“In Humility Count Others More Significant Than Yourselves.”

Good morning. It is Thursday pre-Friday, July 25, 2013.

Today is Chili Dog Day. What? Didn’t we just have “Hot Dog Day” on Tuesday?? And yesterday was “Drive-Thru Day.” I think it’s a junk-food conspiracy.

It always seems like I don’t have much to report on Thursdays. By Wednesday, the week seems to have settled in and become pretty typical. We made it to the gym last night, or at least Stephanie and I did. Christi took one more night off, still being sore from the work she did over the weekend on Stephanie’s room. But then, what did she do? She put together the new lamp that we got for above-mentioned room! Sigh.

Work has been going well for me. I’m enjoying what I do. Today some VIPs from our client are supposed to be visiting, so I’ll get to meet some of them for the first time as a CSR for their business.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1593, Henri de Navarre, otherwise known as Henri IV, became a Catholic in order to make sure his kingship of France. He had already technically been king since 1589, when Henri III “had died from stab wounds administered by a frenzied monk.” But he was a protestant living in a country that was predominantly Catholic. So he spent the first four years of his kingship trying to conquer his own country. The Catholic League fought against him, along with Philip II of Spain (a fanatical Catholic), and much of the rest of the population of France, particularly Paris. But, being a wise man, Henri IV decided to “put his people and his country above his sect, and he finally decided to turn Catholic to gain his kingdom.” On this day, he rode to the cathedral of St. Denis, “where France’s kings are buried, where he abjured his Calvinism to join the Church of Rome.” Of course, his motive was political rather than religious, and he made this famous statement before entering the cathedral: “Paris vaut bien une mess.” (Paris is well worth a Mass.) By this selfless act, Henri IV “finally brought to a close more than 30 years of religious wars that had come close to destroying France.”

Today’s birthday is D.B. Woodside, born on this date in 1969 (and the only one on my list who is still alive! The only reason I know this guy is due to his portrayal of Principal Robin Wood in season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Honorable mentions go to Walter Payton, 1954-1999, Estelle Getty, 1923-2008, Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966, Walter Brennan, 1894-1974, and Jerry Paris, 1925-1986. Wow. Most of today’s birthdays are dead people!


Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Psalm 100:12
Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Psalm 86:16
O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:3-4
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Psalm 68:19

Father, I’ve come into your presence with singing this morning. So often, I wonder, just like the Psalmist, how it is that you even condescend to notice us. You are so far above us; so infinitely holy and righteous, while we are merely sinful creatures. Yet you care for us. We are truly but a breath, and our lives but a vapor. May we serve you properly during that “vapor,” and then praise you for all eternity in the next life. Blessed be your name! Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth, as I look into your words this morning.

In Tabletalk Magazine today, I read Jeremiah 1:11-19. (I’m a bit behind on these readings, as the first copy of the magazine I received was missing about 30 pages!) It focuses on verses 11-12.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

We tend to measure “ministerial success” in the number of converts won over the course of a person’s ministry. But if that were the case, Jeremiah would have been the most miserable failure ever. In contrast, Scripture tells us that the “primary indicator of ministerial success is faithfulness to God and His Word.” And God is sovereign over his word, as seen in our passage for today. And, in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, we see that God gives the growth, according to his own schedule. God gave Jeremiah the assurance that he would be watching over him and his ministry, and that the words of the Lord would accomplish exactly what they were sent out to accomplish. Faithfulness to the Lord and his message is more important than the number of converts.

Today, in A Year With God, I’m beginning a new section on the discipline of Fellowship. Fellowship is defined as, “Engaging with other disciples in the common activities of worship, study, prayer, celebration, and service, which sustain our life together and enlarge our capacity to experience more of God.” It is clear from the beginning pages of Scripture to the very end of the book that “the Christian life is to be a life lived together.” One of the catch phrases of the current era is “doing life together.” I think it appropriate that this discipline is taken on immediately following Solitude. While Jesus often prayed alone, in a desolate place, he never traveled through Judea alone, but was always with his trusted disciples and friends. Paul describes the Church as the Body of Christ and compares it to the human body, where each of us has a different job to do in the Body. “Only together can the Church run smoothly for God’s glory.” The discipline of Fellowship can “bring us great joy, encouragement, and comfort.” On the other hand, it can also bring us great “frustration and disappointment, as we bump up against each other’s sins, shortcomings, and failures.” Have you ever noticed how much space Paul takes up trying the solve the “problems of community living?” One of the most important aspects of community is sharing Communion together. “Jesus commanded us to gather together and remember him when we ate the bread and drank of the cup.” This is but one way we can “focus our fellowship on Jesus.” Ephesians 4:16 says, . . . from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The first reading in this section is called “Recognizing Christ in Others.” The scripture reading comes from Philippians 1 and 2.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. (1:27)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (2:1-3)

Paul takes great joy in the thought of the community of the Body being unified. Most of Paul’s letters are written to communities. He even points to the fact that we have a new citizenship within these communities (Philippians 3:20). “It is one thing to aim toward personal spiritual growth. It is another to strive as a community toward spiritual maturity.” We need to be “of the same mind, having the same love.” Paul gives us a very good key to this in verse 3 of Philippians 2 when he tells us, “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This may be the most difficult command in the entire Bible. It goes against every grain of our existence. I’m supposed to do what?? Seriously?? I’ve done such-and-such longer and better than so-and-so!! How can he be more significant than me?? But, you see, it’s not about talent. It’s not about wealth. It’s not about appearance. It’s about our hearts, and it’s about community. We desperately need to move away from self-obsession and toward unity of spirit.

“One way to put community-mindedness into action is to recognize and appreciate the efforts of those around us.” So the next ten-day challenge is to, as I engage in my regular prayer time, or at the end of my day, ask myself who I saw Jesus in during the day. Then I’m to review how I treated people around me that day (ouch?). Was I “loving, patient, kind, and generous,” or did I act “with impatience or a lack of respect or love?” I might need some forgiveness on some points. Then I’m to finish up by asking God to continue to teach me how to “love [my] neighbors and to regard others as better than [myself].”

And I thought this “fellowship” piece was going to be fun!

Father, this is an area I need some work on. I pray for more ability to consider others to be more significant than me. This is a verse that I have stumbled over for years, possibly decades. I read it, and I agree with it, and purpose to do something about it. Then someone treats me rudely or makes me wait longer than I think I should have to wait. Help me, Lord, by the power of your Spirit, to put myself aside; to lay down my self-interests for the sake of my brothers and sisters, and even my neighbors, whether they be brothers and sisters or not. Teach me to be insignificant! What a terrifying prayer that is! I don’t want to be insignificant! There, I’ve said it! But my desire to be more spiritually mature and in line with your purpose for my life trumps my desire to be significant. So show me how to love my neighbor as myself, and to love your Church as you love her. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Teach me to obey your commands.

I pray for this day. May Christi and I have a good work day, and get everything accomplished that we need to do today. Show Stephanie your steadfast love today and work through the compassion that she has for others in her life. May we all live the Beatitudes, and manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Your grace is sufficient.

What kind of world would it be if we were all able to obey that one little command? “. . . in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Excellent and Praiseworthy

Good morning afternoon. Today is Thursday, June 27, 2013. It’s our last full day in Galveston. Ah, but it has been a marvelous week, in spite of the fact that I fell down during last night’s “Restless Spirits Ghost Tour” and broke our camera. (I think one of those “restless spirits” tripped me.) Oh, well. I got a scraped knee, but otherwise I’m okay. The camera, not so much. So we’re looking for a new camera now. We didn’t see any ghosties on this tour, but I there were definitely two instances where I got some serious piloerections. That’s goosebumps for all of you people with filthy minds. One time was when we were looking up a very long, narrow staircase inside one of the many buildings around The Strand, and the other was when we were in an alley, talking about ghosts of little boys and an elevator mechanic who kind of seems to be the “protector” of all the boys.

Or maybe we DID see some ghosts! Christi took three pictures of a window in “Charlie’s Alley” (that’s the one referenced above, where I got serious goosebumpage), and, on the way back to the condo, she got real excited and made me pull over to look at them. Sure enough, you could see the image of a face that appeared to be looking through the curtains in that window.

Is there a face in this window?
Is there a face in this window?

photo 2
photo 3
Click on the photos to get a closer look. If you dare!

We did have a good time on the tour, which was worth it just for the stories told by the tour guide. The history of Galveston is fraught with tragedy, the worst of which revolves around the famous hurricane of 1900. The stories are simply horrible. I knew it was bad. But I had no idea how bad. It was the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States. Many of the “hauntings” seem to be spawned from that event. For example, even the local Wal-Mart on Seewall Blvd is alleged to be haunted by children, as it sits on the site of an orphanage that was there at the time of the 1900 hurricane. It is reported that toys fly off the shelves in the middle of the night.

Well, enough of that. Today, we have no plans, other than to head back down to the East Beach at some point, and spend our last evening in Galveston relaxing on the beach and in the water.

Today is Sunglasses Day. Indeed. I will, no doubt wear mine at some point today. But, unlike Corey Hart, I do not wear my sunglasses at night. That’s just silly.

(Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1472, while King Louis XI and Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, were fighting over France, Charles and his army arrived beneath the walls of a “handsome walled city” called Beauvais, 50 miles north of Paris. The residents of Beauvais already knew what had happened to neighboring city Nesle, which was ravaged after having surrendered to the Duke. The citizens of Beauvais “put up a might resistance,” and one young lady, a simple butcher’s daughter named Jeanne Laisne, took up her father’s butcher’s hatchet, cut down the Burgundian flag bearer and seized the standard. “Twenty-five days after the siege began Duke Charles was forced to withdraw his depleted army.” Jeanne Laisne became a heroine, and was given the nickname Jeanne Hachette. There remains to this day a statue of her likeness in the city’s old marketplace.

Today’s birthday is Christian Kane, born on this date in 1974. Born in Texas, he has starred in Angel, the spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as the TNT series, Leverage. Currently, he is front man for the country band that goes by his last name, Kane. Here is a clip of him singing one of his songs on Leverage.

Honorable mentions go to Helen Keller, 1880-1968, Tobey Maguire, 38, Bob Keeshan, 1927-2004, J.J. Abrams, 47, Julia Duffy, 62, and Rico Petrocelli, 70.


Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
Psalm 86:16
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Psalm 54:4
But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord;
exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
Psalm 68:3-5

Father, I pray for that strength today, as you have truly saved the “son of your maidservant.” Be my hiding place today, be my helper and uphold my life. I shall exult before you as I look to your word for strength and inspiration this afternoon. Show me a vision of you today.

Today’s reading from Tabletalk magazine focuses on the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-26.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

One thing that I have noted for a long time is the idea that this is a singular fruit, not a group of “fruits.” I hear many people speak of the “fruits” of the Spirit, as though we might possess one or two, and not the others. However, I believe very strongly, that we are to possess the entire list, if we are, in fact, living by the Spirit. This is not a vague list of “ideals” to shoot for. These are qualities that must be in our lives, if we are to be said to be following Christ. It is also important to note the general “selflessness” of these qualities. These qualities seem to be mostly outwardly-directed (with the exception of self-control). If we possess (or are at least seeking to possess) all of these, we will find that verse 26 comes much easier, and we will not be “conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Think About These Things.” The scripture reference is Philippians 4:8-9.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

“The spiritual life is a cooperative transformation of thought and action.” First, we have God working in us, as described in Philippians 2:13, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. But we have a part to play in this life, as well. We must choose what we think on, as described in the above reference. Then we must choose the right things to do. “As we model our thoughts after the highest of standards and model our lives after the life and message of Paul himself, we will find that the ‘God of peace’ himself accompanies us on our transforming journey.”

“Lord God, I return to you today to meditate on those things that are excellent
and ‘worthy of praise.’ Throughout my day it seems that my thoughts
are on everything but what is just, pure, pleasing, and commendable.
Guide my thoughts, Lord; teach me about what is excellent and
praiseworthy in your sight, that I may honor you in thought, word, and deed.

Father, I confess that I spend way too much time thinking on things that are most definitely not excellent and praiseworthy. I pray that you continue to mold my mind, shape my thoughts, that I might focus more on the fruit of the Spirit in my life, meditating and thinking on those things that are pure, lovely, and commendable. While being in a setting such as this week makes it easier to focus on your glory and majesty, soon, I have to return to the drudgery of the work setting. There it becomes more difficult, more challenging, especially as my work setting is changing. Help me to meet this challenge, by the power of your Spirit. Make me adaptable to change, that I might continue to find time to pray and meditate during my work day, that I might not get overwhelmed by the new challenges ahead. Most importantly, as I pray daily for the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in my life, I pray that I might possess all of these qualities, in increasing measure.

I pray for the activities of this day, whatever they turn out to be. Keep us safe as we move about today, and give us safe travel back to Fort Worth tomorrow.

We love you, Lord. Teach us to follow you closely.

Join me today in doing a thoughtful check on those things that we find ourselves thinking on. Are they pure? Are they lovely? Are they commendable? Are they excellent? Are they praiseworthy?

Grace and peace, friends.

God Is There

Good morning. Today is Saturday, June 8 (I keep forgetting what day it is, and have to hover my mouse over the clock at the bottom of my screen), 2013. Sigh. A well-needed Saturday, too. This week has seemed like a long one, probably because last week was only four days because of the Memorial Day holiday.

Only ten more work days on this wretched account that I work on. Yesterday, our client sent us more freight than I have ever seen in the history of this account. I just talked to the guy who works nights, while ago, and it actually turned out better than I was expecting. That’s helping me rest a little easier over the weekend. No new developments yet.

We’re going to cook a brisket tomorrow (or maybe tonight). Why? Because we want to. What more reason do you need? We got a recipe last week for one that we had last Sunday at a friend’s house, and it was legen . . . wait for it . . . dary!

Today, the bass player in our worship band is coming over to work on music with me. It seems he is leading worship tomorrow, and he’s nervous about that. I know this guy. He’ll do fine. But I’m there for him; I got your back, Terry!! 😀

Today is (oh, my gosh, I didn’t have a donut yesterday!!) Best Friends Day. I’m married to mine.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, was imprisoned with his parents in 1792, in the Temple, “a 12th century fortified monastery so named because it once housed the Templar order.” He technically became King of France, Louis XVII, after his father was executed in January of 1793. Shortly after that, he was “put in the charge of a rabidly republican cobber named Antoine Simon, who treated him with the brutality and contempt that revolutionaries reserve for royalty.” Three months after that, his mother was executed at the guillotine, and the young dauphin was, once again, imprisoned in the Temple. “The only poetic justice in the story is that Simon perished on the guillotine shortly thereafter, executed in the same group of victims as the Terror’s main terrorist, Maximilien Robespierre.” Loius-Charles was kept in solitary confinement in a cell that was never cleaned and doubled as a toilet. He died on this date in 1795, at the age of ten. Yes. I said “ten.” What an absolutely dreadful story. “Modern scholars believe he died of tuberculosis.” Of course there are rumors. Some said that he was poisoned by his jailers, while others say that he never died but was somehow rescued from the Temple. In the years that followed, there were many who pretended to be “the Dauphin, most famously and fictitiously in Mark Twain’s great novel Huckleberry Finn.”

Today’s birthday is, of course, Chuck Negron, born on this date in 1942. It is hard to believe that one of the lead singers of Three Dog Night is 71 years old today. Three Dog Night was one of my very favorite rock groups in the late sixties and early seventies. I share this love of them with my wife, as they are her favorite group, as well (okay, they may be tied with Steve Perry and Journey). Chuck is our favorite of the three “dogs,” even though he no longer is affiliated with the group, after some really rough times in his life. Three Dog Night still tours without Chuck, and he occasionally tours on his own. We say him a few years ago at one of the “Hippiefest” events that rolled through town. Happy birthday, Chuck! Here is a You Tube clip of their hit song, “One.”

Honorable mentions go to Robert Schumann, 1810, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867, John W Campbell, 1910, Robert Preston, 1918, Jerry Stiller, 1927, Nancy Sinatra, 1940, Scott Adams, 1957, Derek Trucks, 1979, and Alex Band, 1981.


Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah. Psalm 84:8
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Father, I pray that you teach me something during my time with you this morning. Give me the grace to live this day, and to accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished in your plan for my life.

In Touch Magazine reminds me, today, that I am always in the line of God’s vision.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

The example is given of a three-year-old girl who suddenly realizes that she cannot see her daddy anywhere. She begins to panic. What she doesn’t realize is that he is in the next room, and has been able to see her all along. He never lost sight of her. When our eyes are distracted from looking at our Father, when they become focused on “the hills,” which are a constant source of treat and trouble, we need to remember that our Father’s eyes are always on us. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4).

In the same light, Tabletalk Magazine gives us reasons not to fear. We may fear that God does not always see us. We may fear that the worst case scenario is going to fall up on us. But God has words of comfort for us in Isaiah 43. In verse 1, God says, Fear not, for I have redeemed you. This word “redeemed” means (in a rather simplistic way) “purchased.” God has purchased us with the sacrifice of his Son. This redemption, this purchase, comes to us through his call. But it is not just a general call. See the reset of verse 1. I have called you by name, you are mine. I belong to God, body and soul. He has purchased me; he has called me by name. So even if that worst case scenario does happen, I belong to him, so I have nothing to fear.

But there’s more. In verse 5, God says, Fear not, for I am with you. In fact, there are promises in verse 2 that go along with this thought. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. “When the worst comes upon us and we feel exposed, alone, and ashamed, we hear God reminding us that He is with us in our affliction.” What more comfort do we need than these words, “Fear not, for I am with you?”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Seeking False Guidance.” The scripture reading is 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, which chronicles the tragic circumstances of King Saul.

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.
1Ch 10:14 He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

How often are we tempted to look elsewhere if God doesn’t answer our prayer for guidance right away? “Even Christians sometimes fall into such superstitions practices as ‘Bible roulette,’ in which one opens the Bible at random and looks for guidance in the first verse the finger falls on.” Many of us are familiar with the humorous joke in which the man is asking for guidance and does this. His finger falls on Matthew 27:5, which says of Judas Iscariot, And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. Feeling certain that this was surely not his course of action, he tries again. This time his finger lands on Luke 10:37, in which Jesus says, “You go, and do likewise.” Desperate for one last try, he closes his Bible and does it again, landing on John 13:27, in which Jesus says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” It’s a funny story, but it also shows the error of trying to make decisions in this way. In truth, it’s not much different than Saul consulting a medium to try to solve his problems. When we are desperate for guidance, there is no other proper course than to pray to our Father, and then be patient as he gives us our answer, even if it takes weeks. Or years.

Lord, your way is perfect: Help us always to trust in your goodness, so that, walking with you and following you in all simplicity, we may possess quiet and contented minds, and may cast all our care on you, for you care for us. Grant this, Lord, for your dear Son’s sake, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father, I pray that the thoughts presented in my devotional today will stay at the front of my mind throughout, not only this weekend, but the rest of my life. You always have your eyes on me, I am always in your line of sight, even when my eyes get taken off of you by some distraction. You have purchased me, you have redeemed me, you have called me, and you are always with me, even when things get tough. May I remember this, by the power of your Spirit, each day, especially during these stressful times at my work, when I fall into the temptation of thinking you aren’t there. That’s silly. Of course, you are there, and I praise you for this. When I have decisions to make, may I always seek your Spirit, and nothing else. Speak to me through your word, through your Spirit, and through others, if necessary, and give me the ears to hear and eyes to see your truth and your guidance.

I pray for this day, as Christi and I go out to do our weekly chores. Keep us safe as we travel around. I pray for the practice session this afternoon, that Terry and I will have a productive time, as well as some fun. I pray for our worship celebration tomorrow, that you will be glorified and praised, above all else. It’s not a concert; it’s not a production; it’s not about visual response. May we and our other leaders always know and recognize this.

Rest assured of the truths in this devotional today. God can always see us; God has purchased us; and God is always with us. I can think of nothing else that I need to get through each day.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Father’s Delight

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Yesterday was actually a pretty decent day. Christi’s first day back at work went pretty well, but she was pretty tired when she got home. We had dinner from Subway and went to bed early. Stephanie cleaned her room yesterday.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

She also cleaned out her closet.

I’ll give you about five minutes to let that sink in.

Today is Hug Your Cat Day. I’m all about that. Just be careful. If the cat does not want to be hugged, it can be extremely painful. Here is a very cute video of two cats hugging.

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1940, the evacuation of the Allied forces at Dunkirk was abandoned. It was considered largely successful, as almost 340,000 troops were evacuated with the help of the Royal Navy and RAF. The escape became known as “the miracle of Dunkirk,” and was, by some, considered a victory in itself. However, as Winston Churchill made his speech later that day, he cautioned, “We must be very careful not to assign this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” His speech also included these famous words as he “roared defiance:” “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Today’s birthday is Michelle Phillips, born on this date in 1944. Michelle was one of the “mamas” in The Mamas and the Papas. Here is a You Tube clip of one of my favorite songs of theirs, “I Call Your Name.”

Honorable mentions go to Dennis Weaver, 1924, Bruce Dern, 1936, Gordon Waller, 1945, Joe Hill, 1972.


Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD. Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Psalm 135:1, 3, 5
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14
Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! Psalm 108:2

Father, I pray that I might be satisfied with your steadfast love, that I may rejoice and be glad in you, all of my days. Teach me something today, as I look into your words.

Here’s a quote from today’s Tabletalk Magazine reading.

“To ask questions of God in faith means asking Him with the willingness to be content with His answer or even if He never appears to give us an answer at all. To ask questions of the Lord in a faithless manner is to demand an answer or to find certain answers unacceptable. As we wrestle with God in prayer, let us take care that we always come before Him in faith, trusting in His goodness and willing to be content with whatever He gives us.”


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Guided by the Spirit.” The scripture reading is John 16:12-13.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

After Christ ascended and the Spirit came to earth, Jesus was liberated from the limitations that he had placed upon himself to become this Jewish teacher and healer. “With this liberation the person of Christ became free to move with the word of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the inner life of the disciples and about the world at large.”

I have to say that I disagree with the above quote. According to scripture, Jesus is still in physical form at the right hand of the Father, where he will stay until he returns to the earth in judgment. The Holy Spirit is a separate entity, and is not Jesus. The subject of the trinity is a tricky thing, while all three persons of the Trinity are “God,” they are not all each other. I don’t want to dive any further into a discussion on the Trinity here, but I have to disagree with the above statement in this book. It is the Holy Spirit that is “free to move with the word of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the inner life of the disciples and about the world at large.” In fact, it is probably incorrect to even say that Jesus lives in my heart, when it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit.

But this misses the point of the reading, I think. The point is that we are now guided by the Holy Spirit, with his direct influence on our lives. Jesus does guide us through the Spirit “into understanding and truth.” A prayer is offered at the end of this reading.

“Father God, I have seen these last days how faithful you are in guiding your people. Help me to rush to you with my arms open wide, seeking your Spirit at all times in your word, in other people, in Christ moving in the circumstances of my life. I ask for patience for those times when the way is murky. Clear away all the static in my life, so that I can hear you more clearly. In your name I pray. Amen.”

And if we take this thought along with the above quote from Tabletalk, the aspect of seeking his guidance includes the faith to accept whatever guidance he gives (or doesn’t give).

The final section of 19 Mercies, by Brennan Manning, is called “Trust.” Mercy number 17 is “Trust in your Father’s delight.”

A Trappist monk, Basil Pennington, is quoted as saying, “A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off his toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, his attention flitting from one thing to another, or if he’s intent upon his father, or just settling down to sleep. The father doesn’t care, because essentially the child is choosing to be with his father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is his in those arms.” Wow! What an amazing quote! Our prayer should be just like that! We have immediate access to our Father’s “lap.” We can “settle down in our Father’s arms and His loving hands.” Or thoughts and imaginations may wander, we may even fall asleep. But we choose to remain with him, “giving ourselves to Him, receiving His love and care, letting Him enjoy us as He will.” And let us not only pray what we are comfortable with! Let us reveal “our whole trembling self to Him with all our anxieties, dark desires, fears, sensuality, laziness, and incompetence!” His perfect love casts out all fear!

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 131

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before
the world was made, He chose us in Christ to be holy and
spotless, to live through love in His presence, determining that
we should become His adopted sons through Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle Paul

Father, help to experience more times like this, where I just sit in your lap and be with you, regardless of where my mind goes. May my prayer times be this intimate; may I truly bring to you every deep and dark secret that I possess, and lay them down at your feet, allowing your perfect love to cast out all my fear. I struggle still, with this steadfast love of yours. Even though I have stated that I accept it, and I do, it is still something that my flesh simply cannot believe, so there are multiple times every day when I doubt it, when I feel unworthy of it, when I simply can’t believe that anyone could love me the way you love me. I pray that I can grow deeper into this love and become a conduit of your love to those around me. Help me to help them find your love! May I be a peacemaker in my world.

I pray for this day ahead. May it be a smooth day for both Christi and me. I pray for her strength and stamina today as she goes to work. I pray that her job will remain stable in the days ahead, or, if not, that you are preparing something in advance for her to move to. I pray for Stephanie today, that she might find your love as she looks for Jesus in Colossians 1. Give her wisdom as she seeks your face. I pray that my work day will go well, again today. Thank you for the relief that I had yesterday in the work day.

Your grace is sufficient.

Look for the guidance of God through the Spirit, but be ready to accept whatever answers he gives or doesn’t give. Then immerse yourself in his steadfast, crazy, overwhelming love.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Gospel of the Forgotten Woman

Good morning. It is Saturday, May 25, 2013, and I’m up early to get ready to go to work. Yes, I have to work. Bleah. I’m going in earlier than usual, so I don’t have a lot of time this morning. However, what I may do is go until I run out of time, and then finish the draft at work. We shall see.

The first order of business this morning is to wish my parents, Ken and Bonnie Bickley, a happy, um, lessee . . . 56th wedding anniversary? That must be right, because I’m 55. Anyway. Happy anniversary to you!

Today is International Jazz Day. It is also Tap Dance Day. Those can go very well together!

(I would hate to be that sax player on the front row!)

(From Great Stores from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1895 Oscar Wilde was convicted by a London jury of “committing indecent acts,” and was sentenced to two years of hard labor. This was the backfired result of him bringing a charge of libel against the Marquess of Queensbury for calling him a “sodomite.” The libel suit ended “in acquittal for Queensbury and arrest for Wilde,” as homosexual acts were illegal in London at the time. The Marquess of Queensbury was the father of Lord Alfred Douglas, with whom Wilde was involved with, and Queensbury was already “enraged at his son’s behavior.” Sadly, Wilde seems to have been the victim of a feud between the two. He wrote Douglas and said, “In your war of hate with your father I was at once shield and weapon to each of you.” Wilde’s life was ruined, and he fled England for Europe after his release in 1897. He wrote only one more work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and died at the age of 46 in a Paris hotel room on November 30, 1900.

Today’s birthday is Ian McKellen, born on this date in 1939. Gandalf, baby!!

Honorable mentions go to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, 1878 (here is where I would post a video if I could, this is “Mr. Bojangles”), Hal David (of Bacharach and David), 1921, Robert Ludlum, 1927, Mike Myers, 1963, and Cillian Murphy, 1976.


Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-10

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Father, I pray that, through this day, you will keep me looking to you. Teach me something during this time of scripture reading and meditation this morning.

(I am now at work, and do not have some of the resources that I normally have, therefore this may look slightly different than usual. Also, they block You Tube here, so I can’t copy and paste any videos.)

The weekend reading in Tabletalk Magazine brings out an interesting idea. It is called “The Forgotten Woman,” and centers around Leah, the first wife of Jacob/Israel. Everyone familiar with the story knows that Jacob served Laban for seven years in order to pay for the right to marry Rachel, the woman (girl?) he fell in love with when he first arrived at Paddan-aram. But Laban deceived him and switched girls on him. The Bible says that the Lord blessed Leah with children first because he “saw that Leah was hated.” She had four children before Rachel started noticing and went to Jacob and said, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Poor Jacob.

But this reading focuses on the names of those first four children. The first was Reuben. It means, “See, a son.” Leah said, “Now my husband will love me.” The second was named Simeon, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “heard,” and she said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” The third was named Levi, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “attached,” and she said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” You see, in each of these instances, Leah is focused on her husbands dislike of her and hoping that finally he will love her because of these sons. But on the fourth son, she names him Judah. “Judah” sounds like the Hebrew word for “praise.” Leah said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” She has finally taken her hopes off of Jacob.

“This forgotten woman is a picture of how grace comes to the forgotten and unloved.” We strive for so long to gain acceptance by doing things for people, but people continue to ignore and disappoint us. And there is not a one of us who has not been guilty of doing the ignoring and disappointing, because we are all human. But when we finally take our focus off of ourselves and off of other people, finally, we can praise the Lord and know that we are accepted, because God will neither ignore us nor disappoint us.

And to finish the story, “In the love of God, Leah became the ancestress of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus, to whom belongs the obedience of nations.”

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “A God Who Hides.” The scripture reading is Isaiah 45:14-15.

Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.'”

Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.

In this final reading on the discipline of secrecy, we look at the thought that God, even though he says in Romans that men are without excuse because of the revelation in creation, is still not readily known in those workings of creation. There is general revelation, but not enough to know him intimately. This idea is part of a notion that originated with Martin Luther, called Deus absconditus, or “the God who is hidden.” This doctrine or theology insists that, “apart from God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, God retains unto his own self the ultimate mystery of his life and character.” To state it the way the reading states it, “God is not at the beck and call of human beings.” Even Christians seem to fall into the trap of believing this, thinking that all they have to do is ask God for something, and he is obligated to provide. Let’s be clear about one thing: God is not obligated in any way, shape, or form to do anything for humans! It is only by his grace that he answers our prayers; it is because of his steadfast love for us that he condescends to interact with us.

Lord God, as wonderful as it is to abide in your shadow, sometimes my limited understanding makes me feel that you are too hidden, and I long for you to reveal yourself. I long for recognition not just for myself but for you, Lord–for your glory to be revealed to all! Teach me patience, Lord, and continue to stretch my understanding of who you are and how you work in the world. Continue to cultivate within me the humility to know that your way is best. Amen. (Prayer from the book)

Father, it is with joy that I praise you for the tale of this “forgotten woman” in the Bible. Never have I been made to think about Leah in the light that she was presented today! Never have I seen the significance of the names of those first four sons. I pray that I may take that example to heart, and forever cease striving to gain acceptance in the eyes of men (you have brought me pretty far in that journey, already). May I learn to not be disappointed in the way I am treated by men in this world. May I learn to not have expectations from people. Teach me to direct my gaze to you at all times, celebrating the joy of your steadfast love, that love which I have never deserved, nor will I ever deserve! Then teach me to love others in the same way.

There are things about you that I will probably never understand. Nevertheless, along with the prayer above, I ask that you stretch my understanding that I might see who you are and how you work. Teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Help me to teach others and show them your peace that passes all understanding. Help me to show them your crazy, overwhelming love.

I pray that this day will continue to go smoothly, and that all of our deliveries will go well. I pray for Christi as she continues to rest and heal. I pray that she won’t go “stir-crazy,” as I know that she is already tired of just laying around. Give her peace and comfort.

May we all learn something from this story of the forgotten woman, Leah.

Grace and peace, friends.

Unconditional Love

Good morning. Today is Saturday, May 18, 2013. Christi continues to rest as she recovers from the surgery. She’s beginning to tire of laying on the couch. It seems to be going really well, though, and she is being really good about following all the rules. She has an appointment Tuesday afternoon to go back to the doctor for a followup. In the meantime, Stephanie and I continue to take care of her, and I must say that Stephanie has been exemplary through this. We are very proud of her.

Not much planned for today. A trip to the grocery store, some practice for tomorrow’s worship celebration, and the rest of the day will probably be spent relaxing.

Today is International Museum Day. That’s a little bit of a problem. I love museums, myself. But my family? Not so much. The problem is, I like to look at everything, and read all the signs! Drives Christi nuts. And I can’t say as I blame her. But, if you have a chance, take in a museum today. Jog on over to the Smithsonian. 😀

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1152, one of the great romances of history was united in the marriage of Eleanor of Aquataine and Henry Plantagenet, duc d’Anjou. He was only nineteen, she was 30, but that didn’t seem to matter. Apparently, she was almost six months pregnant when they married. They had eight children together, and a year and a half after their marriage, Henry became King of England, and founded a dynasty that would last more than 300 years. Two of their most famous (or infamous, in one case) children were Richard the Lion-Heart and King John, “England’s most despicable king.”

Today’s birthday is Meredith Wilson, born on this date in 1902. Wilson was the composer responsible for my very favorite musical of all time, The Music Man. Here’s a clip of the “Trouble” scene from the movie, featuring Robert Preston as Prof. Harold Hill.

Honorable mentions go to Omar Khayyam, 1048, Matthew Brady, 1822, Frank Capra, 1897, Meredith Wilson, 1902, Perry Como, 1912, Kai Winding, 1922, Brooks Robinson, 1937, Albert Hammond, 1942, Rick Wakeman, 1949, Jim Sundberg, 1951, Michael Tait, 1966, Tina Fey, 1970, and Francesca Battistelli, 1985.


But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD! Psalm 115:18
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:5
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:3-4
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:5

Father, as I cry out to you this morning, seeking treasures from your Word, I pray that you will be my refuge and my portion. Let sing praises to you for as long as I live, and beyond. Your steadfast love truly is “great above the heavens,” and your faithfulness stretches to the clouds. Lead me, teach me, guide me in your truth and in your salvation.

In Tabletalk Magazine today, there is a quote from Jonathan Edwards:

Resolved never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life or before the last trumpet blew.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Jesus Humbled Himself.” The scripture reading is familiar, from Philippians 2:5-8.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

It is generally accepted that Paul seems to be quoting an early Christian hymn in this passage. In it, Jesus’s example is singled out as the “premier example of Christian life. Christian spiritual formation is growing in con-form-ity to Christ.” Jesus was equal with God, before he became human. However, he chose to not exploit that status. When it says that he did not count this equality as a thing to be grasped, it means that he did not cling to it. “He did not take advantage of his supreme authority for selfish ends.” He “emptied himself;” he gave himself up for death, for the sake of others. This is a prime example of humble obedience. His reward was that he was exalted and give the name that is above every name (v 9). We see from Jesus that status is not gained by “looking out for number one.” Well . . . maybe it is, depending on who that “Number One” is! The book gives us another quote from Andrew Murray’s book Humility.

“The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God’s presence he has learned to say with Paul, ‘I be nothing’ (2 Cor. 12:11). He has received the spirit of Jesus, who did not please Himself and did not seek His own honor, as the spirit of his life.”

Yesterday, as we considered 19 Mercies, by Brennan Manning, we spoke of “The God who is love.” The central message was that God’s love never changes, and that our sin does not cause him to stop loving us, just as our obedience does not cause him to start loving us again. Today, mercy number 9 is “God loves you unconditionally.” “You and I are loved by God unconditionally and as we are.” I want to read that again and let it sink in, because I’m not sure that we truly comprehend the weight of that statement.

You and I are loved by God unconditionally and as we are!

God loves me as I am, not as I should be. He loves me “beyond fidelity and infidelity, beyond worthiness and unworthiness.” He loves me “without caution, regret, boundary, limit, breaking point.” Regardless of what I do or what happens,






“If you took the love of all the best mothers and fathers who ever lived (think about that for a moment)–all the goodness, kindness, patience, fidelity, wisdom, tenderness, strength, and love–and united all those virtues in one person, that person would only be a faint shadow of the love and the mercy in the heart of God for you and me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion,

and ran

and embraced him

and kissed him.

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’

And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'” Luke 15:11-33

“And they began to celebrate.” The son didn’t even get to finish his “apology.” In fact, there is not even any indication that it mattered if the son was sincere! Do you realize this? He was giving a rehearsed speech! The father didn’t care!! His son had come home.

The great spiritual battle begins–and never ends–with the reclaiming of our chosenness. Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love. Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clocktime–our brief chronological existence–but by the One who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity.~~Henri J.M. Nouwen

Father, I am staggered by the repeated thoughts of your unconditional love for us; for me. I have spent years resisting the thought of your love for me. Resisting it because, how could you love someone like me? This kind of love does not compute! This kind of love does not exist in my world. How can I fathom such a love? Yet you have spent the last couple of years gently drilling this concept into me. You have tirelessly, unceasingly poured out this love on me while I, bit by bit, began to see the possibility of such love, while still, at the deepest level, continuing to resist it. I’m still a sinful creature, even though redeemed by the blood of the lamb. Having had so many human relationships, how can I fathom the thought that, when I disobey you, you are not angry? How can this be true? How can you not be disappointed in me? (Never mind the fact that it’s difficult impossible to be disappointed when you already know what we are going to do!)

Mark this day, Father. Today, I give up. Today, I embrace this love! With tears, I throw in the proverbial towel. I cannot fight this love. I can no longer resist it. Do I understand it? No, the the exponentially infinite power! I will never fathom it. But I don’t have to understand; I don’t have to grasp it. I just have to believe that it is true, and I do believe it, yes I do. I praise your name for this unconditional love.

I pray that all around me can know this love and experience this love. I pray, along with Paul, in Ephesians, that everyone I know may “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Haha! How can I “know” something that “surpasses knowledge??” Ah, Lord God! Fill me up with this amazing love.

Let this day be full of your love, Lord, as I go about the tasks that must be done now. And then, I pray for some relaxation as I take care of my beautiful wife, who loves me more than I deserve.

Grace and peace, friends

Lead Me To the Cross

Bam! It’s Friday! May 10, 2013. It’s going to be a busy weekend. Sunday, of course, is Mother’s Day, so we will be traveling to Mineral Wells after church to visit my parents and take them out to lunch. Rachel and Justin will be meeting us there. Saturday, we are supposed to sign paperwork to close on the refinancing of our house. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that in here. It should be a good thing, as we are consolidating the house and pool loans and saving several hundred dollars a month in the process. This all started when Bank of America dumped our mortgage on Green Tree. We didn’t like that, so we started looking into refinancing. It has not been a painless, seamless process. Not at all. We will also treat Christi to whatever suits her fancy, Saturday, since we’re taking up Sunday with my mother. Tonight, we plan to hit the gym again.

Today is “Clean Up Your Room Day!” Stephanie!!! Do you see this? CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!!

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1508, Michelangelo Buanarroti began work on what is considered by most to be the greatest masterpiece the world has ever known, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was ordered to pain this by Pope Julius II, a great patron of the arts. Michelangelo was, at first, furious over this order, because he considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. And he suspected that he had been chosen on the recommendation of architect Donato Bramante, who thought that Michelangelo would fail at this task because of his lack of painting experience. The painting took almost four and a half years (however, there was a period of about a year when there was no painting, as no payments were being made), and it covers close to 10,000 square feet with more than 300 individual symbols. It is well-known that he spent hours at a time lying on his back on a scaffold as he painted. In 1534, Michelangelo returned to the Chapel to paint “The Last Judgment” under the patronage of Pope Paul III.

Today’s birthday is Donovan, born on this date in 1946. Born Donovan Leitch in Maryhill, Glasgow, he developed his own musical style in the sixties, becoming famous for such songs as “Atlantis,” “Mellow Yellow,” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Here is a clip of “Atlantis.”

Honorable mentions go to Karl Barth, 1886, Ariel Durant, 1898, Fred Astaire, 1899, Maybelle Carter, 1909, Pat Summerall, 1930, Gary Owens, 1936, Dave Mason, 1946, and Bono, 1960.


Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. Psalm 66:8-9
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:7-8
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Father, I pray that the sound of your praises may be heard this morning. Show me your steadfast love as I look into your Word today. Shine your light into my heart that I might see the face of Jesus today.

In Tabletalk Magazine today, the reading comes from Isaiah 66, focusing on verses 22-23.

“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.

I have come to the end of Isaiah, today. Isaiah looked at Judah, first, focusing on the nation’s failure to obey and trust God. This would eventually lead to exile, the solution for which would be a cleansing of the people of God, which would occur through “the atoning work of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah” (found in chapters 40-55). But this cleansing would benefit not just Israel, but the whole world. The eventual culmination would come in the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, which Isaiah mentions again in chapter 66. But the benefits of this new heaven and new earth would not be for all people. According to Isaiah 66:16, there will be many who will enter into judgment. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. If we continue to read verse 17, those seem to be people who tried to rely on their own efforts for salvation, rather than relying solely on the grace of God. However, the number who will inhabit the new heaven and new earth will come from all nations of the world, according to verse 19. Ultimately, according to verse 23, “all flesh shall come to worship” the Lord God Almighty.

Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “He Could Not Escape Notice.” The scripture reading is Mark 7:24.

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

This is only one of multiple places where we see Jesus attempting to avoid the crowds. Yet, it seems as if he is always unsuccessful. No matter how hard he tried, “he could not be hidden.” (The title of the reading is quoted from the New Revised Standard Version. I use the English Standard Version.) Jesus would draw all types of people to himself. The late Dallas Willard wrote, “One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known.” (From The Spirit of the Disciplines) Jesus was the perfect example of this concept. He not only didn’t advertise, he tried to keep from being noticed. I could get on a huge soapbox about how I feel about churches and marketing, but I won’t. (I just heard that sigh of relief!)

This prayer is offered for us to repeat: Father God, help me to follow the example of Jesus in his practice of secrecy. I want to revel in sharing secret time with you. I struggle sometimes, Lord, with wanting more recognition for my work, for my piety, for the things that I do for my family and friends. Help me to be grateful for those times when good things that I do escape notice, knowing that you see all that I do, all that is in me–the bad and also the good. In your name I pray. Amen.

Number 6 of the 19 Mercies, by Brennan Manning, is “The call from the cross.” The beginning of our transformation is receiving Jesus Christ into every part of our lives. This this transformation begins with an absurdity. Jesus “is a crucified God.” This message that we preach, the message of the Cross, “is complete absurdity for those who are headed for ruin.” But, for us who are in the middle of this journey, it is “both the power and the unsearchable wisdom of God.” The crucifixion of Christ is “an ugly fact in history.” But we must draw near to this crucified Lord in order to drink of this life-giving spiritual water. We must draw near to him continuously, desiring like Paul, who said, . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . . “The day that we cease proclaiming Jesus Christ nailed to the cross is the day we effectively part company with the gospel.” As disciples, we are constantly called back to the Cross. “There is no growth without pain and no integrity without self-denial.” We must be crucified with Christ, effectively putting to death our own “selfishness, emotional dishonesty, and degraded love.” Jesus speaks to us from the cross, “I’m dying to be with you. I’m really dying to be with you.” Then he whispers, “Will you die a little to be with Me?”

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11

“No one, it seems to me, who has fully grasped the Crucifixion can ever again take seriously any expression or instrument of worldly power, however venerable, glittering, or seemingly formidable.”~~Malcolm Muggeridge

Father, I have no boast in your presence, for I have nothing within me that I can call my own, other than my sin. And even that has been cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Christ on the Cross. May I revel in the cross daily, Lord, as I draw near to the crucified Christ. May I draw from the power and wisdom of yours that is deemed foolishness by those who are perishing. I would gladly be considered a fool for your glory, Lord. May I, like Paul, come to a point where I count everything else as rubbish in the face of Christ and his righteousness. I have not attained this, yet. Lead me to the cross, Lord. Lead me to the cross.

I pray for this day. I pray that Christi will be given strength and wisdom to get through whatever comes her way today. May her day be full of peace and full of you. I pray the same for my work day, as well. I also pray for opportunity to help someone find your peace today. Show Stephanie your steadfast love today.

I also pray for peace and emotional healing for a Sonic carhop who is struggling in the aftermath of a relationship breakup. Help her to find your peace, Father.

Your grace is more than sufficient, more than enough.

Grace and peace, friends.

Love, Love, Love, I Want Your Love

It’s Thursday, May 9, 2013. 33 more work days. (Don’t worry, I’m just counting down the days until the current situation is supposed to end. There is light at the end of this tunnel. I’m counting to the end of the tunnel. I just hope they don’t buy more tunnel.)

Christi is having surgery on her foot next Wednesday morning. Due to my current work situation, I cannot be there. However, our wonderful daughter Rachel will take the duties of transporting Christi to and from the surgery center.

Today is “Lost Sock Memorial Day.” Somewhere out there, millions of socks gather. And that’s just the ones I’ve lost!

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1892, Zita Maria Grazia Adelgonda Michela Raffaella Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese was born. Her father was the Duke of Parma, but her family was poor. At the age of nineteen, Zita married Archduke Charles, who was the great nephew of the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. At that point in time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was at peace.

But then Franz-Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. Then the Emperor died in 1916. “Suddenly Zita’s husband was Emperor and she the Empress in the middle of a world war.” In only two years, the war was over, Austro-Hungary had lost, and Charles was forced to abdicate the throne. He died 29 months later. Zita spent 63 years in Switzerland and the U.S., “never relinquishing her claim to a throne that no longer existed.” She died at the age of 96, on March 14, 1989, and was buried in the crypt with 142 other Hapsburgs.

Today’s birthday is Richard Adams, born on this date in 1920. Adam is an English author, most notably for Watership Down, a tale of, well, rabbits. He also wrote The Plague Dogs, and Traveller, a fictional story from the perspective of General Robert E. Lee’s horse. Adams is 93 today.

Honorable mentions go to J.M. Barrie, 1860, Hank Snow, 1914, Glenda Jackson, 1936, Albert Finney, 1936, Tommy Roe, 1942, Richie Furay, 1944, Candice Bergen, 1946, Billy Joel, 1949, and John Corbett, 1962.


O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. Psalm 68:32-34

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

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. Psalm 71:15

Father, as I sing praises to you this morning, you who “rides in the heavens,” may you teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Continue to show me those things which you have been teaching me, that I may truly learn them and make them an integral part of my spirit and life.

Today’s Tabletalk Magazine reading comes from Isaiah 65, focusing on verse 17.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

This is the first “explicit biblical reference to the new heavens and earth.” There will be rejoicing forever in this place. A man who is 100 years old will be considered young. And, at the end of the chapter, this place will be so filled with peace “that even the predator and the prey will get along” (v. 25). All of these things will be fulfilled at the final resurrection. And regardless of what kind of “millennial” view you ascribe to, it would be fitting, I think, to summarize Christian eschatology in one phrase: “God is going to make all things right.” This even includes the physical world. “. . . there will be no cause for pain, mourning, or anything else that we dread so much. This is the hope that lies before us, and knowing that all will be set right in the future helps us endure pain in the present.”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “In My Secret Heart.” The scripture reading is Psalm 51:6

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

What does he mean by “the secret heart?” The reading is brief today, consisting mostly of questions such as that. Is there a connection between what David is praying and the discipline of secrecy that we are examining in this section of the book? The Reformation Study Bible notes say that David is asking for wisdom at the center of his being, the deepest part of himself. The place that we find these things is very secret. In fact, only I (and God) can know what exists there. The best way to learn this wisdom is through private study, meditation, and prayer. Here is an anonymous prayer:

O secret Christ,
Lord of the rose of dawn,
hide me within thy silent peace,
that throughout the turmoil of day,
I may abide within the quiet of the daybreak.

In my “secret heart,” in this secret place . . .

there is peace.

The next segment of 19 Mercies, by Brennan Manning, is called Encounter. Number 5 is called “The Person of Jesus.” For centuries, the question has been asked, “Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?” Councils have been gathered, dissertations written, yet this one truth remains: No one can answer this question for me. And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29) Here is the challenge from Brennan at this point. “Describe the Christ that you have personally encountered on the grounds of your own self. Describe Him as you would to a friend over coffee. Describe not the deity that you have heard about or been taught to believe exists, but only the Christ you have actually encountered.” Then, he asks me to soberly reflect on what my answer reveals to me.

Who is this Jesus? The Jesus that I have encountered is love. I know . . . that sounds cliche. We’ve all heard “God is love.” But wait. Do you really understand this love? This love that doesn’t care where I have been or what I have done. This love that, just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, doesn’t even let me make my “repentance speech,” but, instead, runs down the path to meet me with open arms to say, “Welcome home!” The Jesus that I have encountered brings peace into my life. He brings to me a spirit of abandon, that doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He teaches me to love others unconditionally (he is still teaching me that, and will be until I take my last breath), just as he did. Yes, this Jesus loves unconditionally. I cannot gain his favor, for he already loves me as much as he ever will. I cannot fall out of his love, for he has given his life to maintain it forever. The Jesus that I have encountered is beautiful, and he loves me forever.

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. Mark 8:27-30

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.~~The Apostle Paul

“My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
for Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now!”

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for the peace that you have given me, even in these tumultuous circumstances. The peace I am feeling this morning is supernatural; it is truly wonderful. Fill my secret heart with this peace, the peace that passes all understanding. Show me how wide and long and high and deep your love is. I cannot fathom this love. The depth of it is beyond what I can even imagine. And I most certainly am unable to love like that. Teach me to love, Jesus; teach me to love. I want to love like you love. I don’t ever want to harbor any bitterness or resentment toward another human being, ever again. Teach me to love, and teach me to help others find your peace.

I pray for Christi this morning, that she will have a good day at work. I pray for her upcoming surgery, that this will finally fix the issue of the pain that she has been enduring for almost a year. I pray for my work day, that you will help me carry this peace throughout this entire day. Give us both the grace we need to get through this day. Surround Stephanie with your steadfast love, showing her your great and precious promises to be true and reliable.

Teach us to love.

Do you know this Jesus? Who is he to you? Have you known this love?

Grace and peace, friends.

Cry Out For the Spirit

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, May 8, 2013. 34 working days to go.

Today is “No Socks Day.” Our friend Jacob should like that. He, apparently, hates socks. I’m not a big fan of them, myself. Unfortunately, the will not allow me to wear sandals at work. However, I am not currently wearing socks. So happy No Socks Day!!

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1884, Harry S. Truman was born, “in a small bedroom in his parents’ house in the dusty market town of Lamar, Missouri.” His background was rather unremarkable. He was not well educated; he never attended college. He failed as a haberdasher and barely survived as a farmer for almost ten years before entering politics. He was a “classic ‘machine politician,’ a creature of the corrupt Kansas City party boss, Thomas Pendergast.” He was elected to the US Senate, but even that was “largely engineered by the Pendergast machine.” More “back-room politics” got him nominated to run as Franklin Roosevelt’s vice-president in 1944. When Roosevelt died suddenly in 1945, Truman became President. His association with Pendergast caused Republicans to call him the “reductio ad absurdum of the common man.” He was privately prejudiced against blacks and Jews. However, these were private prejudices, and his public character was that of “uncommon sense and granite integrity.” He kept that famous sign on his desk, “The buck stops here.” He served for almost eight years as President, and achieved the “greatest election upset in American history in 1948.” Who can forget this headline?
Harry Truman
Among his accomplishments: “he authorized the first use of the atomic bomb to end the war with Japan, helped create the United Nations and NATO, initiated the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War, and let the free world’s confrontation with Communist aggression by authorizing the Berlin Air lift and intervening in Korea.” Truman died on December 26, 1972, just shy of his 89th birthday.

Today’s birthday is Robert Johnson, born on this date in 1911. Johnson was a blues guitar player, and is probably most famous for his alleged deal with the devil from his song, “Crossroads.” Admittedly, Johnson had a technique that has puzzled many over the decades, not the least of which was Eric Clapton, who has been so fascinated with Robert Johnson that he released an entire album of covers of Johnson tunes. Of course, one of Clapton’s most famous songs is Cream’s cover of “Crossroads.” Here is Johnson’s “Crossroads.”

Here is Clapton’s, with Cream.

The circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death, at the age of 27, are very strange, indeed. The cause of his death is unknown to this day. Blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson claims that Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband, because he had been flirting with the guy’s wife at a dance he was playing. He grew ill over the next couple of days, and reportedly died in “a convulsive state of severe pain” (Wiki). A musicologist, Robert “Mack” McCormick, claims to have tracked down the man who killed Johnson and gotten a confession from him, but would not reveal the identity of the man. True or not, it’s a fascinating story around a fascinating blues legend who inspired many players since.

Honorable mentions go to Oscar Hammerstein I, 1847, Robert Johnson, 1911, Don Rickles, 1926, and Ricky Nelson, 1940.


Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.~~Traditional Doxology
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Psalm 84:10
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2

Father, I pray that you shine this great light on me this morning, as I have walked in darkness. Send out your light and truth and let them lead me today, that I may go to your holy hill. Let me praise you with my whole being this morning, Lord! Teach me something new today; something of you that I have never seen before.

In Touch Magazine led me to John 14:1-4 this morning.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus gives us assurance, here, that our eternal destination is a real place, a tangible place. But the phrase that resonates the most with me, this morning, is the very first sentence. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Oh, how much time we spend in this life doing exactly the opposite of this! How much of your day is your heart troubled? The comfort of Jesus bids us to let that trouble go and rest in him. Our eternal resting place is secure. He is readying it for us and will return someday to take us all there. That calms my spirit; it rests my soul; it causes my heart to not be troubled.

If you recall, yesterday’s reading from Tabletalk Magazine cited Isaiah 61:1-3. Today’s reading leaps over to a passage in Luke, chapter 4. In that chapter, Jesus enters the synagogue, takes a scroll and reads these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

He spent the rest of his days on earth proclaiming good news to the poor, liberating the captives, giving sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free. He continues to do those things today. More importantly, he proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy!

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “The Appearance of Righteousness.” The scripture reading is from Matthew 23.

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (5-7)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (27-28)

So Jesus talks to the scribes and Pharisees in these verses and we all jump up and cheer, and say, “Yeah!!” Not so fast. What Jesus is condemning, here, is called “hypocrisy;” “playacting.” “The dichotomy between appearance and reality, between word and deed, draws Jesus’ most profound criticism.” And it is a result of practicing the disciplines out in the open, right in front of other people, so that they can see your spirituality. Let’s take a poll: How many people went to church last Sunday morning, sang hymns or worship songs, prayed, listened to the preacher, maybe put some money in the offering plate or bag, and even said “Amen” a few times? How many of the same people had an argument with their family on the way home? Or complained about the preacher’s sermon on the way home? Or, even worse, gossiped about some church member on the way home? We are all really good at putting on a show. (Just so you understand, the finger points back at him who is typing, too.) We all fall so short of the ideal. The point, though, of this reading, is not to make us all feel guilty for being hypocrites, because we all are, at some time. The point is that we need to practice our disciplines in private. We need to pray in our “closets” (I don’t literally pray in a closet . . . it’s dark in there, and I wouldn’t be able to see my pray list). We need to give generously, but quietly. And if we fast, we need to do it in a way that is not obvious.

Here’s an example. Every Sunday morning, a group of people get to the elementary school where The Exchange meets, to unload a trailer and set up the cafeteria for a worship service, a gym for the children’s ministries, and a couple other rooms for nursery and preschool. It’s all done before the “regular” people get there for worship celebration. They have no clue how it happens. They just get there, and this place has been miraculously transformed into “church.” We don’t all stand around saying, “Hey! We did this for you! Look at what we did! We got up early on Sunday morning so you can have church!” We don’t want that! And that’s not why we do it. We do it for Jesus. It’s a service to our King. And we don’t care if anyone else ever recognizes us for it. THAT is what Jesus is talking about!

“Beginners in the spiritual life are apt to become very diligent in their exercises. The great danger for them will be to become satisfied with their religious works and with themselves. It is easy for them to develop a kind of secret pride. . . . But those who are at this time moving in God’s way will counter this pride with humility. They will learn to think very little of themselves and their religious works. Instead, they will focus on how great and how deserving God is and how little it is that they can do for him. The Spirit of God dwells in such persons, urging them to keep their treasures secretly within themselves.”~~John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul

I didn’t have time to get to one of the 19 Mercies yesterday, but I’ll get back to it today. I’ve gotten to number four, which is “Cry Out For the Spirit.” “Only the Spirit of Jesus Christ can accomplish the profound inner realities of a deeper faith, a real conversion of heart, a radical break with sin, a more reckless trust, a more forgiving, loving heart. So I urge you to spend time pleading for more of His Spirit and reading more of His Word.” Unfortunately, many of us think the Spirit will just act in our lives while we sit passively by. But initiative is necessary on our part. I need to cry out for a “mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit” in my life. This should be a continuous prayer in my life, not unlike one I find myself saying more and more, these days, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!” I need to add to this a prayer crying out for more of his Spirit. Coupled with that should be daily doses of reading scripture, with emphasis on the New Testament. Not that we need to throw out the Old, like certain “denominations” do, but the New Testament is where the words and actions of Jesus are, and it is him we are trying to emulate. Can we not spare a few minutes a day, out of our busy lives, to read and meditate on the words of Jesus? Reading his word is still the main way he speaks to us.

Yet, we must not work out of guilt. It’s a fine line, a tricky thing. We are not legalistic about this. I try to pray at certain times every day. But if I don’t have the time or ability to do so, for some reason one day (or even if I forget because of business at work), there should be no guilt. We have to get away from this idea that God is disappointed in us because we didn’t do thus and so and such and such a time. But if we really want his Spirit in our lives, we will do the things that will avail us of that potential. I ran into a lady who is a “life coach” at our church picnic Sunday night. She said something that really made me stop and think about my life. She said that we do the things that we want to do. So if we say, “I really want to lose weight,” her question would be, “Well, why aren’t you, then?” Ummm . . . Yeah. You see, we do exactly what we want to do. If I really want to get closer to Jesus and have more of his Spirit, then I will do the things that are necessary for that to happen.

O God, I seek you, but my heart is fickle.
I believe; please help my unbelief. When all I can do
is want to want You, take my crumb of faith and break it
like bread to feed thousands, beginning, by Your mercy,
with me. You reject no desperate, sinful, seeking child.
You say only and always, Come! I come to you, God.
Pour out Your Spirit on me.
Speak Your words of life to this child.
I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Father, take this day and make it glorious for you. Give me more of your Spirit today. Remind me throughout this day to cry out for your Spirit constantly. Give me your words of life, feeding me with the crumbs of my faith, faith that you gave me to begin with. I thank you for the gifts of faith and repentance, with which I was able to believe in you. As I go through this day, may I do the disciplines that I do secretly, never seeking any kind of recognition or human reward for my actions. When I work, let the things that I do at work be done as offerings to you. Yes, I work to get paid, but there is a higher calling in place, here. Let me work for you; let me glorify you in all that I do. Let everything that I do be done in love.

I rejoice in the assurance of an eternal home with you. I pray that I might live my life in such a way as to point others toward this home. Help me to help others find your peace, that peace that surpasses all understanding. Teach me to, like Jesus, share good news with the poor, liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. That all sounds so dramatic. How can I do those things? By your grace; by your mercy; by your Spirit.

May this day bring peace to Christi and me, in our workplaces. May this day be full of you! Give us the grace for today, to meet any challenge head on, and to do our work productively and effectively. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show her your steadfast love today. I also pray for Rachel and Justin (I pray for them every day), as they finish up another semester and get that much closer to achieving their goals. Give them grace and mercy, show them your love and peace.

I pray for extra grace for a family from our “huddle” group today. They are experiencing some true, deep struggles right now. I know I’m not telling you anything new. Father, shower them with your presence today.

There’s a lot of stuff up there. My encouragement today is to find time to cry out for his Spirit in your life. Seek him today, and nothing more.

Grace and peace, friends.

Praying, Giving, Fasting . . . In Secret

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, April 7, 2013. One day closer to the next big thing.

Yesterday, Christi had a visit with her foot doctor. I believe they have decided to go ahead with the surgery and put a pin in it. There was a minute bit of healing, but it’s still hurting. The doctor said that she would recommend going ahead with the surgery, because, even though it does still appear to be healing, there is no way to tell how long it’s going to take. With the surgery, there will be a couple of weeks of no weight bearing at all, a couple in a boot, a couple in a special sneaker, and then she should be home free. After discussing it with me yesterday afternoon, I think she has decided to go ahead with it. No we just have to figure out when.

I had a pretty good day at work yesterday. There was only one minor crisis to cause extra stress. We’ve entered into this “home stretch” as this account winds down, and, as previously noted, there are only two of us working on the account. And the other one is a temp who has been with us for just over a month. Good times.

Yesterday, we celebrated nurses, today, it’s teachers on “National Teachers Day.” I am equally as enthusiastic about supporting teachers as I am nurses. Teachers rock, people. There aren’t very many of us who would be where we are today without teachers. It has long been my opinion that teachers should make as much as doctors and dentists, because, after all, it took teachers to make doctors and dentists out of them! Sure, everyone has some kind of natural ability or talent that helps them excel at what they do. But it takes good teachers to see that and draw it out of people. For example, when I went to the very first meeting to discuss being in the band in Junior High, I had not decided what I wanted to play. I knew that I definitely did not want to play trombone. The band director at the school I would be attending counselled us. I had scored very well on the aptitude test that had been given us a few weeks early. I should be a trombone player, he said. I had a good ear, and a good ear is extremely necessary to be a successful trombone player. I left that meeting a trombone player. It turned out, this band director knew what he was talking about. I spent three and a half years of the four years of high school as the first chair trombone player.

That band director, Norman Deisher, is now the proud owner of The Chicken House flea market in Stephenville. Don’t try to figure that out. I can’t.

Anyway, for goodness sake, show some love to some teachers today!

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1915, the steamship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat, 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. It was early afternoon when a “torpedo rocked the ship, quickly followed by a huge second explosion.” It only took eighteen minutes for the Lusitania to sink, taking with her 1198 passengers and crew members, “including 128 Americans and 63 children.” The Germans insisted that the ship had been carrying a large quantity of explosives “intended for Britain’s war effort.” The British Admiralty vehemently denied this citing the danger to civilian lives. The US stayed out of the war for a couple more years, but this event had been “a critical turning point in American opinion.” 67 years later a British salvage team examined the wreckage of the Lusitania, but someone had beat them to it. There was “a large square hole” cut in the deck, and the hold, “officially carrying only foodstuffs,” had been cleaned out. “Further examination revealed a gaping hole in the portside bow, which could have been caused only by a huge internal explosion. But the British Admiralty sticks desperately to its story.” I guess we will never know for sure.

Today’s birthday is Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, born on this date in 1840. Tchaikovsky remains, to this day, my favorite of the major composers, heavily represented in the Romantic Era of music. The Romantic Era is my favorite musical period, primarily due to the passion and emotion that seems to be represented by the pieces of the era. My favorite Tchaikovsky work (and has been since the day I first heard it) is the 6th Symphony, also known as “Pathetique.” I had the pleasure of hearing my favorite orchestra, The Philadelphia Philharmonic, perform this peace a the Bass Hall in Fort Worth a few years ago. It was an intense emotional experience. If you have 40-some-odd minutes to spare, here is the symphony performed by the Wiener Philharmonic, with Herbert von Karajan conducting.

Honorable mentions go to Robert Browning, 1812, Johannes Brahms, 1833, Dick Williams, 1929, Johnny Unitas, 1933, and Breckin Meyer, 1974.


Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. Psalm 66:16
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Psalm 67:1-2
For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Psalm 61:5
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Father, I pray you show me something of yourself this morning. I pray that your face would shine upon me as I meditate on your words today. Create in me a clean heart, and renew my spirit.

In Tabletalk Magazine, today, the reading is from Isaiah 61:1-3.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Some commentators call this passage a “climactic representation” of the Servant of the Lord, or the Messiah. The beauty of verse 1 is unparalleled. The provision in verse 3 is glorious: a beautiful headdress to replace ashes, oil of gladness to replace mourning, a garment of praise to replace a faint spirit. All of this, that the Lord on high may be glorified in us. There is an element of permanence here, as we are called “oaks of righteousness.”

Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “Not Seen By Others,” continuing with the discipline of secrecy. The scripture reading is from Matthew 6.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (1-6)

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (16-18)

Jesus reinterprets traditional Jewish duties in this passage, stating that these tasks should no longer be performed for recognition from men. In fact, if they are performed simply for that recognition, then that will be all the reward received. “Giving, praying, and fasting are even to be done in secret, removing the motivation to show off or display piety before others.”

The challenge for today is to choose one of the three disciplines mentioned by Jesus and do it in secret. How does it make me feel to do this? How is it different from doing it in public?

Father, may my motivation for praying, giving, fasting, and other disciplines always be for you alone. May I not seek human recognition for the tasks that I do in your name. When I pray today, let it be only for your glory, not that I seek any for myself. (Obviously, I’m typing this prayer where anyone who reads this blog can see it, but there is more prayer that comes later in private. This is tricky.) And I do not. The only time I let people know that I am praying is when I ask them if there is something I can pray for them. Let all that I do be done from a motivation of love and not for any kind of temporal reward or recognition. I am nothing . . . you are everything.

I pray for this day, Lord, that it might be devoid of anxiety and stress, both for me and for Christi. Let us do our jobs with excellence and skill, meeting every challenge that comes our way with the cup of grace that you have given us for this day. I pray for our huddle group tonight, that we might see you and know you more. I pray the same for Stephanie, that she might see you today, and know you and your promises a little better. Show her your steadfast love today.

May we all choose to do our acts of piety or righteousness, whatever they may be, outside of the scope of visibility, that we may not seek human recognition or reward.

Grace and peace, friends.