Extravagant Love

Today is Sunday, the nineteenth of June, 2022, in the twelfth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,474

Today is Father’s Day, so I wish a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. I hope you are able to love on your kids today, and spend some time with them. Some of us will have to love some of our offspring from afar, and that’s okay, too. My father, of course, has been gone for seven years, now, and is still sorely missed. But he is more than fondly remembered for the love that he showed and care that he gave.

Today is also Juneteenth, but that holiday will be observed tomorrow. Since it was finally made a federal holiday last year, most banks will be closed, as well as the post office. I’m not sure about the library where I work, but I don’t ever work on Mondays, anyway.

The Rangers game was terrible, yesterday. Taylor Hearne did not have his best stuff, and they lost 14-7. It was actually quite a bit worse than the score indicates, too. But today’s another day. They are 31-34 for the season, still in second place, nine games out of first. They are also still four games out in the Wild Card race. They will play Detroit again today, in Detroit, at 12:40 CDT, with Dane Dunning taking the mound to try to win the series.

Almost as if the two teams are joined at the hip, the Red Sox also suffered an embarrassing loss, yesterday, losing to the Cardinals 11-2. They are now 35-31 for the season, still in fourth place, 1.5 behind Tampa and 14.5 behind the You-Know-Whos. They have another game with St. Louis today.

The Yankees have the highest everything right now. Best record, 49-16, highest run differential (+144), and longest win streak (nine games). Massive sighs. The Athletics have the worst record, at 22-45. The Nationals, though, have the worst run differential, at -115, as well as the longest losing streak, at eight games. The Rangers’ run differential sits at zero, today, and the Sox are at +45, after losing by nine runs, yesterday.

In the PWBA, the top 30 are currently in the fourth round of qualifying in the U.S. Women’s Open in South Glens Falls, NY. After three rounds, the top thirty were, in order, Cherie Tan (Singapore), Jordan Richard, Lindsay Boomershine (I like her name), Shayna Ng (another Singapore bowler), Shannon Sellens, Stefanie Johnson (from Texas), Erin McCarthy, Hui Fen New (Singapore), Shannon O’Keefe, Danielle McEwan, Rocio Restrepo, Birgit Noreiks (Germany), Liz Johnson, Daphne Tan (Singapore, Cherie’s sister), Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine), Verity Crawley (England), Missy Parkin, Bryanna Cote, Kerry Smith, Kayla Bandy, Clara Guerrero (Columbia), Chelsey Klingler, Sydney Brummett, Breanna Clemmer, Olivia Farwell, Hope Gramly (also from Texas), Jenny Wegner (Sweden), Diana Zavjalova (Latvia), Jen Higgins, and Josie Barnes.

This morning’s round will cut to the top 24, who will bowl in match play one round this evening, and two rounds tomorrow, to determine the top five, who will be on the live TV broadcast Tuesday night.

We aren’t going to church, today, as C has not been feeling well. She does not have Covid, though. Just some kind of cold or allergies, or something.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, O great and almighty God, we thank you that you have given us the Savior, in whom we can become united and have peace on earth. May he, the Savior, work powerfully among us. May your Spirit come into people’s hearts so that they learn to acknowledge you as their leader and their God and to rejoice in their lives, which are intended for eternal life. Bless us through your Word and through all the good you do for us. Constantly renew and strengthen us in faith and in patience through the grace you send us. Remember all the peoples who should become yours in the name of Jesus Christ. May they all confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the honor of God the Father. We praise you for the promise you have given us of a wonderful new day of help for all. We praise you that you have created all people to recognize their true calling and their way to salvation. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
(Isaiah 54:10 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that unfailing love and unshakable covenant of peace from God, our Father
2. for the love that I had from my earthly father for all the years he was with us, and that he did his best to train me up in the love of the Lord
3. for the faithful love of my two wonderful daughters
4. for the extravagant love that our Father in heaven has lavished upon us
5. for the equality of all people in Jesus Christ (the reality is not necessarily realized, but it is still the reality . . . the ground is level at the foot of the cross)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:30-32 NIV)


The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is extravagant. You have to look pretty extensively to find that word in any version of the Bible. It occurs a single time in the NLT, in Revelation 18:3, in reference to the sins of the Great Babylon. It does not appear in NIV, ESV, or KJV.

However, Eugene Peterson likes the word, apparently, and it occurs multiple times in The Message. This particular verse is featured in today’s reading.

I’ll make a list of GOD’s gracious dealings, all the things GOD has done that need praising, All the generous bounties of GOD, his great goodness to the family of Israel— Compassion lavished, love extravagant.
(Isaiah 63:7 MSG)

And what a word to describe the love of God for us. Extravagant! There are, of course, many other words that have been used, over the years, to describe God’s love. Frederick M. Lehman may have said it best, in 1917, when he wrote the song, The Love of God. In the chorus (or refrain, if you prefer, he wrote:

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
the saints’ and angels’ song.

And then, the last verse, one of my favorite hymn verses of all time:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
and ev’ryone a scribe by trade;
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.

He doesn’t use the word “extravagant,” but it certainly fits.

Father, I praise You for Your extravagant love. Your love split seas and rivers in half, crumbled walls, even made the sun move backwards. Your love created things out of nothing, and miraculously fed your people with food from heaven. And then, when we thought it couldn’t get any more extravagant, Your love died for us, and then rose from the grave so that we could live in eternal glory in Your Kingdom. Extravagant, indeed. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.


So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
(Galatians 3:26 NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 NIV)

Father, today, I pray for racial equality in our land, and throughout the world. If we truly believe the words of Paul in Galatians, let us strive to make things better for all people, because we see all people as equals in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! And it is back to Your extravagant love that has provided this truth for us!


Eugene Peterson continues writing on the Sabbath. He makes a bold claim: “Keeping the Sabbath is easy: we pray and we play, two things we were pretty good at as children and can always pick up again with a little encouragement.”

He calls praying a “great act of freedom in relation to heaven.” Through prayer, we exercise our “bodies and minds in acts of adoration and commitment, practices of supplication and praise, and ventures of forgiving and giving.”

He calls playing a “great act of freedom in relation to earth.” Through playing, we “exercise our bodies and minds in games and walks, in amusement and reading, in visiting and picnicking, in puttering and writing.”

Easy, he says, yet we, in our society find it so hard. Part of the reason for that is that our culture doesn’t encourage us to keep a Sabbath. In fact, if anything, it is out to steal it from us. For many of us (and I have been fortunate in this respect, for most of my adult life), we are expected to work our jobs, seven days a week. Many people find themselves unable to attend worship services because of the demands of the job, as accomplishment and profit are king in America.

And the bottom line, says Peterson is that “after a few years of Sabbath breaking, we are passive consumers of expensive trash and anxious hurriers after trash pleasures.”

Ouch. Explicitly descriptive, but truthful.

“We lose our God and our dignity at about the same time.” And this is why Peterson encourages us to keep a Sabbath. “Guard the day. Protect the leisure for praying and playing.” And for those of you who think you are too mature to “play,” I give you this:

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson, except for the nose-thumbing)

Father, I praise You for the Sabbath. I thank You for the command that we have a day to rest, a day to pray, and a day to play. I realize Your command said nothing about playing, but I find myself in agreement with Peterson, whom I respect deeply, and trust just as deeply. I pray that You would remind all of us, frequently, that we need to take a day off to pray and play, a day off from the hustle and bustle that this culture demands from us. I also pray that, not just on the Sabbath, but all days, that You would help us to demolish the very concept of “hurry,” as it steals from us in many ways. You are not in a hurry. Why should we be?

Sometimes I find myself in a hurry to be Home. I also need not do that. Help me to live the life that You have planned for me, at the pace You have planned. I do pray that I will accomplish all that You have for me to do, and that I will reach and inspire all that You have for me to reach. May my presence in social media platforms be one that shows love and forgiveness to all, and inspires all to know the kind of gratitude that we should have toward You.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


I realize Mercy Me changed the meter, but I’m okay with that.

Grace and peace, friends.

Pay Attention

Today is Sunday, the fifth of June, 2022, Pentecost Sunday.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,460 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you that you are so near us and that we may be near you. We thank you that throughout our days we may be people who listen to you with all our hearts and minds, a listening people who can receive what is good and true for our lives and who can witness to the power you give us through the Savior. Protect us in all things. Look into our hearts and into the situation of each one of us, where many things are still faulty and unclear. Deliver us from evil, for the kingdom shall be yours. From you the power shall come. Your glory shall radiate from our lives, and we shall praise and thank you forevermore. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that God is near to us and we may be near to Him
2. that God has a clear view of all things in my life that is yet faulty and unclear
3. for the greatness of our God, even though that word falls far short of getting it; we cannot fully comprehend His majesty and glory
4. that God allows us to take part in the work that He does on this earth
5. for the joy we receive from meeting together to praise God
What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. 
We will fulfill our vows to you, for you answer our prayers. 
All of us must come to you. 
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. 
What joy for those you choose to bring near, 
those who live in your holy courts. 
What festivities await us inside your holy Temple.
 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
 O God our savior. 
You are the hope of everyone on earth, 
even those who sail on distant seas.
(Psalms 65:1-5 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “attention.”

Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry.
(Psalms 86:6 NLT)

In this context, the psalmist is asking God to pay attention to him.

Pay attention, GOD, to my prayer; bend down and listen to my cry for help.
(Psalms 86:6 MSG)

But attention works several ways. While it is perfectly fine to entreat the Lord to pay attention, or hear, us, we must also pay attention to Him.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT)

I didn’t notice that little bit that says, “Listen to him,” until probably less than a decade ago. It was at that point that I began paying much closer attention to those “red letters,” the words of Jesus. And it was at that point that I began focusing so much more on love instead of judgment.

But there is one more aspect of attention, isn’t there (at least)? We must, absolutely must, pay attention to one another.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 NLT)

It is crucial that we pay attention to what is going on around us. We must keep, not only our spiritual eyes, but our physical eyes open. Why? Because, as James tells us, “faith without works is dead.” This does not mean, at all, that we are working for our salvation. Rather, it means that, if we are not doing the work, there is no faith! Faith proves itself by the works that it does.

If we claim to be following Christ and do nothing whatsoever to help the hungry or thirsty or stranger or naked or sick or in prison, then we are just blowing smoke. If we are only offering “thoughts and prayers” to people, we are doing no good. I am, of course, in no way diminishing the efficacy of prayer. But that phrase has become a substitute for action.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
(James 2:14-20 NLT)

Pay attention!

Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 NLT)

GOD is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.
(Psalms 145:3 MSG)

“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”
(2 Samuel 7:22 NLT)

“Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
(Job 36:26 NLT)

How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!
(Psalms 147:5 NLT)

How do you describe God? Is “great” adequate? What about “magnificent?” We have many words. Marvelous and glorious; strong, powerful.

There are four phrases in the above verses that really speak to me. In 2 Samuel, it says, “There is no one like you.” In Psalm 145, it says “he can never be praised enough.” In Job 36, it says, “God is greater than we can understand.” And, in Psalm 147, “His understanding is beyond comprehension.”

We try, because we have to. We need words to tell our God how great we think He is. But those words fall so far short that it’s almost ridiculous. We must acknowledge the truth of those four phrases. It is beyond comprehension. We simply cannot truly fathom how great our God is.

I am somewhat blown away by the following video. It is Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great Our God.” But it is being sung in many different languages. I got some serious chill bumps as I listened and watched. How fun is it, how stirring is it, to listen to a song you know being sung in another language? Because you know what they are saying, even though you don’t understand the language.

Celebrate the greatness of our God with me. Use whatever words you have. He will still be magnified and glorified, even though He is so much greater than we could ever understand.

Pay attention!

Father, today, help me to pay attention. May I pay attention to You, and may I pay attention to my brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else around me. Help me to keep my eyes open to what is going on around me. Help me to see what You are doing around me, that I might join in and support Your “cause,” which is the only cause truly worthy of my support.

I know You do not need my support. You do not need anything from us. If you were hungry, you would not tell us, because You own the cattle on a thousand hills! But You choose to utilize us in Your work.

I praise You for Your greatness, Lord. Your majesty, Your glory, Your magnificence. You are marvelous and wonderful and every one of those words, even if we combine them all into one thought, are nowhere enough to describe You. Even the nonsense word that Mary Poppins made up doesn’t come close. But yet we must try. We must use words, because that’s what we have. We have language. So help us to use our language appropriately. When we try to describe You, help us to have the right attitude and motivation behind that description. And help us, dear Lord, to never take Your name in vain. Help us to honor You properly, and honor the name of Jesus in the best ways.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Do not be one who stretches out the hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving. If you earn something by working with your hands, you shall give a ransom for your sins. You shall not hesitate to give, nor shall you grumble when giving, for you will know who is the good paymaster of the reward. You shall not turn away from someone in need, but shall share everything with your brother or sister, and do not claim that anything is your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more so in perishable things!
(The Didache, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

God’s Grace Connects with Our Groping Faith

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of May, 2022, the seventh Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,453

I had a really great day at work, yesterday. It was fairly busy, which is nice, because it makes the day go by faster. As is usually the case (not always, though), it got a little busier, closer to closing time, and we wound up having a family checking out books right at 6:00 PM. We don’t mind, though . . . that’s why we are there, right?

C finished her bowling and arrived safely in Indianapolis, at R’s house, yesterday evening. Today, they are planning to visit the cat cafe that we went to last year. Good times. C is aware that we don’t need any more cats. I hope.

The Texas Rangers won big, yesterday, behind a grand salami by Marcus Simien, which happened to be his first home run as a Ranger! Finally! Final score was 11-4, over the struggling Athletics. Taylor Hearn, the starter, gained his third win of the season. The Rangers remain in third place in the AL West, but gained another game on the Astros, who have lost two in a row. They are still 3.5 out in the Wild Card race, though. They play the Athletics again today, to close out the series, at 3:05 CDT. They are 22-23, only one game below .500.

The Boston Red Sox split a double header with the Orioles, winning the first game 5-3 and losing the second 4-2. The Red Sox are now 22-25, still in fourth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first, and 4.5 out of the Wild Card race. They will play Baltimore again today.

The Yankees (33-14) lost a game, but continue to have the best MLB record. The Reds (16-30) and Nationals (17-31) are in a virtual tie for the worst record, with only .006 percentage points between them. The Blue Jays, Rangers, and Reds all have four-game winning streaks. The Rangers are on the verge of a sweep, if they can win today. The LA Angels have a four-game losing streak, the current longest. I am not unhappy about that at all. The Dodgers continue to be way ahead of everyone in run differential at +117. The Pirates continue to be way below everyone, at -82. The Rangers are green!! They have a +7 run differential. The Red Sox, after splitting that double header by the exact same number of runs, remain at +17.

The PWBA Twin Cities Open tournament has finished all qualifying rounds, and the finals will be at 4:00 PM, this afternoon, on CBS Sports Network. The top five bowlers are 1. Missy Parkin (San Clemente, CA) 2. Danielle McEwan (Stony Point, NY) 3. Bryanna Cote (Tucson, AZ) 4. Shannon O’Keefe (Belleville, IL) 5. Dasha Kovalova (Ukraine) Dasha is the reigning champion for this tournament, so I’m glad she made the finals. Kelly Kulick bowled the only 300, so far, but just missed the cut for qualifying round 4. She still made cash, though, as did Diana Zavjalova, from Latvia, and Daria Payak, from Poland. Stefanie Johnson, from McKinney, TX, was in the top 12, but didn’t make the finals. Clara Guerrero, from Columbia, who was last week’s top seed, placed sixth. Jen Higgins and Verity Crawley, two of my other favorites, did not cash in this tournament.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
(Collect for Seventh Sunday of Easter, The Book of Common Prayer)
Lord our God, we thank you for allowing us to experience your power. We thank you that we need not be occupied with material things only. We thank you that your Spirit comes to our aid again and again. Grant that we may continue to have your help, and let many hearts find what a grace it is that in spirit we may walk in heaven even during this transitory life with all its foolish ways. We may say with complete assurance that everything tormenting and burdening will pass by. It passes by, and we go joyfully and confidently toward your kingdom, which continually gains in power. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
(Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the abundant riches of God's mercy and grace
2. for the constant help and power of God that enables me to not be concerned about material things
3. that God, through my practice of spiritual disciplines, prepares me for whatever may come in my life
4. for my journey of faith, and the fact that, at 64 years old, my faith in God is stronger than ever
5. for "eternal intersections" where God's grace connects with our groping faith
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, 
whose sin is put out of sight! 
Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, 
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
(Romans 4:20-21 NLT)

Today’s word for prayer is “prepare.”

“Preparation time is never wasted time.” ~ Anonymous

That “Anonymous” person sure said a lot of wise things.

Any time we have an important undertaking ahead of us, whether it be a vacation trip, or some kind of work project, we prepare. We bring suitcases into the house the night before and start packing (our cats promptly position themselves on the suitcases, thereby making packing much more challenging). My wife makes lists of things to make sure we don’t forget. If I’m cooking a recipe, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients measured out before I start.

We prepare. And, as the quote above says, that is not wasted time. It ensures that there are no hitches as the event gets under way. Or at least increases that probability. I suppose there is no way to completely ensure that nothing will interrupt the process.

But there is another thought around the word “prepare.” Consider Psalm 23:5.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
(Psalms 23:5 NLT)

The word “prepare” generally means “make ready.” That can mean a number of things depending on the context. We’ve covered the idea of preparing things ahead of time, but it can also mean the act of, say, cooking. When we prepare a meal, we are actually cooking it, making it ready for consumption.

God prepares a banquet for us, right in front of our enemies. But guess what . . . I love Dallas Willard’s perspective on this. We do not hoard this banquet. We share it. Yes, with our enemies! We invite them to share in our blessings.

God also prepares me for whatever is coming next. As I practice disciplines (and I’m still not very good at that, mind you), He prepares me for the events of the day, of the week. If I am walking in His kingdom, I am prepared for anything that might happen, and nothing takes me by surprise. It is certain that nothing takes Him by surprised, because He is all-knowing, and already knows what is coming.

God prepares me, defends me, and will make straight paths for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

One other thought I just had. Jesus is clear that I’m not supposed to worry over what may happen tomorrow. If I am to succeed in that (and I frequently do not), I have to trust in His preparations for me. I have to not lean on my own understanding (or lack thereof, more likely) and trust that He is making my paths straight.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
(2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

I really like today’s reading from Daily Guideposts 2022. Penney Schwab is the writer. She speaks of her heritage of faith, but makes the statement that she cannot point to the exact day or hour when she first began trusting in Christ. I can identify with this statement.

It is popular to be able to declare the exact hour that one “became a Christian.” For many people it is the repetition of a quite unbiblical phenomenon known as “the sinner’s prayer.” Believe me when I say that no such thing exists in God’s Word.

I can’t say when my journey of faith began, because I have loved Jesus for longer than I can remember. I do know that, at the age of nine, I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church, in Mineral Wells, Texas, and professed to be a believer in Christ (that was how one “joined the church,” also). But was that when I was “saved?” I don’t know. I had been going to Sunday School and memorizing Scripture and singing hymns and songs of praise for years before that event.

Later in my life, some well-meaning “evangelist” convinced me that, because I couldn’t remember saying the “right words” (again, I am confident that Scripture knows of no such “right words”), that I wasn’t really saved. So I got baptized again. I told people that I had really gotten “saved” that time.

I look back on those days with a small amount of embarrassment, but “it is what it is,” as “they” say. When we are in college, we tend to be somewhat gullible. Some folks never stop being gullible.

But I can share the kind of heritage that Ms. Schwab shares in this reading. I come from a long line of Christian people. I don’t know much about my great-grandparents, but I know that my grandparents were followers of Christ. Every time we went to visit them (both sides of the family) we went to church on Sunday mornings. On my mother’s side, it was always Crim’s Chapel Baptist Church, out in the country, near Henderson, TX. I always felt loved when I was there.

I remember on those Sunday mornings, after the service was over, it seemed like people gathered outside and talked for at least an hour, before finally dispersing to their homes and Sunday lunches. It probably wasn’t as long as it seemed to a young boy.

On my father’s side, it was either Pirtle Methodist Church, in Pirtle, TX (look it up), or whatever small Texas town that my step-grandfather happened to be ministering in at the time. Buffalo, Lovelady, Grapeland, Clute (that one was tough . . . down on the Gulf of Mexico, a looooong way from Minerals Wells), Edgewood, and maybe some I’ve forgotten.

I always loved going to church with my grandparents.

There has never (and I say that in all seriousity) NEVER been a time in my life when I questioned my faith in God. There have been a few times when I questioned my salvation, but God always came through with a resounding “yes!” at those times.

The most memorable came in 1984. I had recently become divorced (several days before Christmas in 1983), and was taking some time in the summer to get away from things. I spent a week (maybe two, I can’t remember) at my grandmother’s house, outside of Henderson, and my grandmama’s house in Pirtle. One day, I was walking around in front of my grandmother’s house, where there used to be a swing set. Me and my cousins spent a lot of time out there. I was struggling, dealing with the emotions of what had been happening in my life.

In desperation, I cried out, “God, am I really Your child?”

Almost forty years later, and I’m getting chill bumps just remembering what happened next.

I swear to you, God reached down and HUGGED ME! I have never felt anything quite like it. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had in my entire life.

For anyone who foolishly declares that God does not exist . . . I can’t prove it. But I know you are wrong.

Today, I am 64 years old, just like in that Beatles song. My faith is stronger than ever. There are always questions, and, these days, I’m questioning more things than ever. But my salvation and faith in God are not part of those questions. I know that God loves me, and I know that there is absolutely nothing I can do to either decrease OR increase that love.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
(Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14 NIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

“God comes to us; we come to God; the meeting is salvation.”

It’s because of statements like this that I believe that salvation, rather than something that has a definitive moment, is more of a lifelong process. One popular writer (I can’t remember who, so this isn’t exactly a quote) said that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

This “meeting” of which Eugene Peterson speaks is not a single event. “We celebrate this meeting in our acts of worship.” In these times of worship, we find that “God’s coming and our coming result in real meeting, not simply an appearance of it.”

I’m quoting more because I simply cannot adequately paraphrase Peterson’s exquisite wordsmithing.

“Worship heightens our awareness so that we can become conscious of the eternal intersections that take place in our hearts when God’s grace connects with our groping faith.

“Worship intensifies joy as the Word of God is spoken clearly and the voices of praise are harmonized in being and coordinated in affirmation.”

I had a meeting with God, that day in 1984. God came, I came, and we met together. And make no mistake. Even though I’m the one who asked the question, I in no way believe that I initiated that meeting. That was one of many “eternal intersections” where God’s grace connected with my groping faith in a powerful way.

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

Where do I even begin, Father? I am moved, this morning, beyond words. Yet I have somehow managed to type a plethora of them. I am still grateful for that “meeting” we had, back in 1984. It was truly a life-altering event, that I still remember quite vividly. In fact, I still have the Blue Jay feather that I found on the ground immediately following that meeting. It is a marker, a reminder of that time, as if I needed one.

These “eternal intersections” of which Peterson speaks are incredible, Father. If we were to truly examine our lives, we would find that there have been countless numbers of those intersections where Your grace connected with our groping faith. And if anyone says that their faith is never groping, I’m calling them liars. Or maybe their faith is in the wrong place. My faith, while strong in You, is week in me. I have little faith in my ability to stay connected. But that’s why it is faith, in the first place, right? My faith isn’t supposed to be in me, it is in You. The questions come from within me, and are about me and my place, not about You.

I mean, there will always be questions about You, because, until I get to meet You “in person,” there will be things that I do not comprehend about You.

I am grateful for the heritage of faith that I share in my family. I pray that I have done an adequate job of passing it along. I fear, at times, that I have failed, but that is not in my hands, is it? I do know that I am fully convinced, as Abraham was, that You are completely and utterly faithful to do that which You have promised. You will do what You say You will do. I praise You for that.

I also praise You for preparing me, daily, for life. I don’t always walk in that preparation, I confess. You make my paths straight, but it’s I who walk crookedly. Sometimes I must appear spiritually “drunk,” I must stumble around so badly. But praise to You for always bringing me back to that straight path. You show me the way, Father, and I know that in Your presence there is joy forevermore, and pleasures everlasting. Thank You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Faith cannot be acquired by a decision of the will: it is a gift from God. Yet it can be given to everyone who seeks it. As Jesus says, “Seek, and ye shall find.” What counts here is trust. Faith is not dependent on reason – on theories, theological systems, or other intellectual explanations. It is belief, precisely in the absence of these things. Mary had reason enough to doubt the angel who came to her from God, but instead she believed – “Here am I, a handmaiden of the Lord” – and received the Word in her heart. It can be that simple!
(J. Heinrich Arnold, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Have Mercy

Today is Sunday, the twenty-second of May, 2022, the sixth Sunday of Easter.

May the peace of Christ surround you today.

Day 23,446 (the number of days since I was born)

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Almighty Father in heaven, we stand before you as your children, whom you want to protect through the need of our time, through all sin and death. We praise you for giving us so much peace in an age full of trouble, and for granting us the assurance of your help. Even when we suffer, we do not want to remain in the darkness of suffering but want to rise up to praise and glorify you. For your kingdom is coming; it is already at hand. Your kingdom comforts and helps us and points the way for the whole world, that your will may be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
"O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Sixth Sunday of Easter)

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.
(Psalms 22:22 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the peace of God, that passes all understanding, through the most difficult of times
2. for the love of God, that also passes all comprehension
3. for the great mercy of God, that is beyond comprehension, mercy in which Christ paid the price for our sin and redemption
4. for the Word made flesh, which is restoring all things
5. for the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control; may all of these be visible in all of God's children

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
(Psalms 51:10-12 NLT)

Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(Psalms 51:15-17 NLT)

It occurred to me, last night . . . I’m sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this, but my mother loves me. My mother loves me with a love that is deeper than life itself.

God loves me more. God loves you more.

I want you to just think about that for a minute and try to digest it.

I was wondering if today’s prayer word would be “maybe.”

But it’s not . . . it is “merciful,” which is much better than “maybe.” Jesus tells His listeners, in the Sermon on the Mount,

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 NIV)

The reading for today briefly traces the etymology of the word. It was first used in the thirteenth century, and comes from the Latin for “price paid,” or “wages.” It also comes from the same word as French for “thank you,” which is merci. It also shares the same root as “merchandise.”

I find this interesting, especially in light of the way we use the word. When thinking of the mercy of Jesus, we see that He did, in fact, pay a price for our sin. He purchased us (merchandise?) with His blood, and set us free from sin, for which we joyfully say, “merci.”

Father, I cannot adequately thank You for the mercy that You have shown us, as Your people, and me, individually. I look back at my life and see so much mercy that I am astonished. It began before I was born, of course, and has continued, and goes forward through the rest of my life and eternity. I cannot even really comprehend the scope of it. But I am grateful, and will at least try to thank You, even though my gratitude falls short.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

When the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: "Death is swallowed up in victory" "O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
(1 Corinthians 15:54 Phillips)

Eugene Peterson tells us that “the world gives us a bad education” by turning words around backward, mispronouncing them, distorting them, and so on. “Live spelled backward is evil. Evil captured the headlines in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and it captures them still. But it is the live Jesus who has captured history–and captures us.”

The elements of life can be used against their intended purpose. The letters of the alphabet “can be used to confuse, to lie, and to destroy. They are reversed and perverted by cruelty and mockery, sin and death.”

But “in the silence of the tomb,” all of these things are “rearranged and made straight.” As Jesus is raised from the dead, the Word is “spelled right before us.” In the passage of 1 Corinthians 15, “Paul contrasts resurrection with vanity, fullness with emptiness, reality with illusion, live with evil. All his superlatives are understatements. Jesus breaks the spell of the reversed, backward spoken word.”

For years, now, I have loved the way Peterson puts words together. I have never read anyone quite like him. At times, he gets dense (not anywhere nearly as dense as Willard), but his “wordsmithing” is still beautiful. This reading is no different.

We find, in Jesus, the ultimate of “fixing” everything. It’s not all fixed, yet, that is easy to see. But one day, it will be . . . everything will be set right, and we will rejoice. I have confidence that it is not going to quite look like anything that any of us are imagining. In fact, I’m to the point where I’m really trying not to imagine it. I’m just waiting . . . and fully expect to be utterly awestruck and full of the most joy that I could ever dream of.

Father, I praise You for the work of Jesus in rearranging and making things straight, in spelling the “Word” right, after the world has spent so much time using things against their intended purposes. I pray for Your Church, that we might get it right. It’s so easy to get it wrong . . . especially these days. We are scattered, like sheep with no shepherd. We need to be following our True Shepherd, Father, so make His voice clear to us, that we might follow Him and not any humans, no matter how well-meaning they may be. I suspect that some of them aren’t as “well-meaning” as we would like to think.

My heart’s desire is to know the Word, Father, to know Him inside and out, that He might be my life and my existence, my desire and my purpose in this life. Help me to walk in Your Kingdom and stay on the path of righteousness. And help me to, as Jesus commands, love You with all my heart, love my neighbor as myself, and love other brothers and sisters the way that Jesus has loved us.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

“Lord, Lord!”

Today is Sunday, the fifteenth of May, 2022, the fifth Sunday of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,439

It was a pleasant day at the library, yesterday. Saturdays are typically a little different, perhaps a bit more laid-back. There aren’t as many people there, throughout the library, unless we have any programs going on, which we did not, yesterday. So we had only three of us in circulation, and there was one Youth librarian, as well as two people in the Computer center, one Adult Service librarian, and one Tech Services librarian. That was it. It never got terrible busy, although I had the privilege of issuing a handful of new library cards, as well as replacing at least one that had been lost. I also had a nice conversation about music with a patron at the end of the day.

The Texas Rangers lost in a big way (even bigger than the night before, unfortunately) as the Red Sox beat them 11-3. Boston scored first, with one run in the top of the first, which Texas quickly answered in the bottom to tie the game 1-1. But then Boston scored four in the top of the second, and the Rangers didn’t answer again until the bottom of the seventh. Glenn Otto got the loss in the game. The Rangers are now 13-19, tied for last place in the AL West, with the Athletics. The Red Sox improved to 13-20, still in last place in the AL East, only a half game behind Baltimore. The two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT.

I’ve also been following the PWBA, as their season has just kicked off with a tournament in Rockford, IL. The qualifications are over, and the finals will be this afternoon at 5:00 PM. The top five bowlers are Liz Kuhlkin, Breanna Clemmer (who was actually leading most of the week), Kelly Kulick, Shannon O’Keefe, and Stefanie Johnson, who hails from McKinney, TX. Just missing the cut was one of my favorites, Verity Crawley, from England, and another favorite, Birgit (apparently pronounced “beer-hit”) Noreiks, from Germany. I have several favorites, also being a fan of Shannon, who placed fourth, and Dasha Kovalova, from Ukraine, who placed ninth. Liz Johnson, one of the more famous veterans of the game, placed tenth. Several others that I follow, Daria Pajak, Diana Zavjalova, and Jen Higgins, failed to make the top twelve cut.

I might be heading to a church service, this morning, as our group will not be meeting. I’ll need to get moving if I plan to do that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Father in heaven, may we recognize and acknowledge that you are God. You have made us, and not we ourselves, to be your people and the sheep of your pasture. Baptize us with the truth we need throughout our lives. Give us the gift to discern who we are and what we should become. Free our eyes from all deception so that we can no longer delude ourselves with short-lived, earthly things. Clear our eyes to see what is eternal in and around us. Make us children, true children, who awake to exult and rejoice in what is childlike and who give thanks to you, O God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
 Worship the LORD with gladness.
 Come before him, singing with joy. 
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! 
He made us, and we are his. 
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.
 Give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good. 
His unfailing love continues forever, 
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
(Psalms 100:1-5 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I belong to God, part of His people, the sheep of His pasture
2. for the relief that comes in knowing God's forgiveness, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; may we extend that same relief to others
3. that people will know I am a disciple of Christ by the way I love, not by the "causes" I support (or don't support)
4. for my five senses, with which I can experience the fullness of the salvation experience and the Gospel message
5. for the way God continues to show me truth through His Word

Today’s prayer word is “relief.” There’s a word that most of us could probably get behind. Who doesn’t like relief? I can remember when “relief” was spelled “R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalms 32:1-2 NLT)

Here are the same verses from The Living Bible:

What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.

What a relief, indeed, to know that our sins and guilt are forgiven. It’s even better than this Psalm indicates, because, in Christ, our sins are erased, rather than just covered, as though they have never happened.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the relief of forgiveness. I praise You for grace and mercy, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ that has cleansed us from all sinfulness. Even though I still fall short, daily, I have the relief of knowing that I am in good standing with You because of Christ. Help me to walk in that, free from sin in my daily life.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
(Matthew 7:21 NLT)

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
(James 2:17 NLT)

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
(1 John 3:18 NLT)

We have a lot of words that we use to describe our relationship with Jesus. Besides “Savior,” we also call Him Brother and Friend. While those two words indicate a more casual relationship (and not incorrectly, based on the relationship He had with His disciples), we must not forget that He is also our Lord. And just calling Him “Lord” isn’t enough, as the Matthew passage indicates. We must, as He said, do the will of God.

Does this mean our salvation is by works? This gets confused a lot. My take on this is that, of course, our salvation is by grace through faith. We have done nothing to earn it, and can do nothing to increase or decrease it. But, as “they” say, “the proof is in the pudding.”

How did Jesus say people would know we are His disciples? By the way we love one another.

Yep. Here we are again, pounding that “love” thing. But I tell you three times, I can’t help it! Because that is truly what the whole thing seems to be about! Jesus says that only people who do the will of God will be getting into the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This does not mean that by doing God’s will we earn entry into Heaven. This means that, if we are people who have access to Heaven, we will do God’s will. There’s a difference.

What is God’s will? It is not the “Ten Commandments” that we have to be concerned about. That is not the purpose of the Law, is it? God’s will, all of the law and the prophets, according to Jesus, Himself, is summed up in two commands. Two.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 NLT)

It can’t be any plainer to me.

So, it is safe to assume that if one is not successfully keeping those two commands, one does not have access to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Father, please help us to get this. This world, and more especially, this nation, is in desperate need of people to live out this truth. We are in desperate need of people who are willing to set aside their bigotry, surrender their so-called “rights” and love their neighbors as themselves. We seem to think we’ve got the God-loving part down, but we seem to be going about it all wrong. We seem to think that by trying to work harder to get people to hate us that we are fulfilling Your commands. Jesus did say that the world would hate us, but He most certainly didn’t tell us to try to make that happen. We seem to celebrate when we make people angry and claim that we are fulfilling Jesus’s words when we do that.

It simply baffles me, Father, and I don’t know how we arrived at this place. All I can do is continue to spread this Gospel of love, here, and I believe that this, and the ministry of prayer, is what You have called me to do. Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to admit that I might be. I don’t think I am. And I would much rather err on the side of love than on the side of hatred.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ involves all the senses, according to Eugene Peterson. “Every physical sense we possess is brought into play to receive and express the new life.” This, I confess, is not something that I have considered.

“The God who created rocks, trees, torsos, and tongues and became flesh in Jesus Christ recovers and redeems our five senses in the practice of faith, love, and hope.”

There is, of course, a lot that we cannot sense. “We cannot see God, we cannot handle the Spirit, and we cannot hear the angels.” However, there is some great bit of what Peterson calls “sensuality” (how often we see that word in the context of spiritual things??) in the life of faith. “Baptismal waters, Eucharistic bread and wine, and anointing oil.” One psalmist told us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Jesus, Himself, spent a great deal of time “touching and being touched, speaking and listening, seeing and being seen.” While He did forgive sins (one of His main purposes for being here), He also “restored sight and speech and hearing and recovered the use of arms and legs so that men and women could live the faith in their hearts as well as with their bodies.”

I love this next sentence. “Senses dulled by sin are sharpened in holiness.” Jesus’s physical body, as He walked on earth, was how the “life of God was experienced and expressed in revelation to us; our bodies are also the means by which the life of God is experienced and expressed in faith.”

We are not believers that all material things are evil and only spiritual things are good. That is heresy, dealt with in early centuries of the history of Christianity. Jesus taught using the senses, speaking of the taste of salt, and the “phenomenon of light.”

“We become more physical, not less, as we become and mature as Christians. Our physical capacities and the exercise of our senses make it possible for us and for those around us to experience God, who revealed himself in the flesh of Jesus.”

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

Father, I thank You for my senses. I am grateful that I have all of mine, with minimal diminishing. I thank You that I can taste salt, and thereby understand what Jesus teaches when He uses that example. I am grateful that I can see light, which also enables me to see colors in creation. In that, I can understand what it means to be the “light of the world.” I am even more thankful for hearing (perhaps my favorite of the senses), because I can hear worship and praise of You being expressed. I am thankful for the sense of smell, in part because it enhances the sense of taste, but also because I can enjoy the scents of nature, like the freshness of rain. And I am thankful for the sense of touch, which is so very important in the human life, as Jesus also illustrated in His willingness to touch even the most “unclean” of persons.

I pray that all of my senses will be used to glorify You in this life, and that they will also help me to experience the fullness of my salvation, as I long for and look forward to the day when I am Home.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Grace and peace, friends.

Yield to Joy

Good morning. It is Sunday, the eighth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,432

It is Mother’s Day, today, so happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers. If you are not a mother and desire to be, I pray that God would make that come to pass for you, that your joy may be full. If you are missing your mother, today, I pray that God would bring you comfort in this. If your relationship with your mother is, at best, strained, or, at worst, estranged, I pray for comfort in that, as well, and, if possible, resolution.

We will have our worship gathering, this morning, after which I will cook steaks and baked potatoes for lunch (actually, the potatoes will be cooking while we are gone), and then C and I will head out for our couples’ massage.

Hopefully, the Rangers will get to play baseball today. The first of two games is scheduled to begin at 12:35 CDT. The second game, of course, is “TBD,” because we don’t know when the first one will end, do we?

I must move on, because I still have to shower and prepare the baked potatoes.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Fourth Sunday of Easter)
The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. 
He rescues them from all their troubles. 
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
 he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 
The righteous person faces many troubles, 
but the LORD comes to the rescue each time. 
For the LORD protects the bones of the righteous; 
not one of them is broken!
(Psalms 34:17-20 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my mother and all that she taught me, through the years; Happy Mother's Day!
2. for my wife and all she has done for our children, through the years; Happy Mother's Day!
3. that the Lord does, indeed, hear us when we cry out to Him, and will rescue us from all our troubles
4. that I don't always have to be first, and can allow others in front of me
5. that I don't always need a crisis in my life to feel alive; I am alive in the presence of God, celebrating the joy of being in His presence, the "pleasures forevermore" of being at His right hand (Psalm 16:11)
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"
(Job 38:2-7 NLT)

So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.
(Proverbs 23:25 NLT)

Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.
(Song of Solomon 8:7 NLT)

but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
(Luke 2:19 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “yield.” This is a word that we, as a culture, don’t like very much, these days. Unless, of course, we are pushing toxic masculinity, demanding that women “yield” to their abusive husbands. But that’s a topic for another day.

Andrew Murray is quoted as saying, “Being filled with the Spirit is simply this–having my whole nature yielded to His power.”

The most obvious example of yielding is the traffic sign.

When we see this sign, we are to give the “right of way” to oncoming vehicles from another direction. The most common case of ignoring these signs occurs when one is exiting the freeway. People already on the access road are normally supposed to yield the right of way to those coming off the freeway. I would opine that the majority of drivers, at least in DFW, ignore this.

But I’m not really here to talk about traffic. This is a spiritual devotional blog. Humanity, in general (and again, I’m almost always speaking in terms of Western culture), doesn’t like to “yield” to anyone. This became so very obvious in the thick of the Covid pandemic, as the simple act of wearing a mask became a hot-bed of political debate, as people (even Christians!) screamed about their “rights” being taken away.

When God commands that we love one another, we must yield. Jesus, in one of His teachings (not exactly a parable, because He wasn’t telling a story, but, rather simply illustrating a scenario) . . . well, I’ll let Him tell you.

“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! 
“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 14:8-11 NLT)

This is what yielding looks like. This is what loving one another looks like. I attempt to do this when I drive (sorry, but I’m back in traffic again). I almost always drive with at least two to three car spaces between me and the car in front of me. I am more than happy to let someone else be in front of me.

But we not only have to yield to each other, as we obey God’s command to love one another. We must also yield to God. This is also not easy. We have our own desires, which may or may not be bad, inherently. But our timing and God’s timing don’t always coincide. Everything works better when we yield to the Lord, allowing Him to work His good pleasure in us, which also allows us to do His will and bring Him glory.

There’s a quote, made famous by Chicago Bears running back Gayle Sayers: “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You that You have given me this spirit that is not concerned with being first. I live in a country of “me-first,” and sadly a large number of Your children have fallen into that trap. I don’t want to be first (I mean, sure, it’s nice, but it is not the desire of my heart, to the detriment of others). I still struggle, sometimes, because I’m still human, and dwell in this mortal coil. So I ask You to help me, always, continue to be yielding, both to my fellow humans, and, more importantly, to You, as You direct me through this life. I am far from perfect, in this, just as I am far from perfect in all areas of life. So help me to yield to Your Spirit in all things.

Have you ever known anyone who loved trouble? I believe I have, as I look back on my life. I don’t. No worries there. Trouble is not my friend. Even the smallest of troubles (for example, I recently had an issue where my PC would not go to “sleep” on its own, after a period of activity) has the potential of causing me great anxiety.

Eugene Peterson writes of a statement a friend of his made a number of years ago. “Do you know something? I have just realized that I like being in trouble. I am more myself when I am in trouble. I do things better.”

Peterson was convinced that many people share that preference. I believe I agree with him. I once had a manager who created emergencies so that he could then be the hero and solve them. I’m not joking about that.

But if you think about it, trouble does stimulate some of us to “be our best.” “Trouble forces us to gather our energy.” We might be standing around bored, not knowing what to do, when a crisis arises, and “suddenly we are alert and excited–alive.”

(Not me. I’m cowering in a corner in a fetal position.)

The Psalms tell us, many times, that God is an “ever-present help in time of trouble,” and that He rescues the righteous from all of his troubles. He never promises that we won’t have trouble. Who doesn’t remember the old classic, “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden,” by Joe South?

God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is in the business of helping, healing, and delivering. But Peterson, as a pastor, wondered, what about those in between times, when most of the flock doesn’t need helping, healing, or delivering? “Maybe if I do a really good job on Sundays teaching you the moral discipline so that you will stay out of trouble, I won’t have to work so hard during the week! Or is there something else?”

Then, he says, “Many people find a decent, comfortable life like that intolerable, so they create trouble just to keep the action going.” Oddly enough, during his research, Peterson discovered that, during the Nazi bombing of London in WWII, “nearly all of the citizens’ psychological neuroses disappeared. People didn’t have time to be emotionally disturbed: they were in deadly trouble, and they had to do something about it.”

Spiritually, it may be true that we are always in crisis, because we know not the hour of our death. But there is more to life than dealing with crises. Peterson asks the question, “How do we live at our best when we don’t have to?”

And then the reading stops! He doesn’t answer the question!!

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

I’m no Eugene Peterson, that’s for sure, but my answer to that question revolves around the word “joy.” I take great comfort in passages of Scripture like Psalm 16:11.

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalms 16:11 NLT)

I believe that when we learn to live in Christ, embracing this joy of His presence and the pleasures of living with Him, this tendency toward needing crises goes away. This is where contemplation and meditation come into play, as well as the truth of yesterday’s Peterson reading, that spoke of reading the Bible “devoutly,” rather than just academically or superstitiously. When we truly spend time pondering the Word of God, we begin to live and walk in that sense of joy and pleasure, just to be in His presence. It is then that the need for trouble fades; it is then when we truly feel alive, no matter what is happening around us.

Father, I praise You for Your Word, once again. I thank You for that joy that comes from simply being in Your presence, and the pleasure derived from Your presence, as well. I think there are some who are uncomfortable with the idea of getting “pleasure” from You, but I’m not. You have led me down this joyful path, in recent years, and I thank You for this.

I pray for any people who feel that they must be in trouble or have a crisis to truly feel alive. I pray that they might learn to know joy and pleasure, just from being in Your presence.

As we gather to worship You, this morning, no matter where we may be, I pray that Your people would embrace joy and love one another. May we all learn to yield to each other and to You, as we worship You today, and each day. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:2 NLT)

The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
(Psalms 28:7 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Abiding in Christ

Today is Sunday, the first of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,425

It seems as though it has been a really busy week. Between working four days (three of those consecutive) and then going to Mineral Wells on Friday, there has been a lot going on. I am grateful to have a day, today, where (hopefully) nothing is expected other than going to our house church.

C and Mama got a lot accomplished, yesterday, I think, while I was “working” at the library. It was pretty dead at the library, yesterday, so not a lot of actual work was involved. I’m not sure if the pretty weather kept people away or what.

The Texas Rangers managed another win, yesterday, beating the Atlanta Braves 3-1. And the starting pitcher got the win! Dane Dunning finally got a win. The Rangers are now 7-14 for the season, in last place in the AL West, 6.5 games out. The LA Angels are currently in first place, at 14-8. The Rangers and Braves will play again, this afternoon, at 1:35 CDT, with Taylor Hearne still seeking his first win.

The Boston Red Sox blew a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, last night, and lost in the tenth, 2-1. This behind seven innings of stellar pitching by Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox are looking a lot like the Rangers, this season. That’s distressing. They are 9-13 for the season (having played one more game than the Rangers), and are in fourth place in the AL East, thanks to Baltimore being worse. Those two teams will play again, this afternoon, at 1:05 EDT, in Baltimore.

The NY Yankees have sneaked into the top position in MLB, with a 15-6 record. They are a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and the cross-town rival Mets, who both have 15-7 records. The LA Dodgers have fallen to fifth overall. The Cincinnati Reds (3-18) continue their losing streak (now at five games), to hold down the worst spot in MLB. The Washington Nationals are next, at 7-16, followed by the Orioles and Rangers, both at 7-14. The Reds have a run differential of -56. This means that their opponents have outscored them, over the span of 21 games, by 56 runs. In comparison, the Rangers only have a -10 run differential.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Third Sunday of Easter)

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
(Acts 2:42-44 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the opportunity to gather with other saints, this morning, to devote ourselves to the reading of Scripture, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers 
2. for the life that I have had so far
3. for the hope that I have in God, and that I am calling out His name
4. for the boldness, and the ability to live out the truth and words of Christ, that comes from being associated with Him
5. for a day of rest

Today’s prayer word is “longevity.” I have to confess, I’m scratching my head over this one. I’m not sure what they are getting at, so let me get on with the reading.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
(Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV)

Verses like these are dangerous, because people tend to key in on the wrong things. The focus becomes material, the word “prosperity” is highlighted, and suddenly, there is a group of people proclaiming that if you memorize Proverbs, you’ll get rich.

If you think I’m joking, think again. I have heard things just as outlandish as that.

The writer of today’s reading, Susanna, speaks of an Italian village that has over three hundred centenarians (that’s people over one hundred years old, in case you don’t know that word). As I searched to try to get validation of that statistic (yes, I’m a “fact-checker”), I found that there seems to be more than one such Italian village.

Scientists believe the key to such longevity is a combination of genes, lifestyle, and diet. Just yesterday, I saw a report that the oldest person on the planet is a French nun who enjoys wine and chocolate. Seriously, she is 118 years old and has a glass of wine every day.

Longevity is, indeed, a mystery. It does seem that the average European life is a bit longer than the average American life, though. It also seems that there is quite a bit less stress over there than over here. The USA is an incredibly stressful place to live.

But here’s the thing. Susanna mentions this, and I firmly believe it, as well. “God already knows how many days I have on this earth. My longevity is anchored in Him. Following His loving commands, centering my life in His words of hope, brings peace and long life. Abiding in Him is good for body and soul.”

I already feel like I’ve had a good, long, life. And I’m only 64 years old. That French nun has lived 54 more years than I. I can’t even fathom living another 50 years. But if I do, I pray that it will be in continued abiding.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I don’t pray for more longevity. I am not asking for 50 more years of life. However, what I do ask is that, for all the years that I have left here, be it one or be it 50, that I spend those days abiding in You and following Your commands. Help me to center my life in Your words of hope, that I might display the love that You have for all people, in everything that I do and say. I am grateful for the life that I have had, so far. My lot has fallen in pleasant places.

The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
(Psalms 16:6 NLT)

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.
(Jeremiah 33:3 NLT)

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
(1 John 4:7-12 NLT)

Father, I praise You that You have caused me to be one who calls out Your name. I know that the songs that I have sung have not been sung in vain, and that the thirst in my soul, that thirst for Home, will one day be permanently quenched.

I pray for the promise that You gave Jeremiah, that, if I call out to You, You will reveal remarkable and wonderful things. I’m not asking You to tell me the future. Rather, I’m asking You to reveal wonderful things about Yourself to me. Honestly, I’m not terrible concerned with the future, other than the certainty that I will one day live in eternity, worshiping You with all the saints. I just want to know You and know You more.

“Our association with Jesus will teach us, as it taught Peter and John, the deepest truths about ourselves and the highest truths about God. We need not be theologians or experienced in the ways of the world or longtime church members or leaders of the community or overly intelligent. We need only to be with Jesus–to associate with him in prayer and imitation. And as we do, people will wonder at our boldness as we live out in words and actions the truth of humanity and God as it is seen in Jesus Christ.”

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

Father, this little reading fits hand-in-hand with my previous prayer. Because that is my desire, to live life in association with Jesus Christ, being taught the deepest truths about myself and the highest truths about You. I’ve attempted to be a theologian, at times, and found that it only produces a sort of arrogance that is dry and not nearly as deep as it pretends. I’ve been a “leader” in churches, and found this experience to leave something to be desired, as well. I have no more aspirations to be a “leader.” I want to be a follower, a simple follower of Christ, that I can live out His truth in words and actions as I walk through this world in Your kingdom.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
(Acts 4:13 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Best is Yet to Come

Today is Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day, April 17, 2022.

May the peace of Christ find you today.

Day 23,411

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign!
He arose!
He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
(Up From the Grave He Arose, w/m by Robert Lowry, 1874)
"O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Easter Day)
"Decision Day," by Daryl Madden

And here it is
Decision day
Did Jesus rise
What do you say?

Let our answer
Be Amen, yes!
Place in His arms
Our soul to rest

If we believe
Our answer true
Oh, truly this
Will transform you!

No death to fear
Our joy so great
With His passion
Let’s celebrate!

Please visit Daryl’s poetry blog at the link provided above.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
(Luke 24:1-6 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that He is risen
2. that the Lord saw fit to place me in a family that would lead me to be a believer in Him, and then drew me to Himself
3. for hugs; for being held by another human being; and that my God holds me in His hand
4. that the best is yet to come
5. for prayer, which helps me to take care of my most important need, the "God-need," and that my need for God can never be satisfied, only deepened

The prayer word for today is “hold.” Francine Rivers, American author, is quoted as saying, “God holds me in the palm of His hand and no one can take Him from me.”

This is a paraphrase of the words of Jesus, in John 10.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30 ESV)

The word “hold” can be found in many popular hymns and songs. “I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand,” is one such lyric. Rich Mullins wrote a song simply called, “Hold Me, Jesus.”

Most people, unless they have sensory issues, love to be held. Hugs are very popular. I, myself, am a huge proponent of hugs. The human touch is important to mental health, and that is one reason that so many people are suffering mentally throughout this pandemic.

As I consider the word in the context of this special day, there is another place where “hold” comes into play. In this case, it is an instance where something could not hold. The grave could not hold my Savior!

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You that You hold me in the palm of Your hand. I praise You that no one, not even me, can snatch me out of Your hand, and that no one has the power or authority to take You away from me. There is no government in the world that can do that. But I also thank You and praise You, especially today, that the grave could not hold Jesus Christ down. And it is that same power that raised Him from the dead that resides in us today, by the Holy Spirit. May we know that power, Father, as we walk through our daily lives, and may we be inspired to live in that power, and know the defeat of our enemy, first hand.

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
(John 20:3-4 NIV)

For Peter and the other disciples, as they faced this resurrection morning, “the best was yet to come.” (Logan Eliasen, in Daily Guideposts 2022) The had pretty much retreated to their old ways of life until everything exploded on this first day of the week.

Isn’t this true of all of us, though. “The best is yet to come.” How often have we heard this phrase in our lifetimes? I forget this, and need to remember this truth, every day. No matter how good things are, no matter how bad things may be. The best is yet to come.

Because someday, we will join Jesus in this resurrection. And, as another old hymn says, that will be “glory for me.” Written by Charles H. Gabriel:

When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Refrain:
Oh, that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Savior, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

Father, even though the resurrection that we celebrate today has been the single greatest event in all of history, I believe, with all my heart, that the best is yet to come. What could be greater than the resurrection of Jesus? Everything that is depicted in that hymn, above. “When by His grace I shall look on His face.” My soul nearly explodes in anticipation of that day. It is the (or at least should be) the single direction of my life; it should be the “main thing.” And, no matter what else I pursue in this life, it should all be driven by that main thing.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always, and I confess that, because my attention span is shallow and short. I have allowed culture to influence me. Forgive me for this, Father, and help me to reverse this trend. Help me to press on, as Paul said, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call.” Help me to remember that the best is yet to come.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalms 73:2-3 ESV)

As I continue to consider the truth that “the best is yet to come,” I have to acknowledge that “I don’t yet have what I want.” And consider the needs that keep recurring. My hunger is satisfied in the morning by a bowl of cereal or some eggs and bacon. But, approximately four hours later, that hunger is back, demanding lunch.

We constantly have to buy new clothes, because, either the old ones wear out (the best reason for buying new clothes), or they become out of fashion (the worst reason for buying new clothes).

And our culture, which is well aware of these needs, exploits them. In fact, they find ways to manipulate and influence us to feel deeper “needs” than we really have. They distort the line between “need” and “want.” “The need they start with is usually legitimate, but then it is distorted and twisted into rampant and out-of-control greed.”

“A waiting heart deliberately interrupts this process in which our needs become corrupted by covetousness. We are returned to our basic needs, our God-need, and are directed to take care of that. Fundamentally, we take care of it by praying.”

God should be the first “item” on our list of needs. And we deal with that need through prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

But here is the catch. There’s always a catch, right? Just as that hunger for lunch returns, even though it was temporarily satisfied by breakfast, our need for God does not go away when we pray. In fact, not only does it remain, but it deepens! “And so we find ourselves waiting – for wholeness, for the coming of Christ. Waiting can make us impatient and irritable, or it can make us more and more helpful and ready. Waiting, for the praying Christian, is a gospel art.”

There are two kinds of waiting, as Peterson has already alluded to. One kind waits impatiently, wondering why it doesn’t already have what it wants. The other kind remembers that “the best is yet to come,” and waits with patient anticipation, reveling in the present grace of God, while also waiting for His future grace, with assurance that it is on the way.

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

Father, help me to wait in the second way. Even now, I still get impatient when I have to wait longer than I think I should have to wait for something. I get annoyed when the traffic light turns red. I get frustrated when my Sonic drinks take too long to come to me. God forgive me. There is no telling what the purpose of that delay was for. The extra time at the traffic light could be spent praying or meditating, rather than grumbling. Ditto the extra time in the Sonic stall. Yes, I want to get home, where my loved ones are waiting for me (and their Sonic drinks).

God, help me to remember the words of Dallas Willard, when he told John Ortberg to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” There is no reason to hurry. Help me to wait with the patient expectation that, yes, the best is yet to come. Someday, we don’t know when, Jesus is coming soon. If we knew when, it would be easier to be ready, wouldn’t it? But seeing as how I am always late getting ready for things, why would that event be any different? Therefore, I need to make sure I am ready now, because it could happen at any time, right? I don’t know about all the prophecy and theology behind this. I know that Paul and the other apostles believed that He would be returning in a matter of years, maybe weeks, from the days in which they were writing.

Help me to wait, Lord. Help me to live expectantly, not impatiently. Help me to know the power of the resurrected Jesus in my life, as I walk through this world and in Your kingdom. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Yes, and amen, Lord!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Never

Today is Sunday, the twentieth of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,383

C and Mama spent the bulk of yesterday in Mineral Wells, and filled up my car with stuff from Mama’s house. They got her mail picked up and started the process for changing her address, although, they said, it will take a few weeks for that to fully take effect. They will continue to hold her mail at the post office until that time.

That’s okay, because we will need to continue making trips back there for a while, and some of them will need to be on weekdays (probably Mondays and/or Thursdays), because there are tax things that need to be taken care of, and maybe bank things, and who knows what else, that must be done during business hours.

So now begins the process of deciding what needs to be kept and what can be given away or sold in an estate sale. While this seems stressful and anxiety-inducing on the surface, we also know that there is really no hurry. Our main concern, though, is keeping the house secure. There are people who will be helping with this, keeping an eye on the place, in Mama’s absence.

We have lots of extra food around the house, now, which is kind of funny. I believe C unloaded Mama’s refrigerator, and they gave a lot of the food to one of Mama’s friends that stopped by. They also cleared out the pantry, so ours is kind of overflowing. C and I just had a conversation about possibly getting a set of shelves or a stand-alone pantry thing to put next our freezer that is in the “dining room” area. Actually, we just ordered one. It will be here Wednesday. Which is perfect, because I am off on Wednesday of this week.

Our house church will not be meeting, this morning, and I’m not sure what I’m doing. I have considered going back to the Lutheran church, this morning, but my friend, Jacob, has just gotten back from a trip to Peru, early this morning, and likely will not be there. Of course, I’m not going for him, right. And, seeing as it is almost 10:00 right now, I’m likely not going to make it to Grapevine by 11:00.

But I’ve got to get this finished first, right?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.
In the day of prosperity be joyful, 
and in the day of adversity consider: 
God has made the one as well as the other, 
so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
 In my vain life I have seen everything. 
There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, 
and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. 
Why should you destroy yourself? 
Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. 
Why should you die before your time? 
It is good that you should take hold of this, 
and from that withhold not your hand, 
for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them. 
(Ecclesiastes 7:14-18 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the great day that C and Mama had yesterday; it seems they had a really good time and got a lot accomplished
2. for the peace in my heart, this morning
3. that my God will never leave me or forsake me; ever; under no circumstances
4. that, because of His presence, I am able to "enjoy" the tasks set before me
5. that I have the Word of God "hidden" in my heart (Psalm 119:11)

Today’s prayer word is “enjoy.”

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?
(Ecclesiastes 3:22 NIV)

I’ve liked this verse for many years, now, and agree with the sentiment. I’ve been spending a bit of time in Ecclesiastes, lately, because that’s where my Bible-reading plan has me, right now.

And putting those two words together, “enjoy” and “work,” is almost oxymoronic. In the words of the person who wrote the reading, “It’s not really work if it’s something I enjoy.” This is pretty much how I feel about my “job” at the Hurst Public Library. Oh, sure, there are aspects about it that aren’t exactly fun (like shelving children’s picture books, which are mostly shelved on floor-level), but as I told my good friend, Rick, the other day, when he dropped by, “I’m living the dream!”

I did not enjoy my work before that. The only thing I enjoyed about the job I retired from was some of the people that I worked with. And they are the only people I miss about working there. Most people are probably stuck in that situation. But we don’t have to be, because our “enjoyment” of something is largely in our head (or heart). Remember Brother Lawrence, whom we talked about earlier, this week. He’s the guy who found peace and enjoyment washing dishes and cooking meals for other monks at the abbey. He found that, in the right frame of mind, even washing pots and pans could be worship.

Such is our lot in life, says the writer of Ecclesiastes. And it is better to enjoy it, and “eat, drink, and be merry,” than to complain and fret about it.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 ESV)

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 ESV)

“Never.”

Never is listed as an adverb (I confess I did not know that). It means, “at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever.” “Not at all.” Synonyms include, “Under no circumstances,” and “on no account.”

The three members of the Holy Trinity have sworn to us that they will never leave us. Jesus told His disciples (and through them, us) that He would always be with them.

Moses told Israel, in Deuteronomy, that the Lord goes with them, and would not leave them or forsake them. And the Lord, Himself, said to Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went.

This, of course, if we believe it (and I do), great cause for encouragement. It gives purpose to life; it eases anxiety (unfortunately, as we are still human, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely because we are fickle and unfaithful creatures).

One way in which I believe that the Lord never leaves me is in the many ways His Word affects my life. I believe (and this is, I admit, somewhat mystical) that the things I read in His Word lodge themselves in my mind, heart, and spirit, never to depart. I might forget a verse I have read, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not in there, somewhere, etched on my heart.

In Sunday School, as a child, probably before I could read, I learned “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11). Literalist fundamentalist legalists would have you believe that that verse strictly refers to Scripture memorization. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with memorizing Bible verses. In fact, it is very helpful. but I no longer believe that that is all that verse refers to.

Because I believe that, any time I read from the Bible, it becomes “hidden” in my heart. And one other thing: what, or perhaps more correctly, WHO is God’s Word? Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh. And have certainly hidden Jesus in my heart. And Jesus is never going to leave me or forsake me. Therefore, God’s Word is solidly etched into my heart.

And knowing this is a great aid to doing what was discussed above that purple line. It is much easier to enjoy the tasks set before me when I remember this truth. God is with me when I’m washing pots and pans, when I’m cooking dinner, when I’m sweeping the floor, doing laundry, or shelving children’s picture books.

Father, I praise You for Jesus, Your Word made flesh. I thank You that He is “hidden” in my heart, by way of the Holy Spirit, and that, because of this, will never leave me or forsake me. This promise from You is life-changing. It gives hope for all kinds of circumstances, just knowing that You will never forsake me, that You always be with me, wherever I go. It also causes caution, because it also means that, should I go someplace where I should not be, You would also be there with me.

I thank You for that word “never” in those promises. I am also grateful for that word “enjoy” and the suggestion in Ecclesiastes that we should simply enjoy our lives, along with whatever we find ourselves doing with our hands, because that is our “lot in life.” We are, I am, where You have placed me. I have no concern to change my circumstances. Oh, sure, I dream. Who doesn’t? But they are nothing more than dreams, and I find myself more and more content with where I am, every day, thanks to You and Your presence in my life. And that You will never leave nor forsake me makes it that much simpler to enjoy my life and not fret about things, especially things over which I have no control.

Father, I pray for our world, today. In many ways, it seems like the entire world is burning, right now. Things appear to be awful, pretty much everywhere, and people are all looking for someone to blame. Help us to deal with the circumstances in the best possible way. Help us to not fret over things that do not directly affect or endanger us. Yet. But keep us mindful that You are in control, no matter how on fire everything seems to be. From outward appearances, it looks like chaos, and looks like a snowball rolling down a hill with no chance of stopping. And we very well may be close to the return of our Savior . . . we don’t know, we can’t know, because according to Him, HE doesn’t even know. Only You know.

And I trust You.

So there.

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.

Presence in Absence

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your life today!

Day 23,376

And today marks my 64th revolution around our sun, the beginning of my 65th year. I almost gave myself an extra year. Must have gotten a little carried away with “spring forward,” there. Today also marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, or, as I like to call it, “Fake Time.”

I got a couple of early birthday presents Friday evening, delivered by carrier, from R. I went ahead and opened those, and received a library scented candle, and a book, Just Kids, by Patti Smith, that has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. It’s memoir, by a singer/songwriter who was influential in the emergence of punk rock in New York City, in the seventies.

Last night, we cut into this wonderful thing:

It is very delicious, although we may have finally succeeded in getting too much icing on the cookie. “I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do,” to quote King George, from Hamilton.

We will be going to our house church gathering, in a little while, and since the time is later than usual (fake time), I need to get moving. I’ve only had one cup of coffee, too, for Pete’s sake.

Who is Pete, even? I’ve always wondered that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have successfully completed another revolution around the sun; by "successfully," I mean still alive
2. for the legacy of faith in my life; it's not perfect, but it's consistent; through all these years, God has kept me in His hands
3. for a godly wife and mother; between the two of them, they have helped keep me on the path
4. for days of rest
5. that God is always present, even when it seems He is absent

Today’s prayer word is “sabbath.” That is very interesting, considering that today is Sunday. Of course, Sunday is not the “sabbath,” even though the modern evangelical church has considered it to be so, as long as I can remember. The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day. That’s why we have denominations like Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe they are more righteous than the rest of us because they observe a literal, legalistic “sabbath.”

All of this misses the point of “sabbath,” in my opinion.

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
(Hebrews 4:4 ESV)

Did God need to rest? Of course not! How would God be “tired?”

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:4 ESV)

But humans need rest, and God knew that. Which is why there were laws concerning the Sabbath. I insist that we, who are under grace and not law, and who are not Israel, do not observe the Sabbath, as such. There are some who disagree with me, and that’s fine. But we need rest, and the principle is still in play.

Rest is important for the human body. When we sleep, it repairs itself. I have learned more about sleep and what it does for the body, in the last couple years, than I knew my whole life. Rest is crucial. So taking a “sabbath” rest each week is good. It is helpful, and it is necessary. Just don’t get legalistic about it. For me, “rest” might be sitting in my easy chair playing on the Playstation. Or it might be reading a book. But it also might be bowling. Recreation can be rest, in my opinion.

It has nothing, however, to do with whether or not I can buy pantyhose on Sunday. Not that I need pantyhose. I don’t even know if “blue laws” are still a thing in Texas. I just did a small bit of research and found that the only thing that cannot be sold at all on Sunday is hard liquor. Beer and wine after noon, and car dealerships must close either Saturday or Sunday and have the ability to decide for themselves. But there was a day when you could not buy certain items (like pantyhose, which was ridiculous, because the likelihood of church ladies needing new pantyhose on Sunday morning was, at one time, pretty high) on Sunday.

But I digress.

The important thing is that we, as humans, recognize our need to have a day of rest, at some point in the week. In my opinion, it could be Wednesday. Doesn’t matter what day. Just rest.

How does this fit into prayer? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think the soul needs rest, just like the body needs rest. So, maybe there need to be times where we turn off all the social media and televisions and podcasts and simply turn our spirits, restfully, toward the heavens for a while.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Maybe we can make some correlation between “sabbath” and Lent. Honestly, I never thought of that until today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

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.
(1Peter 1:3 ESV)

We are in between times. In between the wonder of Christmas and the joy of Easter. It’s a long stretch, and this season of Lent lasts forty days, in the middle of it. Many people never recognize Lent at all. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think I even heard of it until at least my college years, and possibly after. And, although I may not actively participate ever year, at least it is on my mind, during the time.

I think the placement of it, in the Church calendar, is good. While we know that God is always present, there is a sense of “absence,” during this time of Lent. And maybe, just maybe, what Lent is about is “finding God in the in-between times of life, seeing how He might be present in a veritable absence.” (Rick Hamlin)

Father, I pray for more of a sense of Your presence during this season. As I consider the relationship between the sabbath and Lent, may I have a heightened sense of You and Your presence. Help me to rest better. Help me to “sabbath” better. And may the season of Lent be a sort of long sabbath for me, especially along the lines of that which I am trying to give up or avoid, the act of being critical about things and people. It’s going “okay,” but could be better. You have given me more of an awareness of when I do fall into it, and that is good.

I thank You for sixty-four years, and pray for a few more. Maybe many more. I don’t know how many I want. I want however many You want for me. I’m not picky. I do enjoy this thing we call life, though. And it is more enjoyable when You are surrounding me. Thank You for being part of my life all these years, and please keep being part of it.

I love You, Father. Through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.