Inviting the Lord

Today is Sunday, the sixteenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,320

Seven days until Hamilton!

As threatened predicted, it was 27 degrees when I got up, this morning. It is already up to 30, by this writing time, and supposed to get up to 56, later this afternoon. All of that wind, yesterday, must have stirred up some serious stuff in the air, though. I’m feeling better this morning than I did last night, but C has some coughing going on. No fever, not even close, for either one of us. My eyes were itching like mad, yesterday evening, but they are better, this morning.

I’ll be going to the house church gathering, this morning, but C will stay home and probably get on Zoom. I don’t have a lot of time, though, so this may actually not get finished until this afternoon.

The football playoffs have begun. Yesterday, the Bengals beat the Raiders, and the Bills beat the Patriots. The first one, I had no opinion about, whatsoever. The second one, though, I’m glad the Bills won. I have at least one friend who is predicting that they win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking that can’t happen, though. The Bills, like the Vikings, don’t win Super Bowls. If they do, the end might be near.

Today, I’m cheering for the Cowboys (yes, the Cowboys) and the Steelers. As for the Eagles and Buccaneers, can I root for a tie? Or for both of them to lose? I can’t bring myself to cheer for either team. I also have no opinion concerning tomorrow night’s game between the Cardinals and Rams.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Trust in Him and do not fear.
The peace of God will protect your hearts. Alleluia.”

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 
And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 
and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
(John 2:1-11 ESV)

Notice the setting of this, the first recorded miracle that Jesus did. It is a wedding, a celebration. It is a social event, “the coming together of family and friends.” Who among us has not been involved in a setting such as this? It is, in fact, somewhat ordinary.

Notice the invitation. Amusingly, it may seem like more than in “invitation.” Mary seems to be almost demanding that Jesus intervene in the situation. The question is, how often do we feel this need in our world? How often do we actually invited our savior to intercede “into even the simple needs of the day?”

I find this to be an excellent question to ponder. Sure, we pray. We ask the Lord for big things, to heal people from pancreatic cancer or leukemia or Covid-19. I will say that I frequently give thanks to the Lord when I make it through a “stale” green light at an intersection. But how often do we ask for the help of our Lord for simple things, the basic needs of the day? Or, as in the case of this wedding, an even seemingly frivolous thing. They were running out of wine. The only consequence this could possibly have is that the party might be less than stellar!

Here’s another good question to ponder. “Do you take time to acknowledge the Lord’s generosity when you experience it?” As stated above, I do, sometimes give thanks for seemingly insignificant things. But I’m not terribly consistent about that. Yes, I have a gratitude list every day. But it often focuses on “big” things, “religious” things, like salvation, grace, mercy, and so on. The unfailing, steadfast love of the Lord. You know . . . things like that. Occasionally, you will see me be thankful for things like coffee and grapes.

How often do we acknowledge the basic generosity of the Lord in our lives? The Bible says that He is good to all and that He even makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)

There may be a temptation to say, “Well, that was Mary, His mother, who asked that. Of course He is going to do that for her!” My response to that is to say that I am His brother. I am an adopted brother of Jesus Christ, a sibling of the Son of God. And, He loved me enough to die for me. Why, then, would He not answer my invitation to intercede in my life and in my world?

It is always good to remember, though, that little line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

(From Pray As You Go)


Still, I know that God lives—
the One who gives me back my life— 
and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. 
And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— 
see God myself, with my very own eyes. 
Oh, how I long for that day! 
(Job 19:25-27 MSG)

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 18:19 NIV)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
(Acts 1:14 NIV)


Today I am grateful:

1. the calming effect of the purring cat who is sitting in front of me
2. my coffee
3. for modern technology that allows us to communicate and minister to one another over long distances, virtually instantly
4. for the love and care of the community of saints
5. that I have the ability to invite Jesus into any situation in my life

Father, I am so grateful for the things listed, above. I am especially grateful, this morning, for the thought that I can invited Jesus to intercede in the simplest areas of my life. If I see a need in this world, all I need do is ask Jesus to intervene. And, if it lines up with Your will, something will happen. That’s where my faith needs to line up. That’s where my confidence needs to rest.

The world is full of questions, right now, about where You are, if You exist, and why there is so much evil in the world. I don’t need to focus on those questions, because I don’t have the right answers, or at least not answers that would satisfy the people asking the questions. I need to focus on loving You, loving my neighbor as myself, and loving the saints as You have loved us. Thank You for all of Your gifts and blessings. Thank You for stretching us when we need stretching. I do believe; help my unbelief. All glory to You, through the son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

His Story

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the ninth of January, 2022, the first Sunday after Epiphany.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,313

Fourteen days until Hamilton!

There’s nothing, really, out of the ordinary to share about yesterday. Eight hours at the library, C bought groceries after giving platelets at the blood center, I cooked burgers for dinner. I got a pretty good night’s sleep, and now it’s almost 9:00, and we’re having our church gathering in person, this morning, so I need to get moving with the devotional. Church is the only thing on the agenda for today, other than our traditional lunch from Applebee’s.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Father in heaven,
who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit:
Grant that wll who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made,
and boldly confess Him as Lord and Savior;
who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God,
in glory everlasting.
Amen."
(The Collect for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer)
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
(Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the beauty of the night sky
2. for the Sun which gives light and warmth to our world
3. for the ocean with its waves and sounds
4. for music, with which I can praise God, be calmed, and be inspired
5. for the presence and protection of God in my life

Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, calls the two volume narrative we know of as First and Second Samuel, “The Millennial Midpoint,” as the events occur around the 1000 B.C., approximately a thousand years after the calling of Abraham, and approximately a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. I love the following paragraph, which, to me, is a great example of Peterson’s talent with words. He speaks of the four main characters in the books of Samuel, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David.

“These four lives become seminal for us at the moment we realize that our ego-bound experience is too small a context in which to understand and experience what it means to believe in God and follow his ways. For these are large lives–large because they live in the largeness of God. Not one of them can be accounted for in terms of cultural conditions or psychological dynamics; God is the country in which they live.”

What we get from these lives is what it means to be human. We learn that living a life, as a man or a woman, mostly has to do with God. “These four stories do not show us how we should live but how in fact we do live, authenticating the reality of our daily experience as the stuff that God uses to work out his purposes of salvation in us and in the world.”

And the really good news here? “We don’t have to fit into pre-fabricated moral or mental or religious boxes before we are admitted into the company of God–we are taken seriously just as we are and given a place in his story, for it is, after all, his story.”

These people understood this as evidenced by some of their prayers.

Hannah prayed:
For the very structures of earth are GOD's; he has laid out his operations on a firm foundation. He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! 
(1 Samuel 2:8-9 MSG)
David prayed:
GOD made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start. 
(2 Samuel 22:21 MSG)
Samuel said to Saul:
Do you think all GOD wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. 
(1 Samuel 15:22 MSG)

You see, what we have, here, is not a moral code with rules to live by. Peterson insists that that is not what the “biblical way” is. Rather, “the biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, ‘Live into this. This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.'”

“In the reading, as we submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.”

As we read, it must be prayerful, “a God-listening, God-answering reading.” And we find that it is no coincidence that the story is “framed by prayer: Hannah’s prayer at the beginning (1 Samuel 2), and David’s near the end (2 Samuel 22-23).”

Hannah prayed: 
I'm bursting with God-news! 
I'm walking on air. 
I'm laughing at my rivals. 
I'm dancing my salvation. 
(1 Samuel 2:1 MSG)

The prayer word for today is “learn.” “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” ~ Wendell Berry

We should never stop learning. As I reflect today, I will try to make note of what I learn about God, and about life.

I won’t say that I have “learned” the things presented from Peterson’s reading, above, because, truthfully, I already “learned” those things. But had I forgotten them? Perhaps. So, I was reminded of them, today.

Never stop learning.


Father, I am grateful for the truths presented by Eugene Peterson, and I do believe those things to be true. More and more, I view Your Word as exactly what Peterson presents it as, stories to be read, prayerfully, that invited me to live in them, stories that teach me how my life looks, and that teach me that my life is impossible without You. Help me to immerse myself constantly in Your story, and to know that my life is part of that story. I am both honored and humbled that You have given me a place in Your story. It’s not a major part. Not even close. And that’s okay. I don’t want “fame.” You have given me enough. Now teach me to take that “enough” and make it more than enough by giving it back to You and allowing You to spread it around through me.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD is near to all who call on him, 
to all who call on him in truth. 
(Psalms 145:18 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Change My Heart, Oh God

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the second of January, 2022, the ninth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,306

Twenty-one days until Hamilton!

It is currently 18 degrees outside, here in DFW (depending on which app I look at), and feels like 1 degree. It’s supposed to be fairly windy, today, with a high of 39. Looks like it will be well below freezing again, tomorrow morning. But there is little to no precipitation forecast over the next ten days. I suppose winter is here. It came quite quickly, considering what a warm December we had.

Yesterday was an easy day, for the most part. We didn’t do much. I cooked eggs and bacon for a late lunch, and then, while I went to get Sonic drinks, C made banana bread, because we had a bunch of over-ripe bananas. It was really good. Still is, actually, as there is a whole loaf left.

We are not having our church gathering, this morning, and will resume next Sunday. I was thinking about visiting a nearby church, this morning, but I’m thinking I may not venture out in this cold. I don’t know, yet.

Otherwise, there are, as far as I know, no plans for this day. I suppose someone will venture out for lunch from Applebee’s and drinks from Sonic. I don’t know, though . . . it’s not supposed to be above freezing until around 2:00 PM. Hahaha!

In other news, as most already are aware, we lost Betty White on New Year’s Eve. There are a few speculative posts on Facebook, ranging from “And we shall all remember that on the final day of a bleak 2021, the great Betty White gave herself to drive the darkness back and give hope to all humanity for the coming new year,” to “Should we be concerned that Betty White was just like, ‘No thanks 2022.'”

Personally, I’m leaning more toward the latter.

And then, to begin the new year, Dan Reeves, former halfback and fan favorite of the Dallas Cowboys, back in the good years of Tom Landry, passed away.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praying With Feeling, by Daryl Madden

An intimate bond
When we reveal
To a close friend
Just how we feel

But what better friend
Could there ever be
Than our Lord Jesus
Of how He loves me

To sit side by side
Rather than kneeling
In Presence of love
To pray with feelings

Lord I feel nervous
I’m hurt or I’m mad
Lord I feel grateful
I’m happy or sad

And with time to listen
I believe we will start
That we will grow
To share the same heart

I love the sentiment portrayed in this poem. Truly, we can share as much and more with Jesus as we would with a human friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

What has been is what will be,
 and what has been done is what will be done, 
and there is nothing new under the sun. 
Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? 
It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the friendship of Jesus, in which I can share anything I am feeling
2. for the comfort I get from these verses in Ecclesiastes; I know that seems weird, but there is a consistency to life that seems to lurk under the surface of things
3. for the promise of God's presence in Exodus 33:14; He will see our journey through to the end
4. for the ways that God can change me and my willingness to be changed
5. for the salvation that God has provided, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves

I’m going to start listening to Pray As You Go again, this year. I have not listened to them in a while, but since I finished the book, Seeking God’s Face, I feel the need to have something in my daily routine that keeps me connected with the liturgy of the Church. Today’s session begins with this music, from the Monks of Glenstal Abbey.

“Sing to the Lord, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

There follows a reflection on how the new year is beginning for me. “How do you begin the New Year? With intentions, hopes, commitments to a ‘better’ you?” Yes, to all the above. I spoke of my “intentions” yesterday, only I referred to them as “aspirations.” More prayer, more reading, more music, less gaming. There is, as well, I suppose, a sort of commitment towards being a “better” me. I want to be the best me that I can be, and I must rely on Christ to get me there, by way of the Holy Spirit. I hope for more wisdom in the coming year, a year of “fullness of life, toward goodness and flourishing.” And remember, yesterday’s word from Pray a Word a Day, was “goodness,” springing from Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Father, as this new year begins, realizing the truth of the verses above, from Ecclesiastes, that there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” I desire to know You more in 2022. I desire to accomplish more in this life for You, even though I don’t really know what that looks like. Give me grace for goodness and fullness of life, the kind of life that Jesus came to give us, abundant life. Help me to live up to my intentions, both spiritual and otherwise. Help me to be the best me that I can be for You.

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.


I’m still thinking on how to best incorporate Spiritual Classics, as it doesn’t have the kind of structure that I’m used to. Since there is, essentially, a reading per week, it is up to me to decide how to work that. The first week’s selection is on meditation, and the devotional work is from Thomas More (1478-1535), called “A Godly Meditation.” I’m not going to copy the entire thing, but just the parts that speak most to me.

"Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought,
To set my mind fast upon thee.
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths.

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.

To be joyful of tribulations,
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.
To bear the cross with Christ,
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand,
To make death no stranger to me,

To have continually in mind the passion that 
Christ suffered for me,
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks.

To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred."

The following Scripture reading is then offered:

This is what the LORD says:
 “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, 
who rely on human strength 
and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, 
with no hope for the future. 
They will live in the barren wilderness, 
in an uninhabited salty land. 

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD 
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, 
with roots that reach deep into the water. 
Such trees are not bothered by the heat 
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, 
and they never stop producing fruit. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, 
and desperately wicked. 
Who really knows how bad it is? 
But I, the LORD, search all hearts 
and examine secret motives. 
I give all people their due rewards,
 according to what their actions deserve.” 
(Jeremiah 17:5-10 NLT)

There are discussion and reflection questions that will be considered during the rest of this week.

Lord, as I work through this meditation in the coming week, open my heart to be completely truthful with both You and myself. May I especially work on that bit about enemies and friends. While I don’t truly have “enemies,” there are people that I need to display more love toward.


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

“The human race is in trouble.” So begins the reading concerning the book of Exodus. “We’ve been in trouble for a long time.” Peterson goes on to talk about the people who have spent their lives working to get us out of trouble. “Parents and teachers, healers and counselors, rulers and politicians, writers and pastors.”

But at the core of this work, he says, “is God.” And the word that best describes what God is doing to “get us out of the mess we are in is salvation. Salvation is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.” There is hardly a better picture of this work than what we see in the book of Exodus.

"I am GOD. 
I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I will rescue you from slavery. 
I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. 
I'll take you as my own people and I'll be God to you. 
You'll know that I am GOD, 
your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I'll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. 
I AM GOD." 
(Exodus 6:6-8 MSG)

GOD said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14 MSG)


One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
 to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 
(Psalms 27:4 NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, 
or have already arrived at my goal, 
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
Brothers and sisters, 
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 
But one thing I do:
 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s word for prayer is “change.” This could work its way into my prayers in a variety of different ways. The most common, and probably most obvious, is a prayer for God to change my heart. Immediately my thoughts were drawn to an old Maranatha (I think) song, called “Change My Heart, Oh God.” I’ve heard it recorded by a lot of different people.

Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You

You are the Potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

It’s a simple song, a simple prayer. I have also heard the second line changed to end with the word “new,” rather than “true.” Here is a fascinating clip, featuring a video of a potter creating a jar.

Another way that “change” can work its way into our lives (maybe not so much, these days, though) is in the idea of “loose change.” I don’t get very much of that any more, because I rarely pay for anything with cash. In fact, about the only reason I keep cash on hand, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop if I’m at a Sonic that doesn’t allow mobile tipping. Oddly enough, that seems to be left up to the individual Sonic store. Nevertheless, the author of today’s reading, known only as “Bob,” suggests a prayer for the “wise use of ‘loose change.'”

What about unexpected schedule changes? Don’t those annoy us or get on our nerves? There is an opportunity for prayer.

So, Father, change my heart, as the song prays. Make it both “ever true” and “ever new.” I pray that You would constantly be changing my heart so that I am more like You. And, as a piece of clay, mold me into whatever You desire me to be. You don’t need my permission, or even my acceptance. You are the Potter, and I am the clay. And the beauty of this is that, should I happen to make a “wrong turn,” somewhere along the way, You can remold me into something new. And help me to always be willing to change my thoughts and opinions, especially as new information is brought to my knowledge. Let me never get too attached to my own thoughts and opinions. Help me to set my mind and thoughts on You, through the meditations You bring me.

Father, thank You for Your great salvation, You doing for us what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. I pray for the salvation of all the world, that all would see Your beauty and majesty and begin to follow and worship You. I continue to pray for the eradication of Covid in our world. I pray for unity within our nation, but more importantly, unity within Your people. May we, as Thomas More writes, may we set our minds upon You and not “hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.” All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace, friends.

All Creation Sings

Good morning! It is Sunday, the twenty-sixth of December, 2021, the second day of Christmas.

The peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,299

Only six days until 2022!

Yesterday was a lovely day, for the most part. The one thing that was a bit of a “downer” was that S’s stomach was upset for most of the day. It’s never fun to be feeling sick on Christmas.

We had our morning gift-unwrapping via live Zoom with R & J, which was great fun. Eventually, I may run down everything I got for Christmas, but I’ll need to have everything in front of me, or have pictures of it all, which I have not done yet. C is still asleep, so I don’t want to open the study door, because it goes into the bedroom and I don’t want to bother her. I will say that the highlight of the gifts was the trombone kazoo that C found for me. There’s quite a story behind that.

The trombone kazoo

After the gifts were unwrapped, C cooked a couple of dishes, and we left some at home, because S did not go to Mineral Wells with us. Remember, her stomach was upset. And this was genuine. Sometimes, she just doesn’t want to go, but this time, she really didn’t feel well. Trust me, there was evidence.

We had a great visit with Mama in Mineral Wells. We started out with another Zoom visit with R & J, and Mama opened her present from them. I don’t remember everything that she got from them, but there were a couple of LED nightlights, which I thought were very cool and decorative. I may consider getting something like that for our home.

We decided to go ahead and have lunch before opening our other presents to each other. It was a nice lunch, more ham, corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, fudge, pecan pie, and I’m probably forgetting something.

We surprised Mama with a new 42″ Amazon Fire TV for her den. Amazon just started marketing those, this year, and I was excited to be able to get one for her. We use the Fire Stick in our TV and love it. The new Fire TV basically does the same thing, but it’s built into the TV. We also started an Amazon Prime account for her so she can have Prime Video alongside her Netflix. We successfully got her cable hooked up to the TV, so she can now watch all of her favorite things on a full-sized TV instead of having to watch Netflix on a tablet.

This morning, our house church will not be meeting. I had thought about trying to visit the Anglican church I had visited before, but I won’t be finished in time. Their service begins at 10:00 AM, and it is currently 9:43. I slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

C is off for the whole week. She will likely have to log on to work a few times, but won’t have to go to the office until next year. It’s my “light” week, meaning that I’m only scheduled to work Tuesday night and Friday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, 
and give thanks to his holy name.
 For his anger is but for a moment, 
and his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning. 
(Psalms 30:4-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful celebrations we had with our family
2. for the joy that we celebrate during this season
3. that I can cast my anxiety on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)
4. that we are a people called to peace, who can comfort one another in our afflictions
5. for the admonition and ability to let the Word of God dwell in us, richly
6. for my imperishable inheritance, waiting to be revealed to me
7. that darkness will never overcome the light

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
 who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
since as members of one body you were called to peace. 
And be thankful.
(Colossians 3:15 NIV)

There’s a progression here, that I can appreciate. First, we can cast our anxiety on the Lord. He can take it. He can hold, on His “shoulders,” the anxiety of the entire planet. He cares for us, and will gladly take our anxiety from us, if we would only surrender it. Second, we can comfort one another in our troubles (some versions say “afflictions”). Anxieties are certainly troubles. I know people who struggle with anxiety. It can most certainly be an “affliction.” We can comfort each other in these afflictions. The reason we can do so is that we have been comforted by our Father in our own afflictions, and, perhaps, surrendered our anxieties to Him. Third, we can let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts. We have been called to peace. This seems to be a thing that a lot of us struggle with comprehending. While it may be true that “peace” is not necessarily the absence of conflict, we should, in my opinion, most certainly not be involved in creating conflict.

I do like what comes next in Colossians 3, which is a wonderful chapter, in its entirety anyway. If you keep reading after verse 15, you get this:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, 
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
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 3:16-17 ESV)

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the thought behind that first line. We need to let God’s Word dwell in us, “richly.” I used to think this meant we had to do things like memorize it and study it intensely, knowing all of the ins and outs of Scripture, backwards and forwards, even learning some of the Greek and Hebrew nuances.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with knowing all of these things, I don’t believe that is what it means to allow the Word of God to dwell in us. I like the mentality that is presented in the likes of Eugene Peterson’s book, Eat This Book. This is also the idea that has been presented in the devotional book that has been the main thrust of my devotions this year, Seeking God’s Face. It’s this concept of lectio divina, or “divine reading.” This involves four stages (I don’t always manage to do all four of them). The first is simply reading this passage(s) at hand. The second is to meditate or reflect on the words that have been read. This is where I begin to catch certain words or phrases that stir within me or catch my eye. We sometimes use the phrase “jumps out at me.” During the meditation/reflection phase, we focus on those particular words or ideas.

The third stage is response. This is the piece where I pray back to God the things that He has “nudge” me with, during the reading and reflection. It is in this stage where we might also have questions to ask God about the passages that we have read.

The final stage, and, truthfully, the one that I fail to complete most often, is the contemplation stage. This is the stage where we rest in silent contemplation of the things that have been learned and/or prayed during the time. Nothing else should happen during the contemplation time. Of course, the brain will be active. It is impossible to simply shut it off. But we can direct it, and simply sit in silence, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds, regarding the things we have read. The difference between this phase and the reflection/meditation phase is that, in this phase, we are not specifically pondering a particular word or phrase or idea. We are allowing God, via the Spirit, to direct the process.

This, in my opinion, is the best way to allow the Word of God to dwell in us, richly.


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
According to his great mercy, 
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
 to an inheritance that is imperishable, 
undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 
who by God's power are being guarded through faith 
for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 
(1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

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

CHRISTMAS – DAY 2

INVITATION

A psalm of thanksgiving. 

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! 
Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
(Psalms 100:1-2 NLT)

As I pause, in quietness, this morning, I reflect on the joy of the season, and the admonition in the above Scripture, to both worship in gladness and to sing with joy.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. 

Sing to the LORD a new song, 
for he has done marvelous things;
 his right hand and his holy arm 
have worked salvation for him. 
The LORD has made his salvation known 
and revealed his righteousness to the nations. 
He has remembered his love 
and his faithfulness to Israel; 
all the ends of the earth 
have seen the salvation of our God. 
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn— 
shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, 
the world, and all who live in it. 
Let the rivers clap their hands, 
let the mountains sing together for joy; 
let them sing before the LORD, 
for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples with equity.
(Psalms 98:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
He was with God in the beginning. 
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I reflect on them, looking for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder what has connected with my heart and mind, and respond in prayer to the Lord, finally turning my thoughts to Him and resting in His presence.

Father, as I ponder these things, I know that singing “a new song” is something of which You are more than worthy! You are worthy of every song we could ever sing, new and old alike. As a song says, You are even worthy of every breath that we could ever breathe. As the Psalm says, You have made Your salvation known and revealed Your righteousness to the nations. And yet, the “nations” seem to be unable to see. Open their eyes, Father! Open their eyes, that they might see Your great salvation and Your awesome righteousness, and begin to worship You! But in the meantime, until the people do it, let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing for joy; let all creation sing!

I ponder the incomprehensible truth that Jesus was with You from the beginning, and that all things were made through Him. I do not understand this; I confess. I also confess that I don’t need to understand it. I revel in the truth; I see the glory; I feel the majesty; in Him is LIFE, the LIGHT of all mankind! Darkness will never overcome this light!

Father, as I look around me and see this creation, all of which was created through Jesus, present with You for all eternity, help me to see and savor the majesty, the wonder, the beauty, and the complexity of it all.

"Eternal, 
almighty God,
how did Your hands,
which flung galaxies into elegant orbit,
become the awkwardly uncontrolled hands of a newborn?
How does Your eternal being get inseparably woven into time-bound humanity?
While the how of Your incarnation widens my faith,
may the wonder of why You've done this for me bring deep joy today.
Amen."

BLESSING

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people."
(Luke 1:68 NLT)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

May It Be, According to Your Word

Today is Sunday, the nineteenth of December, 2021, the fourth Sunday of Advent. The theme of the fourth week of Advent is love.

Peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,292

Only six more days until Christmas!

I have several boxes to pick up at our local Amazon Hub Locker, today, and I think the last few Christmas presents should be delivered tomorrow or by Wednesday at least. There is a chance that one of our gifts might not make it before Christmas, but it’s not a huge problem.

Yesterday was a good day at the library, but it seemed a bit long and slow. It wasn’t very busy, and especially the last ninety minutes or so seemed dead. I think everyone else felt the same way, because I swear we were out the back door in less than ten minutes after the library closed.

We are actually having our church gathering in person, today. I think they met at the house last Sunday, as well, but we weren’t there. I’ve got a large grocery order scheduled to deliver from Albertson’s, this afternoon, which will (if we get everything) take care of most of what we need for the Christmas holidays. There are a few things that they did not have, and there will probably be a thing or two that wind up not getting fulfilled, so I’ll probably have to run out and grab a few items tomorrow.

I only work two days, this week, Tuesday night and Wednesday all day. I’ll be off Friday and Saturday for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That’s one of the reasons that I worked yesterday. The main reason I worked yesterday was because one of our other aides needed to have the day off, though.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Hidden Gifts of Christmas, by Daryl Madden

Listen my dear child
Soul to be aware
Gifts of Christmas coming
Are hidden everywhere

Come to look above
The same stars shining bright
That led Mary and Joseph
Through the deserts night

Wrapping every present
The Spirit here to know
The same true heart giving
Three wise men did show

The treasures of the season
Found within a prayer
Of peace and hope and love
Rejoicing and to share

Please visit Daryl’s site to see his other poetry.

Dear friends, 
since God so loved us, 
we also ought to love one another.
(1 John 4:11 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the fact that "God so loved us"
2. for the gift of the ability to love one another
3. that You are constantly doing "new things"
4. for the ability to keep "pressing on"
5. for the willingness of Mary to be a part of Your miracle

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
(Psalms 91:11 ESV)

Behold, I am doing a new thing; 
now it springs forth, 
do you not perceive it? 
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
(Isaiah 43:19 ESV)
And the angel said to them, 
"Fear not, 
for behold, I bring you 
good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
(Luke 2:10 ESV)
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 
But one thing I do: 
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 
I press on toward the goal for the prize 
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY TWENTY-TWO

INVITATION

Restore us, O God; 
make your face shine on us, 
that we may be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NIV)

I pause to consider the love of God, which enables us to love Him and love one another. I am praying, this week, especially, for more ability to display that love to everyone.

BIBLE SONG

In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.

 I trust in you; 
do not let me be put to shame,
 nor let my enemies triumph over me.
 No one who hopes in you 
will ever be put to shame, 
but shame will come on those 
who are treacherous without cause. 

Show me your ways, LORD, 
teach me your paths. 
Guide me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are God my Savior, 
and my hope is in you all day long. 
(Psalms 25:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end." 
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail." 
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her. 
(Luke 1:26-38 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that stir within me. As I linger over them, I pray these back to the Lord, seeking His guidance for my walk in His kingdom.

Father, I am grateful, today, for the ability to keep pressing on, to keep on walking in this kingdom life, the life You have given me, and the path that You have shown me. I put my trust fully in You, depending on You for safety and provision, as well as spiritual life. I believe that all who put their trust in You will be free from the fear of being shamed. Your trust is a safe place for us to be, and makes this world safe for us, as well. I have nothing to fear, just as Your Word constantly commands me to “fear not.”

Keep showing me Your paths, Lord, as I continue to look for them. Don’t let me stop seeking You.

Thank You for the willingness of Mary to be Your servant in this miracle of the coming of Jesus. May I be as accepting of Your will as she was.

Give us all Advent hope and joy, Father, and the willingness to be a channel for Your Good News.

"Visiting God,
eclipse my doubts and questions with the brightness of Your presence,
and,
like Mary,
overshadow my life with Your Holy Spirit,
conceiving in me a true faith that receives Jesus Christ,
making Him my own and me Your favored one.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
 shine on those living in darkness 
and guide our feet into the path of peace." 
(based on Luke 1:78-79 )

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.

Eyes and Ears

Today is Sunday, the fifth of December, 2021, the second Sunday of Advent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,278

Twenty days until Christmas!

C and I had a most wonderful day, yesterday, at Six Flags Over Texas. We left before dark, though, so we didn’t get the full benefit of the Holiday in the Park theme. We’re going to have to get over there one evening to walk around after the sun makes its exit.

I have to give props to Six Flags, though. They have streamlined the process of season pass activation to an art. They had staff people at the front of the entries with tablets and stacks of season pass cards, and everything (assuming you paid online and had your barcode, which we did) was handled right there. Took maybe one minute per person. Literally. At the most two minutes. It was truly amazing.

We rode the Runaway Mine Train first. And even though I have gained a few pounds back since I retired (recently, there is a good reason for that, but at first, it was, and still is, a bit baffling), I could fit comfortably in each ride that we rode. I haven’t been on most of those rides in years. I stepped out of my comfort zone and rode the Riddler’s Revenge.

It was fun. I was fine. Until about the last twenty seconds or so, then I was done . . . ready to quit. It was all good, though. The wheel turns slowly as the pendulum swings, but it changes direction twice during the ride.

The next thing was the Superman Tower of Power.

I didn’t take that video, but my experience was similar. The worst part is not knowing when you’re going to be shot up into the air, or drop down in free fall. It was great fun.

We stopped at a nearby restaurant for some delicious cheesesteak sandwiches and waffle fries. Yes. I said “delicious.” The quality of at least some of the food at Six Flags has gotten better over the years.

We wanted to make our way over to the Titan, but stopped along the way to ride the Shock Wave. Neither of us had ridden that in quite a long time. As we waited in a pretty short line, we smiled as we realized that some of these people were actually riding for the first time.

Let me tell you, those lap bars are there for a reason. On many of those “short hops,” I was a few inches off of my seat. Great fun. After the second loop, it takes at least until the next curve for my brain to realize I’m right-side up again.

From there we headed over to the Titan, stopping along the way to get a couple small bags of cinnamon roasted pecans. We were sorely disappointed, though, when we encountered this.

At that point, we decided we were good to go home. It’s been a long time since we have done that, and we were tired. In all, we got close to eleven thousand steps on our trip to Six Flags, and we plan to make it a regular thing over the course of the next year. We also bought a couple of drink cups that get us free refills all season. They were about $25 each, but it will only take four or five refills to pay for that, and the rest will be truly free.

I’m not sure what’s “on the table” for today (there is, literally, a plant on the table). I think we might finally get the Christmas ornaments on the tree. There will, no doubt, be lunch from Applebee’s. And our church will be meeting via Zoom again. There might be a trip to the grocery store, too. Other than that, it will be a day of rest. C is up, and actually feels pretty good after a good night’s sleep. She was afraid that she would be really sore.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number:
(Job 5:8-9 ESV)

May the LORD give strength to his people! 
May the LORD bless his people with peace! 
(Psalms 29:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You do great, unsearchable, and marvelous things without number
2. that You bless Your people with peace
3. that You call us to not make judgments based on what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but based on righteousness
4. that You call us to seek Your kingdom first, and to be peacemakers
5. for the call to shout for joy and play songs to You on instruments of praise

And behold, the star 
that they had seen when it rose 
went before them until it came to rest 
over the place where the child was.
(Matthew 2:9 ESV)
But seek first 
the kingdom of God and his righteousness, 
and all these things will be added to you. 
(Matthew 6:33 ESV)

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! 
Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
He loves righteousness and justice; 
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
(Psalms 33:1-5 ESV)
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 
giving thanks always and for everything 
to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
(Ephesians 5:19-20 ESV)

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

ADVENT – DAY EIGHT

INVITATION

The LORD is my light and my salvation— 
whom shall I fear? 
(Psalms 27:1 NIV)

I pause during this quiet moment to ponder the thought of peace; the peace that Christ is able to bring to a soul. But the soul must be receptive to the peace.

BIBLE SONG

In you, LORD my God,
 I put my trust. 

Good and upright is the LORD; 
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 
He guides the humble in what is right 
and teaches them his way. 
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful 
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. 
For the sake of your name, LORD, 
forgive my iniquity, though it is great. 
(Psalms 25:1, 8-11 NIV)

BIBLE READING

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; 
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— 
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might, 
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. 

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, 
or decide by what he hears with his ears; 
but with righteousness he will judge the needy, 
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. 
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; 
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 
Righteousness will be his belt 
and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 
(Isaiah 11:1-5 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read over these passages a second time, noticing how He might be speaking to my soul. I allow my heart to respond to Him in prayer and take refreshment in His presence.

Father, along with David, I can say that I do put my trust in You. It is not perfect trust, for I am not perfect. Yet it is trust. I believe I can truthfully say this because of how You have moved my heart and soul, in the past few decades.

You are, indeed, “good and upright.” As Jesus stated, You are the only being who can be described as “good.” Only You are good. For the rest of us, Isaiah nailed it when he said that all our “righteousness” might as well be filthy rags. We are sinners, and You instruct us in Your ways. You guide us (when we humble ourselves) in what is right and You teach us Your ways. And Your ways are loving and faithful toward us, if we keep Your commands.

At this point, I remind myself that Your commands are that we love You and love one another.

As Isaiah describes Jesus in chapter 11, verses 3 and 4 call out to me, as though I had never seen them before. We are told in verse 3 that the “shoot” from the “stump of Jesse” will “not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears.” Rather, “with righteousness He will judge . . .”

This is like a flash of illumination in this era of social media. Father, we are, in general, spending way too much of our time deciding and judging based on what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, rather than making judgments based on righteousness. We should be seeking Your kingdom, along with its righteousness, first and foremost. We should be seeking justice for the poor, and we should be concerned with making peace in our land, not division.

May Your people experience Advent hope, peace, and joy. May we have the courage needed to share the good news of the Gospel.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Redeemer God,
in righteousness You will judge all people.
Keep me from making eternal pronouncements on others' lives,
and help me trust that the coming day of judgment will reveal the glory of Your wide mercy and firm justice.
Keep me vigilant to work against evil and injustice,
and yet hopeful for all people,
trusting that Your justice never fails and Your mercy is fresh each day.
Amen."

BLESSING

Wait for the LORD; 
be strong and take heart 
and wait for the LORD. 
(Psalms 27:14 NIV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Hope

Good morning! Today is Sunday, the twenty-eighth of November, 2021. The first Sunday of Advent.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,271

Twenty-seven days until Christmas!

It was a rainy, chilly evening, yesterday. We still haven’t put the ornaments on our Christmas tree, yet, but we may do that tonight. That depends, to some degree, on how S feels, later today. She is a bit “under the weather” (whatever that means) because she got a flu shot AND a Covid-19 booster on Friday. I probably would not have chosen to do both of those on the same day, myself. But she had a little fever during the night last night.

It was a pretty quiet day at the library, yesterday. It was busy enough, but nowhere close to a typical Saturday. However, several other library staff folks opined that it was pretty busy for a Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Today, our church gathering will be via Zoom. I anticipate that, afterward, we will resume our traditional Sunday lunch from Applebee’s.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Two Truths of Advent, by Dayl Madden

Come listen beloved
Two truths be aware
The birth of our Lord and
His return drawing near

The first is the answer
For the second, prepare
His incarnate dwelling
Be within you here

A time of waiting
Of joy to share
Of anticipating
The Word to appear

In this Advent season
Let our way be clear
Not to the store
But one body in prayer

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my faith, which is Your gift to me
2. for the peace in my soul, this morning
3. for the joy that is in my soul, as well
4. for Your very great and precious promises, and the anticipation of their fulfillments
5. for hope, without which we no reason to live

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16:1 ESV)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

And the angel said to them,
Fear not,
for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.”
(Luke 2:10 ESV)

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Today, we begin the season of Advent. I used to think that this was solely looking forward to the celebration of the coming of Jesus, as a baby, which we, of course, celebrate on December 25 each year. But there’s more to it. We are also, in celebrating Advent, which means “coming” or “arrival,” looking forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ. At His second coming, He will “return to renew and redeem every part of fallen creation.” (Timothy and Kathy Keller)


The LORD is God,
and he has made his
light
to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
(Psalms 118:27 ESV)

But far be it from me to boast
except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.
(Galatians 6:14 ESV)


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

WEEK ONE OF ADVENT – DAY ONE – FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

INVITATION

I wait for the LORD,
my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
(Psalms 130:5 NIV)

During this quiet moment, I reflect upon the promises of God and anticipate their fulfillment. I remember, and I rejoice.

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.

I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good.
(Psalms 25:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.'”
(Jeremiah 33:14-16 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I slowly read these passages again, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I slowly repeat them, praying my thoughts, desires, needs, and feelings to the Lord, enjoying the presence of my Lord and Savior.

I see several words in Psalm 25, and most of them are related. In verses 4 and 5, I see the words “show,” “teach,” “guide,” and then “teach,” again. Those verbs all point to the words “ways,” “paths,” and “truth,” which are also related, in this context. The Lord’s ways, paths, and truth all mean, essentially, the same thing. And because of all of these, the psalmist finds that his “hope” is in the Lord, “all day long.”

My life verse, Psalm 86:11, makes a similar request of God.

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

As I meditate and ponder these verses, it occurs to me that these prayers, from Psalms, may also apply to Jesus Christ. After all, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So if I am asking God to show me His Way, or teach me His Path, and guide me in His Truth, Jesus is the answer to all of those.

And He is the “righteous Branch” of which Jeremiah speaks. He will, as stated, “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” This, I believe, leads us toward hope in the second coming.

Father, as we enter into this Advent season, may we ponder all truth as it relates to our hope in Christ, both as we remember and celebrate His coming as Your Son, and as we anticipate the fulfillment of the promises regarding His return to set everything right. I pray that our varying opinions on what that means, “setting everything right,” will be unified, eventually. For myself, I am ready for whatever it means, because it means I will be with Him for eternity. It also means that all the things about which I am wrong (because I’m sure there are many) will be made clear and plain. I echo the psalmist’s prayers, though: Show me Your ways, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth. Unite my divided heart that I might fear Your name, and increase my hope in You.

May we all experience true fellowship with our coming Savior, as well as spiritual renewal and refreshment.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Living God,
I confess the slant of my heart to hate You and my neighbor.
But that sounds so harsh -
I'm not that bad, am I God?
Yet if I am brutally honest I see that I'm in deeper than I dare admit,
unless I am born again by Your Spirit.
Fill me with the greater hope this Advent season that in Christ's love I am on my way to new life.
In the Savior's name,
amen."

BLESSING

He who testifies to these things says,
“Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus
be with God’s people. Amen.
(Revelation 22:20-21 NIV)


Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Great Disruptor

Today is Sunday, the twenty-first of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign on your hearts today.

Day 23,264

Four days until Thanksgiving in the U.S.!

We had a lovely day, yesterday. We hung out at our Airbnb until almost noon, when we went to pick up R & J to go to Yats for lunch. Lunch was delicious, just as the dinner was Wednesday night.

We debated over what to do next. We finally decided to not visit the Children’s Museum, but, instead, to go to a Christmas Market in the Carmel district. It was slightly amusing to see the difference between the areas in the city. The Carmel area reminds me of Southlake in DFW.

The Christmas market was a lot of fun, and quite charming. It seems to have been designed around a German theme, and all of the booths appeared to have German names. I took some pictures, and will post some of them here.

The entry gate
J, R, C, and S
Beautiful carved decorations
Ice rink
Alpine horns. They really played these. It was beautiful!

It was a wonderful time. We bought way too many snacks, but we also got some Christmas ornaments to take home with us.

We went back to R’s house, where we watched some stuff, discussed (but didn’t solve) the problems in the country, and then ordered way too much food from the City BBQ. We had a wonderful “Thanksgiving” meal, full of love.

This morning, we plan to meet them back at Lincoln Square at 10:00 for breakfast, and then we must head back to the airport to go home. Mixed emotions, of course. Sad to leave R & J, but it will be nice to be back home. We have been quite busy for the last four days. It’s been wonderful, though.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

When, by Daryl Madden

When light is laid
Upon the ground
When Spirit speaks
Without a sound

When gifts are blessed
Of treasure found
Of one to share
Is so profound

When God of love
Is always here
Found within
A simple prayer

When the response
Is clear to see
To simply dwell
For us to be

He alone is your God,
the only one who is worthy of your praise,
the one who has done these mighty miracles
that you have seen with your own eyes.
(Deuteronomy 10:21 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that You are my God, and that You alone are worthy of my praise
2. for a wonderful and safe trip (so far); please carry us safely home
3. for Jesus, the "disruptor"
4. that we can "be still and know" that You are God
5. that You are my fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, and refuge

And he told those who sold the pigeons,
“Take these things away;
do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
His disciples remembered that it was written,
“Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(John 2:16-17 ESV)

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way,
and the truth,
and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you had known me,
you would have known my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:6-7 ESV)

Jesus was a disruptor. He stormed onto the scene and disrupted everything for the religious leaders of His day, providing a new way to approach the Father, who had been, up until that time, largely unapproachable.

“In Himself, He presented the kind of mega-gigabyte network that even our technology-obsessed world will never see. He was eradicating the spam, clearing out the detritus, and demonstrating a new way for us to ‘do’ faith.” (Thanks to Marci Alborghetti, in Daily Guideposts 2021)

Perhaps we have all gotten a little too comfortable in our faith and need to allow Jesus to disrupt us again.


So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights.
He neither ate bread nor drank water.
And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant,
the Ten Commandments.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai,
with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain,
Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone
because he had been talking with God.
Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses,
and behold, the skin of his face shone,
and they were afraid to come near him.
But Moses called to them,
and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him,
and Moses talked with them.
(Exodus 34:28-31 ESV)

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
(Psalms 96:1-3 ESV)

“Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:5-11 ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

We find God on the mountaintops. We dwell with Him on a sort of “high,” during our devotional times. Many mornings, I have a sort of “mountaintop” experience. But the mission is down the mountain. We have to come down from the mountain.

“You have to go down the mountain. That’s where your ministry is . . . at the bottom of the mountain . . . where the cities are, and the towns, and their marketplaces, and the fields, and the rest of the world. That’s where they are, at the bottom of the mountain. So you have to go down. You have to bring down His love to the unloved. Bring down His blessings to the cursed, His riches to the poor, His presence to the godless, and His salvation to the lost.” (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY ONE – CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

INVITATION

He says,
“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 NIV)

I pause during this quiet moment, to consider and be still. Help me to know that You are God; my heart desires that You be “exalted among the nations.”

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.
(Psalms 144:1-4 NIV)

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David.
(Psalms 144:9-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
(Colossians 1:15-20 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, slowly repeating them, meditating on them. I pray my thoughts, my desires, my heart, and my life, to God, enjoying His presence.

In the psalm, I am noticing words (and this is common for me) such as fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, and refuge. God is all of these things to me. Other places in Psalms speak of running and hiding in these places.

But the truth stated by Jonathan Cahn, above, stands. I have to leave those places in order to minister. I cannot minister to those who are unloved, hungry, desolate, or poor, while hiding in the refuge or fortress that is my God. I cannot share my blessings while remaining on the mountaintop. I must come out of that fortress and come down from the mountaintop. And I do so with the confidence that my God will cover me and protect me while I do.

The Colossians passage speaks of the significance and importance of Christ. There may not be a more important passage in the New Testament, at least about this topic.

He is the image of God; all of the fullness of God dwells in Him. In Christ, “all things hold together.” And when I consider the phrase, “It’s all about Jesus,” it makes a lot more sense in the context of Colossians 1:15-20.

My life needs to be all about Jesus. As I consider this, going forward, I do not know what kinds of decisions will be made. But I must consider what Christ would have me do, in all circumstances. Not so much “WWJD,” but what would He want me to do? The consideration, the meditation, the pondering, and the praying will happen in the fortress, in the refuge, on the mountaintop. And when the direction is given, I must leave the solace of the mountaintop.

Jesus is the Great Disruptor. He does not allow our lives to remain static. When He appears, we must decide what to do with Him. He is either who He says He is, or He is a raving lunatic, or He is an outright liar. He cannot be simply “a good teacher.” He is the Son of God; He is God Incarnate; all of the fullness of God dwells within Him.

Father, I praise You for Jesus Christ, the Great Disruptor. May You be glorified in Him, throughout the earth. I pray for the knowledge of Christ to be spread through all the earth, and that all peoples will glorify Your Name. Help me to be a channel of blessing and honor for You in this world. In all I do, may You be glorified. Take me out of the refuge, out of the fortress, down from the mountain, to do Your will. Keep me from sin; purify me by Your grace and mercy. Help me to love You and love people in the way that I should.

I pray for full fellowship with Jesus Christ, King of kings. May You grant spiritual renewal and refreshment to Your people.

"King of kings and glorious Lord,
You are above all.
You rule,
and the whole universe is Your kingdom.
Have the supremacy in all things and draw more  and more to the freedom of Your reign.
Be first in my life,
now and always.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test,
that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 NIV)


Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Out of the Depths

Good morning! Today is Sunday, the fourteenth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today!

Day 23,257

Three days until we fly to Indianapolis!

We’re trying to make some plans around our trip, you know, things to do while we are up there. One thing we’re definitely going to try to do is this Cat Cafe they have, where you can drink coffee and sit with cats. We may try an escape room, and they have a zoo up there. Outdoor activities may not work, though, as it looks like it’s going to be pretty chilly. Friday morning’s low is predicted to be 25 degrees. But it’s supposed to get up to 44 that day. Sounds like good hot chocolate weather!

Yesterday was another great day at the library. There was very little, if any, anxiety. I helped a fourteen-year-old girl get a library card, which was fun. She was very excited about reading, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy. When minors get library cards, their parents have to be there to sign off on it. And then later on, a young family was in with their child, and they checked out Are You My Mother? and I told them how much I loved that book.

“You are not my mother! You are a Snort!”

Working at the library is so much fun and so rewarding. Oh, and later in the afternoon, a guy checked out the “Firefly” series, along with some other DVDs he was getting. He had not seen it, and we had a conversation about science fiction shows/books, mostly about The Expanse, which is an Amazon Prime Video series based on some books. I have not yet read any of the books, but they are on my TBR list. (That stands for “To Be Read,” in case you don’t know.)

While I was at work, C went shopping. Unfortunately, it appears that she didn’t get out of the store with a couple of her purchases, so she will go back this afternoon to try to get that resolved. She said that the young man who was waiting on her was having some serious problems. I’m not sure what all she got for herself, but for me, she got some black jeans and a new belt. I asked for some jeans that are not blue, because we can wear those to work on non-weekend days. I’m not sure why they’re okay if they aren’t blue, but that’s the rule. So now I have some jeans I can wear to work if I don’t feel like wearing slacks. She got me some t-shirts to wear under some flannel shirts, but it’s the flannel shirts that didn’t make it home. She has the receipt, so should be able to get it all cleared up.

Today, we don’t have much on the schedule. We have our church gathering at 10:15, which will be on Zoom again, today. I’m sure there will be Applebee’s for lunch, and C will go back up to Macy’s to try to get those shirts. I may or may not go with her. Who knows?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

And the four living creatures,
each of them with six wings,
are full of eyes all around and within,
and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy,
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne,
who lives forever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.
They cast their crowns before the throne,
saying,

“Worthy are you,
our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
(Revelation 4:8-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this incredible vision of worship
2. for the feeling of peace that I have
3. for Your righteousness, that reaches to the heavens
4. that with You is unfailing love and full redemption
5. for the grace in which I stand, and the fact that, because of that grace, I CAN stand

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-SIX – DAY ONE

INVITATION

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

As I pause during this peaceful morning, I consider Your righteousness, infinitely higher than mine, infinitely higher than the “best Christian” I can think of. I consider Your infinite worthiness to receive glory and honor and power and worship! Thank You, Father!!

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
(Psalms 130:1-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:4-10 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I remind myself that I am in Your presence. I read these passages through again, at least once more, trying to notice how You might be speaking to me through them. I dwell on any words or phrases that jump out at me, allowing my heart to respond to You in prayer. I receive refreshment in Your presence!

In this psalm, another of the songs of ascents, the psalmist speaks of crying out to the Lord “out of the depths.” As I consider this, I think that the only place we can cry out to Him is “out of the depths,” because, in comparison to Him, that is where we are. Consider my meditation above the Scripture readings. His righteousness and holiness is infinitely higher than ours. It’s not enough to simply say that God is holier than I or more righteous than I. It is immeasurable! Therefore, when I cry out to Him, it is most certainly “out of the depths.”

When I read verse 3 and 4, what I get is that it is impossible to serve the Lord without forgiveness. And sometimes, we have to wait. I don’t believe we have to wait for forgiveness. There is sometimes an errant idea that we have to wait until we “get holy” to serve Him. And while there are passages that encourage/admonish us to “be holy, even as the Lord is holy,” this particular passage speaks of a qualification of service being that of forgiveness.

Forgiveness, I believe, is instant. I do not believe that forgiveness is a “process,” like some things are. Sanctification is a process; consecration is a process. But forgiveness and salvation, I believe, are instant and permanent. Just as I believe that you cannot lose your salvation, I also believe that you cannot lose or even tarnish your forgiveness.

We can sin again, yes. That has an effect on sanctification; it has an effect on the growth of our relationship with the Father. But it does not make us unsaved or unforgiven.

So what is the psalmist waiting for in verse 5? He is waiting for the morning to come (verse 6). He is waiting for the night to be over. Perhaps he is experiencing that long, dark night of the soul, of which St. John of the Cross spoke. We’ve all had those, right? And we wait. Not only do we wait, but we hope. For if we are not hoping and trusting in His Word, then the waiting is fruitless. But the psalmist, here is waiting and putting his trust in the Word of God.

Then he calls on his entire nation, his people to put their hope in Him, because with Him “is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption” (emphasis mine).

The passage from Jeremiah is tricky and, perhaps, tough, because it is the account of the calling of the Lord on Jeremiah. It is words spoken by God directly to Jeremiah and applies solely to Jeremiah.

There are phrases in the passage that I believe can be applied to me, personally. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” I believe this is true for me, as well as for everyone else that has ever been “formed . . . in the womb.” I do believe that I was also set apart before I was born. Not to be a prophet though, so the application ends there.

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” says the Lord (verse 8). That can apply to any of us, in our current circumstances. God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

And, while there may be times for all of us when the Lord puts words in our mouths, that’s pretty much the end of the application for anyone besides Jeremiah, in my opinion. God has most definitely appointed me over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. I daresay He has also not appointed you to do these things. Jeremiah was appointed for those tasks. Not me.

So why is this here? Illustration, I believe, that we might see the origins of the authority of the man who writes the rest of the words in this book of prophecy. It is good to see why we need to listen to what Jeremiah had to say to the people of Israel (or whoever else he was sent to). He had the authority of the Lord behind his words.

We may also have the authority of the Lord behind our words, sometimes, but we had best be careful when we assert that. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Father, I thank You for the lessons from the psalm, this morning. I know that, when I cry out to You, I am crying out from “out of the depths,” because that is the only place I can be in comparison to You. You are infinitely higher than I; You are infinitely holier than I; You are infinitely more righteous than I. Therefore, when I cry out to You, it is from the depths. I thank You for the forgiveness that was won for me by my Savior. I thank You that it is this forgiveness that enables me to serve You, because it completely erased the record of my sins. I You had kept that record of sin, I would be unable to stand before You. As it is, I can barely stand, because of Your infinite righteousness and holiness. But, because Jesus fills in the gaps of my unrighteousness, I can stand. It is by Your grace, I stand. I praise You and thank You for this grace. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

May resurrection hope and joy fill my life today. May I have desire and opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with someone this week.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"Searching God,
Your knowledge of me is both soothing and strange.
I'm comforted knowing Your eyes of love have seen me long before I even thought to look for You;
but it's also an unsettling reminder that I'm not in control.
Quiet me now in the grace of Your loving heart that has known and chosen me for Yourself from before time.
Amen."

BLESSING

Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant,
that it may continue forever in your sight;
for you,
Sovereign LORD,
have spoken,
and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
(2 Samuel 7:29 NIV)


Oh, the depth of the
riches
and wisdom
and knowledge
of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments
and how inscrutable his ways!
(Romans 11:33 ESV)

Behold,
these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
(Job 26:14 ESV)

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
(Matthew 10:8 ESV)

Father, Your ways and judgments are, indeed, unsearchable and inscrutable. I proclaim, along with Paul, “Oh, the depths of Your riches and wisdom and knowledge!” And, as Job said, we are only on the outskirts of Your ways, and what we hear from You is merely a whisper of all that You are! If You were to speak in Your full “thunder,” we would surely perish. Help us to do all the things that You are enabling us to do. May we exhibit the attitude that Jesus gives us, as we have, indeed received without paying, so let us give without expecting anything in return.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
(John 15:9 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Utterly Meaningless

Today is Sunday, the thirty-first of October, 2021. It is Halloween.

Day 23,243 (the number of days since I was born)

Seven days until Daylight Saving Time ends (fall back . . . you can’t say you weren’t warned!)

There are a number of reasons that today is significant. As already mentioned, it is Halloween. I really enjoy this “holiday” (I don’t really consider it a holiday, because we don’t get the day off from work, if it falls on a work day.), and the celebrations have been going on for a few days, already. I saw some very cool costumes at the library yesterday, as we had a family event yesterday afternoon. My favorite was the son of one of the other library aides (who, next week, will no longer be an aide, but a part time assistant librarian!) who came dressed as a dalek from Dr. Who.

That’s not his costume, of course . . . that’s just an image to show you what a dalek looks like.

Another reason this day is significant is that, 504 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, today is deemed “Reformation Day.”

But, for us, today is the most special because, twelve years ago, today, our oldest daughter, R, got married to J. So we wish them a “Happy Hallowversary” every year on this day!

I think I already mentioned that our church group is not gathering this morning. At this point, I don’t have any plans to attend elsewhere. We will also not be home to hand out candy, this evening, which is probably a good thing, because it means we did not buy any candy, and the last thing we need is overflow Halloween candy laying around our house. Those bite-sized candy bars find a way of always falling in my mouth, you know. Yesterday, at the library, I “accidentally” ate three giant Lemonheads.

We will be going to a friend’s house for “Halloween chili” tonight. That’s one of our favorite events of the year. I think S might even be planning to dress up as a kitten. I might wear my “wizard costume,” which consists of a black trench coat, a felt hat, and a walking stick. Impressive, eh?

There are no other plans for today. And my next shift at the library is Tuesday evening. Did I mention that I got my Covid booster last Thursday? I can’t remember if I did. But I was really tired all day yesterday, and felt a little icky Friday night. But at one point Friday night, I finally got up and took some Advil, so I felt pretty normal yesterday, but just really tired. My left arm is still marginally sore, but not too bad.

The Braves won again, last night, to take a 3-1 lead over the Astros, in the World Series. I’m hoping they can put it away tonight. I suppose I should be more interested in it, if I’m truly a fan of baseball. But I’m not, and it is what it is, right?

I may have forgotten this, yesterday, but I’m still reading The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. I’m close to finishing and should finish it this afternoon.

On to what’s truly important.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Finding Light, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

October ending
seasons come and go,
the River winds on
 
Selah (Psalm 19:8)
©2021 S. Michaels
Strong Tower(Haiku/5-5-5 & Psalms/Proverbs Faith Notes)

I will give thanks to you,
O LORD,
among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
(Psalms 108:3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that, though seasons come and go, Your love remains steadfast and sure
2. for the love of family and friends
3. that You are my God and will be my guide, "even to the end" (Psalm 48:14)
4. that the earth is filled with Your love; remind me to look for it every day
5. that I'm not stuck living in the past, but am freely moving forward with You; all praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY ONE

INVITATION

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
(Psalms 48:14 NIV)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to reflect on my life. It is filled with love, both Yours, and that of family and friends. When I forget about that love, and focus on self and negativity, please remind me of the love.

BIBLE SONG

You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
(Psalms 119:57-64 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-5 NIV)

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages over again, I look for words or phrases that stir my heart. I either silently, or possibly out loud, repeat them, meditating, forming prayers in my spirit.

I do love Psalm 119, as long as I am not expected to read the entire chapter (176 verses!) in one sitting. Almost every verse in the psalm mentions, in some form or fashion, the Word of God. It is a symphony of praise, and epic poem, to God’s Word. If you have a version in which the chapter is broken up into groups of eight verses, you see a Hebrew letter designated at the beginning of each group.

If you could read Hebrew (I can’t), you would notice that each verse of that group of eight verses begins with that Hebrew letter that is at the top of the section or stanza. Oddly, we do not know who wrote this psalm.

In the section I’m reading today, although the NIV does not feature this, the Hebrew letter is Heth. The KJV shows it as CHETH, which may be more accurate, because each of the verses begins with a word that starts with ch.

I love the thought of God as my “portion” (v. 57). To me, this indicates that God is enough. He is all I need.

I don’t know that I could ever honestly say that I have actually sought the face of the Lord “with all my heart” (v. 58). It is most definitely something to which I aspire, though.

Verses 63 and 64 also speak to me. I consider anyone who fears the Lord and follows His precepts to be my friend. That does not mean that everyone who claims to be “Christian” will be my friend. There are many who use that label who obviously do not either fear God or follow His precepts. And the statement that the earth is filled with God’s love is something that we all need to be reminded of, frequently. I make mention of this in the prayer following today’s invitation.

I always love getting into Ecclesiastes. It’s a fun book to read, even if it is a bit confusing, sometimes. While its authorship is commonly attributed to Solomon, I am not 100% convinced that this is the case. To me, it is not clear who wrote it, and I have no guesses at all as to who else it might have been, other than Solomon.

And you know what? I really don’t care who wrote it. “The Teacher” wrote it. Some (the respectable Matthew Henry included) would argue that the fact that it says “Son of David,” and “king in Jerusalem” prove that it is Solomon, as he fits both of those descriptions. However, the words “king in Jerusalem,” may describe David, not “the Teacher.”

If read in the wrong spirit, one might immediately find Ecclesiastes to be an exercise in futility, and somewhat depressing. I mean, the thought that “everything is meaningless” can be somewhat discouraging, right?

Some translations, such as KJV and ESV, use the word “vanity,” rather than “meaningless.” The Message uses the word “smoke.” I rather like that. The Hebrew word literally means “emptiness” or “vanity,” so those translations are pretty much correct. But another word could be “unsatisfactory.” I like that, too. It could even be said to mean “transitory.”

Why does the Preacher/Teacher say this? He gives examples. We go to work every day. What gain do we get from this? In our modern day, we get paid with the currency of the land. What do we do with that? We pay bills, we buy things. But, ultimately, it is nothing. In fact, in these days, it’s all pretty much pretend money, anyway. I hardly ever see cash, and the only think I use it for, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop when I’m at one of the few Sonics that won’t turn on mobile tipping.

We have reached an era that, for many of us, cash is “meaningless” or “vanity.” That scares a lot of people who take Revelation way more literally than they should.

The Teacher looks at generations that come and go, while the earth just keeps on turning. I am alive today. I have lived twenty-three thousand, two hundred and forty-three days (it looks a lot longer when I type it). That’s a lot of days. Or is it?

If you take the creation story literally (which I both do and do not . . . don’t hurt yourself trying to figure that out), the earth has been in existence for somewhere between six and eight thousand years. If you believe some scientists, it has been in existence for billions of years.

I’m just going to go with the six thousand number. If that is correct, and it would be the minimum time that the earth and universe have been in existence, that is more than two million days.

That kind of makes my 23,243 pretty petty, doesn’t it?

So I’m alive today. I might live another twenty or thirty years. Or less or more. Only God knows. But then I will be gone. No one knew me before 1958. And very few will remember me after I’m gone. A handful, likely. And when they’re gone, no one will remember me.

Meaningless. Vanity. Everything is utterly meaningless.

The sun comes up; the sun goes down, and then it runs back around so it can come up again. It’s a meaningless cycle.

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping . . . into the future.”

And then, the Teacher nails the coffin shut by telling us that there is, quite literally, “nothing new under the sun.”

Hah! He never got to see iPhones, right?

See?? Are you depressed yet??

I’m not, actually. Because I kind of understand where he is coming from and where he is going. But you have to read it all in context, and, frankly, it’s rather unhealthy, mentally, to read only the few verses that are highlighted today, and just stop. That really does leave us in a dark, dark place.

If I look only at these things, then, yes, it can be very depressing. But I do not only look at these things. I can honestly, and happily, in fact, look at all the devices of this world, both physical and not, and proclaim, along with this Teacher, that they are “utterly meaningless,” nothing but “smoke” and mirrors.

In the grand scheme of things, in the broad picture of eternity, everything in this room, where I am sitting, that I can see with my eyes . . . all meaningless. “It’s all gonna burn!” Perhaps these words that I am typing are even meaningless.

Unless, one day, someone happens to stumble across this blog, and it miraculously leads them into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. At that point, it will mean everything in the world to one person.

And that’s kind of why I’m doing it. One of the reasons that I keep it up. That, and my mother enjoys reading it.

So, while we don’t come up with any firm purpose from today’s reading, we must know that knowing God and His wisdom is what provides the only real meaning in life. What is the meaning of life? As much as I like to say it, it is not, in fact, “42.” It is to know God, and to fear Him. To spread His love to everyone . . . to “pass it on.” It is to follow Jesus Christ into territories that make us uncomfortable, and to set aside many of these things that truly are meaningless and vanity, that we might walk in His Kingdom and follow in His steps.

Father, I praise You, even for the meaninglessness of the material world around me. I do thank You for many of these material things; things which can, in fact, be used to provide meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. But let us not get too attached to these things, which will not survive us for very long. Some of these things may outlast me, physically, but as we live with You for eternity, they will, in fact perish. May we use them wisely and “hold on loosely” to them, always being aware that someone else may need them more than we. Keep me aware of any needs that I might be able to provide with the resources You have provided us. And let us not think to heavily on the thoughts that all is vanity or utterly meaningless, as we might truly find ourselves in a dark place, mentally and emotionally. There is really no reason for us to go there, in light of the fact that our world, our universe, is filled with Your love!

May we, Your people, be filled with resurrection hope and joy. May we all be equipped to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whenever opportunities arise.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

"God of heaven and earth,
what is the purpose of it all?
The endless cycle of life brings with it questions that don't find answers in the available light under the sun.
With You,
however,
I get the larger view beyond this world.
I trust You,
God in heaven,
for everything I need for life under the sun -
including intellectually satisfying answers to my biggest questions.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 NIV)


Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:17 NIV)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
(John 16:13 NIV)


Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
(Matthew 27:26 ESV)

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
(Luke 6:37 ESV)

When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”
(Luke 13:12 ESV)

There’s a common word in these three verse, at least in the Greek text. The word that is translated “released,” “forgive/forgiven,” and “freed,” is all one Greek word, “apoluo.” Literally, it means, “to free fully, relieve, release, dismiss.”

So from this fact, we can get the following truth.

“If you don’t forgive, you won’t be released. You’ll stay bound and imprisoned.” But the same word speaks of healing. So forgiveness is linked to healing and the lack of forgiveness to the lack of healing. Those who cannot forgive cripple themselves. And the same word speaks of moving on and being sent forth for the purposes of God. If you don’t forgive, you won’t be able to move on or to let go of the old. Nor will you be able to be sent forth and fulfill God’s calling for your life.”

(From The Book of Mysteries, by Jonathan Cahn)

I read those words, and I think of the many people that are close to my age who do nothing on social media other than moan and complain about how things used to be. They are constantly mocking younger generations, thinking themselves to be superior because they know how to write in cursive and can drive a stick shift.

These folks need to wake up! They are stuck in the past, unable to move on, to let go of things that simply don’t matter any more! And they appear so very hateful and angry all the time, with no hint of forgiveness or release. I pity them; my heart hurts for them. I am so very grateful to God that He has allowed me to not get stuck in that mode. I frequently skip over a lot of those “Who remembers _______?” posts that I see on Facebook. Yeah. I remember. But I don’t live there any more. I live in 2021, where nobody needs to know how write in cursive any more. Where the only reason to drive a stick shift is if you have a fancy sports car.

And just to prove I’m not stuck in the past, here is some really nice music that I discovered, this morning. I’m not one of the “old guys” who are constantly saying that all of today’s music is “crap.” Thanks to Derri Daugherty of The Choir, for the recommendation.

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!

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

Grace and peace, friends.