.
5. that I don't need to worry if I'm "good enough." You have already made that determination! Help me to trust You!

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK 5 – DAY 3

INVITATION

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
(2 Samuel 22:29-30 NIV)

I pause, briefly, quietly, resting in Your presence, meditating on the fact that You are my hiding place, and that You light the way of my path, so that my feet know which way to go.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of David.

LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
(Psalms 143:1-2 NIV)

Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
(Psalms 143:7 NIV)

For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
(Psalms 143:11-12 NIV)

BIBLE READING

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in Your presence, I read these passages, asking Your Holy Spirit to guide me in prayer and meditation. I am laying the foundation for my day, at this moment.

There are things in my life that would lead me to cry for mercy. Spiritual things, physical things, mental things, things involving work, things involving family. You know what these things are, Father. I don’t need to air them out in this forum.

If the Lord were to hide His face from us, we would dissolve into nothingness. No one is truly righteous before Him, outside of the righteousness of Christ, which is added to our lives because of His work.

Do we consider our motivation when we ask for things from the Lord? In verse 11, the psalmist asks out of a desire to make the name of the Lord famous. “For your name’s sake, O Lord,” he prays. We pray, often times, out of selfish desires. And saying certain words in those prayers doesn’t help. Do we think for a moment that we can “trick” God by tacking on, “in Jesus’s name, amen” at the end of a prayer?

As it says in other places in Scripture, do not be deceived, God is not mocked.

Be honest and forthright in prayer. Let your motivation be pure. If it is selfish, it is selfish, and that’s fine. Don’t try to hide that. Sometimes, I pray out of selfishness, and sometimes I pray with a heart’s desire to see God’s name glorified. Both prayers are fine. Really. What’s not fine is trying to hide that selfishness with “magic words.” You might as well say “abracadabra” in your prayer.

Speaking of prayer, that prayer in our Ephesians passage today is one of the most wonderful and marvelous and powerful prayers in Scripture. While it may not be more so than Jesus’s model prayer (the one we call The Lord’s Prayer), it ranks right up there among my favorite Bible prayers. I have prayed this for people before.

My favorite part begins in verse 13 (I’m not sure why we have a verse division in the middle of a sentence when a new sentence starts in the same verse).

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV)

I remember the old Sunday School song, “Deep and wide.” “There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.” That fountain is God’s love. Paul writes these words, praying that we, along with all the other saints, would grasp the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. And then he says something spectacular. He prays that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

How can you even do that?

Can you know something that you can’t know??

I don’t know. But I sure want to try.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, its width, length, height, and depth, and that love surpasses all knowledge. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.

But I will still attempt to know it, and to attain it.

Father, I love You, and I love Your love for me. Help me, along with all of Your saints, to know this love that surpasses knowledge, and to comprehend, to grasp, to “grok” the width, the length, the height, and the depth of this love. Help me to know something that cannot be known. And if I can’t know it on this side of the veil, get me as close as I can possibly be.

Father in heaven,
make my life a Christ-home,
fully furnished with his grace,
beauty,
and strength.
Today I guard in my heart the gospel declaration that I am approved and accepted in Christ.
In faith,
I claim for myself the righteousness of Jesus and apply all his power and riches,
the fullness of God in me.
Fill me with your love.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 22)

BLESSING

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV)

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
(Exodus 3:11 NLT)

“O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” The LORD replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
(Jeremiah 1:6-8 NLT)

O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right.
(Psalms 31:1 NLT)

“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
(John 15:16 NLT)

Are you worried about whether you’re “good enough?” You are. And let God decide that!

Father, I have struggled with thoughts of whether I am good enough for You and Your work. Help me to trust You, for You have already decided that, yes, I am good enough. In You, I am more than adequate for the work that You have prepared for me. All glory to You, Father! For Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me in the paths that I should follow!

Lord, this morning, I pray to be able to work out the calling to serve and follow You into the workplace and community. I pray for the well-being of my community. Help me to make it a better place to live. I pray specifically, this morning, for all people who struggle to maintain commitments in their lives.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Unsnatchable

Today is Wednesday (Hump Day), the twenty-eighth of April, 2021, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,057

Eleven days until Mother’s Day.

The last components that we need (as far as we know) to get the pool going again were delivered yesterday. We got three “jandy valves” early in the day, and the new heater was delivered last night, shortly before 8:00 PM. Now we just need to wait on the availability of the repairman. And to see if there’s anything else broken either between the equipment and the pool, or around the structure of the pool, itself.

Also, it is hard to believe that April is almost over.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.
(Psalms 75:1 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • this mid-week time of reflection and prayer
  • the assurance that You are always with me
  • that there is no one like You; You are unique
  • that my eternal destiny is secure, resting only in Your hands, not in the hands of any human, including myself
  • that my eyes are, more and more, fixed, not on this world, this “bridal chamber,” but on Home

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

EASTER – DAY 25

INVITATION

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:14 NIV)

I pause in quiet reflection, pondering the nearness of the Lord, and meditating on His wondrous deeds. I work on shoving aside the troubles of the day.

BIBLE SONG

A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
(Psalms 89:1-2 NIV)

The heavens praise your wonders, LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
(Psalms 89:5-8 NIV)

Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies, LORD, have mocked, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.
(Psalms 89:49-52 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:24-30 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I dwell in the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, repeating some of the words and phrases, maybe even out loud, inviting the Holy Spirit to move my heart and soul.

I feel that I can echo the psalmist’s sentiment in the first two verses of Psalm 89. I am confident in and will proclaim the great love of the Lord forever. Like a psalmist, I frequently sing of His great love, and have even written a few songs, during my life.

The question, “Who is like you?” is, of course, rhetorical. There is no one like You, O God Almighty! And who, exactly, are these “holy ones” of whom the psalmist speaks? I’ve often wondered this. There are other passages where they are referred to as “gods” (little “g”). Someday, we will find out who this is talking about.

The passage from John is a strong one. This passage is a bastion of the concept/doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Baptists tend to call it “once saved always saved.” Jesus declares, here, that He gives His sheep eternal life, “and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” No one. My salvation is secure, and not even I can decide that I don’t want it any more. I cannot snatch myself out of God’s hand. I am secure.

There are a lot of “yeah, but what ifs” out there, and I believe they are all answered by one little passage in one of John’s lesser epistles.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
(1 John 2:19 ESV)

So, my dear brothers and sisters, if it appears that anyone has “lost” their salvation, they either never had it to begin with, or they have simply stepped off of the path, and we can be assured that they will be back. The bottom line is that my salvation is not in the hands of any human being, including myself.

Father, I praise You that my eternal destiny was never, and never will be, in the hands of a human being. My salvation belongs to You and You alone, and in Christ I am secure. Hallelujah! Who is like You, O Lord? The answer to that question is a resounding, “No one!” You are alone (excepting of course, the Holy Trinity) in glory. You are unique. In fact, You are truly the only One who is unique. Everything else that I can see with my eyes or hear with my ears is a copy of something else. I lift up Your Holy Name, this morning, praising You for the glory that I see around me, and that I experience in Your Name every day.

Faithful Savior,
I am so grateful to your commitment to me that will never let me be snatched away from you.
I falter in my faith and feel the pull away from you by the siren call of sin and temptation.
But you keep me standing in grace,
strengthened and powerfully preserved.
Fill me with your Spirit to fight the good fight today.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 5.3)

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
(Psalms 17:3 ESV)

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.
(Proverbs 19:20-22 ESV)

Some thoughts on the preparations of a bride.

“The more she focuses on her present circumstances, on what she’ll be leaving, the less she’ll be able to focus on where she’s going. She knows that her time in her present home is now temporary and limited. It’s not for her to grow more attached to it, but less attached. It’s for her to tread lightly. Now is her time to let go, to begin to say good-bye. Everything she once knew as her home is no longer so. It has now become her bridal chamber. She must now use everything she has to prepare herself for the wedding and the life that lies ahead of her.”

You know where this is going, right?

We are the “bride of Christ.” Therefore, everything stated in that paragraph applies to us, in our current situation. This world is the place we are leaving. Our days in this place are temporary. We must be growing less attached to it. Now is our time of letting go. “You are here to become beautiful.”

This is why I long so much for Home. This world is not Home. It is temporary, and more and more, I have my eyes fixed on what will be my permanent Home.

The Mission: Live today as one preparing for the wedding. Use every moment as a chance to become more beautiful and heavenly.”

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
(Isaiah 52:1-2 ESV)

that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians 5:26-27 ESV)

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
(Revelation 21:2 ESV)

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

My Lord, my God, and my Father, I thank You that You have placed this desire for Home, this longing for my permanent, eternal dwelling, in my heart and soul. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on Home today.

Lord, I lift up, this morning, all governments, world leaders, and the needs of our world, especially naming the continent of South America and all of the countries therein. I also pray for all who are prisoners and members of the crime community. May Your Holy Spirit change hearts and lives today.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.