Praise the Lord

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the twenty-seventh of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,270

We had a very nice day, yesterday, with C’s family. There was way too much food, of course, and plenty of leftovers. We’ll be eating ham for a while. I suspect the green bean and corn casseroles, as well as the desserts, will all be gone by the end of today, though.

I got some good news in email. All of my gifts for my Secret Santa person should be in hand by the end of Tuesday. Also, I believe my gift for the library’s Christmas lunch gift exchange should arrive Monday.

Today is a scheduled work day for me, and I have to be there in an hour and twenty minutes, so I’d best get busy with what is important.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Isn’t It?, by Daryl Madden

Isn’t it exhausting?
Life just seems too hard
Keeping up appearance
Living the façade

Isn’t is confusing?
No matter how I try
Being who I’m not
Living of a lie

Isn’t it so stressful?
Worries everywhere
Of all that could go wrong
Living here in fear

Isn’t it so freeing?
When our lifes outpoured
Being who God made me
Living for the Lord

Please check out Daryl’s other poetry at his blog site, linked above.

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for grapes
2. for good food and fellowship with family
3. for promises of answered prayer
4. that You are a God of restoration
5. for the many ways we have to praise You

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
(Joel 2:25-27 ESV)

“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.”
(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

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

As I meditate in this quiet moment, I consider that Jesus came to liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed, and proclaim the Lord’s favor. As I continue reading His Word, these thoughts will be in focus.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
(Haggai 1:5-9 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in God’s presence, I read these passages again, noticing how He might be speaking to me through His Word. I allow my heart to respond to Him in prayer and meditation, and take refreshment in His presence.

The obvious word in Psalm 150 is “praise.” It occurs (if I am counting correctly) thirteen times in the psalm. All of the main questions are answered.

Who is praised? The Lord. Yahweh. Creator of the universe.
Where? In His sacred place; in His mighty heavens.
Why, or for what? His mighty acts of power, His surpassing greatness.
How? With sounds of trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, strings, pipes, and cymbals. With activities or movement of dancing. 
Who is praising? Everything that has breath!

I think it is fitting that the Psalms end with the simple injunction to “praise the LORD.”

The thing that stands out to me in the Haggai passage is a phrase that is repeated in verses 5 and 7. “Give careful thought to your ways.” I can’t speak for anyone else (we all try, at times, though, don’t we?), but I am guilty of not doing that enough. “Give careful thought to your ways,” says the Lord, through the prophet Haggai.

To the people of Israel, He takes note that they plant, but harvest little. They eat, but are not filled. They put on clothes, but aren’t warm. They earn wages, but their purses or pockets seem to have holes in them. In other words, they never have enough.

Now, I don’t know if this is saying that they literally don’t have enough, or if they are a lot like our modern Western culture, where we can’t seem to be satisfied with what we have. I suspect that it may be a subtle combination of the two, but I can’t verify that.

At any rate, they are given the answer in the rest of the passage. The second time they are told to consider their ways, the house of the Lord is brought up. It seems that everyone is occupied with their own “houses,” while the Lord’s “house” remains in ruins.

This is very thought-provoking for me. Because, while I know and acknowledge, readily, that this passage is explicitly directed to Israel, I can see correlation in today’s Church. We get caught up in our own “houses,” or own lives, even our own families, which are, of course, important. But not more important than our relationship, or “house,” with the Lord.

We don’t have a physical “temple,” to which we are to travel, today. The individual person is the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” as His Spirit resides and dwells in each of us. We are the “Church.” It is not a physical “house.” I don’t think that means we are supposed to spend extraordinary energy and time keeping our bodies fit, either.

This is about “soul keeping.” We need to make sure that we are keeping the Lord’s “house,” our souls, in good shape.

And one of the best ways to do that, in my opinion, is to practice what Psalm 150 teaches us.

Praise the Lord.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I will praise You for no other reason (though I have plenty) than that You are God. I will praise You for Your mighty acts of power, too. I will praise You for Your surpassing greatness, Your most excellent righteousness. And in praising You, I shove aside selfish platitudes and thoughts; I shut out selfish needs concerning my own “house.” I tend to Your “house,” which is my soul, because my soul needs tending and keeping. Thank You for the reminders from Your Word, reminders of how important this upkeep of our souls is. Help me to stay focused on what is important to You.

I pray for Your Church to flourish all over the world. I pray that we would engage in worship that glorifies You and “gathers, unites, and blesses” Your people.

"Generous God,
my way with money is a sure sign of my heart's trust.
and when it's mostly spent on me,
I show that my heart does not belong to You.
Center me again on You,
the source of everything good;
remind me of how rich I am because of Jesus and free up a generous heart for others.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is a person who endures temptation,
for when he has been approved,
he will receive the crown of life,
which the Lord promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 WEB)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Singing, Drumming, and Dancing

Good morning. Today is Friday, the twenty-sixth of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,269

Twenty-nine days until Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, this coming Sunday, November 28, is the first Sunday of Advent.

We had a most lovely day, yesterday. All of the preparations went very well, and we had a nice, safe trip to Grandma’s house in Mineral Wells. We had a great lunch together, and a nice visit, just sitting around talking (several of us may or may not have fallen asleep). After divvying up the leftovers, we headed back to Fort Worth, stopping for sodas just outside of MW at a convenience store that happened to be open.

This morning, C is back in the kitchen, prepping for today’s lunch with her sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend. They are, I believe, supposed to be arriving around 1:00 PM. Ish.

The library is closed today, so I have a second day off for the holiday.

We took some pictures, yesterday.

Mama, me, S, and C
Mama and me

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.
(James 1:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for every good and perfect gift
2. for a great Thanksgiving holiday
3. that You are the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"
4. for the things that I can learn from Jesus
5. for the ability to praise You with music, singing, and dancing

. . . whatever good anyone does,
this he will receive back from the Lord . . .
(Ephesians 6:8 ESV)

Come to me,
all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)(emphasis mine)

As I look at this Matthew passage, this morning, one that is so very familiar, I’m seeing something “new.” Notice the italics that I added. All of them are pronouns, which Jesus used to refer to Himself.

Jesus is the key to so much in life. It’s cliché and easy to say, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” That’s easy to say. It’s not so easy to live out. But just look at His words. “Come to me,” He says. “I will give you rest.” Who doesn’t labor? Who isn’t weary? Jesus promises rest, if we only come to Him. And only Him.

He tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him. So what is so new and different about this, that I’m seeing today, for the first time? It is this: Jesus tells us to learn from HIM. He does not tell us to learn from anyone else.

While there may be great value (and most certainly is) in learning from other humans, it is from Jesus, Himself, that we are to learn. I can surely learn from reading and studying great writers and great Christian minds, such as C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson. But I should be spending the most time and energy learning from Jesus.

He is the one who will give me rest. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

No one else can say that.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY SIX

INVITATION

Our God says,
“Calm down,
and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me.”
(Psalms 46:10 CEV)

As I pause on this quite morning, I reflect on all the good and perfect gifts in my life, which have come down from the “Father of lights.” There is no shadow or variation in Him; He is constant and consistent. He does not change.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 149:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“My people, what have I done to you?
How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you,
also Aaron and Miriam.”
(Micah 6:3-4 NIV)

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:6-8 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, perhaps even out loud, I look for ways in which God’s Word has moved me. I ponder and meditate upon what has moved my heart or mind. I pray these things to God, including any questions that I might have. I turn my thoughts to Him and quietly enjoy His presence.

Part of Psalm 149 does, indeed, cause me to have questions. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to focus on the music. We are commanded/encouraged/admonished (I can’t say for sure which word is applicable when we are dealing with poetry/songs) to sing and make music in praise to God.

First, we are told to sing His praise “in the assembly of His faithful people.” So we are to sing praises together. Whenever I see this, I am reminded of the opinion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that all congregational singing should be in unison. That’s only an opinion, of course, and only one man’s opinion. But he has a good point. Here is the quote from Life Together:

“There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of congregational singing, the ‘unmusical,’ who cannot sing, of whom there are far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the fellowship.”

I don’t necessarily agree with brother Bonhoeffer, here, but, as I said, he makes some good points. When we sing “in the assembly of His faithful people,” there really is no place for calling attention to ourselves, and I can’t think of any other reason to sing harmony in that setting. Of course, this makes me wonder, as well, how loudly I should sing in a congregational setting. I have a tendency to “belt it out,” which also tends to call attention to me.

I guess the key element in all of this is motive. Why am I singing harmony? Why am I singing loudly? If the song is a Chris Tomlin song (he has an unnaturally high voice for a man), most people can’t sing in that octave, and may need to sing it an octave lower. I once knew a man who believed his singing voice to be inferior, so he whistled the hymns.

We are then told, in Psalm 149, to praise Him with (gasp) DANCING! Oh, dear. I grew up Baptist. With a preacher who declared, from the pulpit, mind you, that “a dancing foot never grew off of a praying knee.” Well, the Bible tells us to dance, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except to say that context is very important in these matters.

We are also told to praise Him with the timbrel and harp. What’s a “timbrel?” All educated guesses seem to indicate something akin to a tambourine. So, a percussion instrument. A harp is a stringed instrument. It stands to reason, then, at least to me, that it’s okay to praise the Lord with a guitar and some drums. And dancing.

But then, in verse 5, we are even told to sing for joy on our beds! The last thing we should do every night is praise Him!

Why all this vigorous praising, singing, and dancing? Verse 4: “For the LORD takes delight in His people.” Simple answer.

I think it’s pretty awesome to think about God taking delight in us. The definition of delight is “great pleasure.” The Lord takes great pleasure in us, and I believe that Scripture tells us that this pleasure, this delight, is magnified when we are praising Him, whether it be by singing, dancing, playing a drum, or even whistling.

I did mention questions, and those come into play in the second half of this psalm, in all those bits about “double-edged swords,” “fetters,” and “shackles of irons.” It is not my intention to delve into those meanings, this morning. Today, I’m all about the praise and the great delight.

The only thing I want to say about the Micah passage involves the somewhat rhetorical questions issued in verses 6-8. Do we come before Him with offerings, calves, thousands of rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil? Do we need to be so extreme as to offer our firstborn children to Him?

I love to quote Micah 6:8, because it is major truth. God has shown us what He desires, even demands, from us. “To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s it.

Father, I praise You, this morning. I have praised You with guitars, pianos, keyboards, trombones, and singing. I may have even praised You with a tambourine, occasionally. I don’t know about dancing. I’m not very good at that, but I know I have “moved to the music,” sometimes. My heart’s desire is to know You more and to praise You more, so I pray that You will always put it in my heart to continue to praise You. I also pray that I will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before and with You. I praise You and thank You for Your presence with me, this morning, and every morning, and every minute of every day. I celebrate Your presence, and I rest and draw refreshment from Your presence.

I pray that You will increase our wonder when we consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I also pray that You will increase our capacity to suffer with others, at least to have empathy with those who suffer through either poverty or injustice. And may You give strength to all who suffer persecution for their faith.

"Father,
I expend so much energy wondering what Your will is for my life.
Could You make it any clearer?
Give me a gospel-motivated resolve to carry out Your clear and good purposes -
living justly,
loving mercy,
and walking humbly with You.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

God will bless you,
if you don’t give up
when your faith is being tested.
He will reward you
with a glorious life,
just as he rewards everyone who loves him.
(James 1:12 CEV)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, the twenty-fifth of November, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life today, and may you find, in your life, that you have enough.

Day 23,268

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. I wish all who read this a peaceful and safe day. May your heart be filled with gratitude.

Only thirty more days until Christmas. You knew that was coming.

We are doing the “Secret Santa” thing at the library, so I signed up for that. I’m quite fond of “Secret Santa.” Our library does it a little differently than I’m used to, but it’s fun. Instead of one gift, we are doing three gifts, spaced out a week apart. The first one is due next Wednesday, then one each on the following two Wednesdays. I’ve got all three of my gifts ordered, and at least one of them should be here on Monday, so I will have it in time for the first week. I don’t work next Wednesday, though, so I will take it up there Tuesday night. Then I will get mine from my Secret Santa when I go to work my extra shift on Thursday.

We are also having a Christmas lunch on Wednesday, December 8. I am scheduled to work that day, but would have made an extra trip for that, even if I wasn’t. During the lunch, which also features a dessert contest (I probably won’t cook something for that, but I’m not sure, yet), there will be a gift exchange, of the type that we used to call “Chinese Gift Giving,” which is probably no longer politically correct. Anyway, you pick a number and when your number is drawn, you select a wrapped gift and open it. The next person has the option of “stealing” your gift or picking a new one. It’s wacky fun. That reminds me . . . I need to get a gift ordered for that event, too. I wonder what I could get that would make a bunch of librarians steal from each other . . .

C is already preparing food for our Thanksgiving lunch. Currently, the sopapilla cheesecake is cooking. She also has green bean casserole and corn casserole to make. And ham to warm up, but it’s already cooked. Somewhere around noon, we will head to Mineral Wells to celebrate the day with Mama. She’s making devilled eggs and mashed potatoes, and maybe a dessert. Oh, and some crescent rolls, I believe.

We’ll be having basically the same thing tomorrow with C’s sister and family, and I believe they plan to bring some turkey, because two of them don’t care for ham.

Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

The choir and trumpets made one voice
of praise and thanks to GOD—
orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to GOD:
Yes!
God is good!
His loyal love goes on forever!
Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of GOD.
(2 Chronicles 5:13 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have enough (more than enough, in fact)
2. for Your presence in my life; if that was all I had, it would be enough
3. that You are good and Your "loyal love goes on forever"
4. for music and song, the choir and trumpets that make one voice of praise and thanks to You
5. for a pervasive sense of well-being
6. that I have been crucified with Christ, and that the life that I now live, I live by faith in Him
7. that all creation sings Your praises

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
(Psalms 95:2 NIV)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Just a quick reminder that Thanksgiving and all its celebrations is not about how perfect the table or the decorations look. It’s not even about how perfect the food is or looks. It’s a celebration of the heart. It shouldn’t matter if you’re eating ramen on a card table. It is what is in your heart that matters.

If there is sadness or grieving in your heart, that’s okay, too. This Thanksgiving (just like many before it) will be that way for some people. And you can be sad and grieving and still be thankful. There are many who are experiencing their first Thanksgiving without one of their parents, today. I know of one who is having his first Thanksgiving without his wife. A couple I know lost a son, unexpectedly and suddenly, this week. And I have a friend who had cancer surgery yesterday.

It’s not all puppies, unicorns, and rainbows today. I’m good, yes. I’m about as happy as can be. But I am aware that it’s not that way for many. So, if you are one who is sad and grieving today, that’s perfectly okay and normal. I pray that you can find something to be thankful for, especially as you share memories of your loved ones. More importantly, I hope you are not alone.

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
(Leviticus 16:21 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer
I
who live,
but
Christ
who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore,
under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
casting all your anxieties on him,
because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

If we say we have
no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:8-9 ESV)

If you can truthfully say the words of Galatians 2:20, you have plenty for which to be thankful today, regardless of your circumstances.

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FIVE

INVITATION

“Stop fighting,”
he says,
“and know that I am God,
supreme among the nations,
supreme over the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 GNB)

I pause during this quiet time and close my eyes to ponder my circumstances. I am blessed beyond imagination. Life is good. You are good! Thank you, Father!

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
(Psalms 148:1-4 NIV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 148:13-14 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
(Jonah 3:1-5 NIV)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:10 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue in awareness of God’s loving presence in this place, I read these passages again, looking for anything in God’s Word that catches the attention of my heart and soul. Is there a command for me? Is there comfort for me? I talk to Him about what I have read and what has moved me, and enjoy His presence.

Psalm 148 continues the trend of the final few psalms in simply giving praise to the Lord. Or, rather, commanding all of creation to give Him praise. In our selection, this morning, we only read the first four verses that address the heavenly hosts and sun, moon, and stars.

But the list goes on, and when verse 13 says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD,” here is who that is referring to.

Sea creatures and all ocean depths
Lightning
Hail
Snow
Clouds
Stormy winds
Mountains and hills
Fruit trees
Cedar trees
Wild animals
Cattle
Small creatures
Flying birds
Kings of the earth
All nations
Princes and all rulers
Young men and women
Old men
Children

If you’re reading this, you are in one of these groups. Probably one of the last three. You might be a king or prince or ruler. If so, I would be humbly honored. Either way, just do what it says, today, and every day.

Praise the LORD.

Also? Don’t be like Jonah.

Jonah was obedient. Sort of. He was kind of like one of the sons in a parable that Jesus told. You know, where a landowner told both of his sons to go work in the fields. One said he would go, then didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t go, then later relented and went.

Jonah is a weird case, though. He initially ran away from God’s directive. Not successfully, of course, because you just can’t do that. If God wants you somewhere, you will wind up there.

Period.

Even if it takes being swallowed by a specially prepared “great fish.” (Not a whale, mind you. It’s never called a whale.) We really don’t know what kind of fish . . . it was just big.

So Jonah repented and went to Nineveh. Make no mistake, though. His “obedience” was not ever willing. He went . . . he preached repentance to the people. But then the unexpected happened.

They repented. Jonah didn’t like that, because he didn’t like those Ninevites. He really didn’t want them to repent.

How often are we like that? (Get your steel-toed shoes ready.) Are there people that you would rather not see saved? Tell the truth. Is there someone, right now, anyone, that you can think of that you would just as soon see die and go to hell?

If you’re a Republican, I bet I can name at least one. If you’re a Democrat, I bet I can name at least one.

I might have a few that I’m struggling with. I even have a few brothers and sisters for whom I struggle with praying. Yes, I admit it.

I’m human. Not perfect. In spite of the fortune cookie slip taped to my desk that says “You shall soon achieve perfection.” Obviously, we have different definitions of “soon.”

The lesson we learn from Jonah is how to not be a prophet. God will get His desired results. He will get them with or without us. If we run away from His plan, He doesn’t suffer. It is we who suffer.

Don’t be a Jonah.

Father, I praise You for all Your glorious and wondrous creation. I join with the mountains and hills, the sea creatures and cedar trees, and all the saints who have come before me and who will come after me, in praising Your holy Name. I thank You for the music that You have placed in my heart and on my tongue and my fingertips, music which I can use to praise You. But God, I have flaws (don’t You know it?). I ask You to help me love unconditionally, especially all of those saints who call the name of Jesus. Help us all to walk more completely in His steps, and love the way He loves. Help us with our bigotry and our prejudices. Teach us Your ways, that we may all walk firmly in Your truth. And that Truth, that Way, that Life, is Jesus Christ.

Give us all spiritual renewal, Father, as well as deep repentance for the sins in which we still struggle. May You give us all readiness to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us.

"Gracious God,
the saving power of the gospel is amazing to everyone.
Some are surprised that Your grace could include and change even them;
others are shocked that their goodness and religious credentials don't earn them Your grace.
Continue to astonish the world with the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Amen."

BLESSING

Happy are those who remain faithful under trials,
because when they succeed in passing such a test,
they will receive as their reward
the life which God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 GNB)

Father, as we consider this day of Thanksgiving, I pray for tensions in our nation to be healed. I pray for unity within Your Church, as there has been a rift there, unnecessarily caused by politics. May we rise above that and focus our attention on You, on Christ, and on loving You and loving our neighbors and brothers and sisters.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Known By God

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of November.

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,267

Thanksgiving is tomorrow!

We got the outside lights up, yesterday. And of course, one of them is already not lighting up. It’s possible it is just a bit loose in the connector. That happens sometimes, especially with a brand new set. We might have a chance to get the ladder back out, later today, and try to fix it. Of course, as well, it is the next to the top light on the house.

I finished a game on my PC, last night, after work. I got home from the library, cooked some eggs and toast for a quick dinner, and sat down to play Cyberpunk 2077. I knew I was close to the end, because, in a recent session, I reached one of those points where you get a warning asking if you’re sure you want to keep going, because there’s not going back from this point. Sure enough, I completed the story line.

As the ending approached, there were multiple choices to be made. There were at least three different choices as to who I wanted to take with me for the final fight, and then, at the very end, there was a very important choice, as well. I like the ending that I got, but am aware that, similar to Fallout 4, there are multiple ending possibilities. Makes me want to play the final sequence again, making different choices, just to see what happens.

But not for now. According to the Steam app, I have put 265+ hours into the game. Time for something different. Hahaha!

Today, I’m working from 9:15-6:15. I’m off tomorrow and Friday, for Thanksgiving holiday. I would have been off tomorrow, anyway. However, I will be working from 1:00-5:00 next Thursday. The circulation manager asked me if I would work that shift, since I’m going to be short hours on that pay period, and she needs help with coverage that day, so I said, “sure!”

Oh. I forgot to mention that we have another cat in the house. We got this one from the Watauga shelter, and she is already two years old and spayed, so we don’t have to worry about that. She is a tabby who looks a lot like S’s cat, Honey. We have decided that she will be called Magnolia. We will probably call her Maggie or Mags, for short.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

What Is A Blessing?, by Daryl Madden

What is a blessing?
But a share of
A taste of heaven
A gift of Gods’ love

Of nothing deserved
But one of pure grace
Let us receive it
With a grateful embrace

A treasure to cherish
Shared in many ways
If we are aware
We will be amazed!

Just a reminder
Of this message true
As a child of God
You’re a blessing too!
LUTHER'S MORNING PRAYER
In the name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, 
through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, 
that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; 
and I pray that You 
would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, 
that all my doings and life may please You. 
For into Your hands I commend myself, 
my body and soul, and all things. 
Let Your holy angel be with me, 
that the evil foe may have no power over me. 
Amen.

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for all my friends and family; you are, indeed, a blessing to me
2. that I am alive and breathing, and have awakened to another new day
3. for the Light of Jesus Christ in my life
4. that I can sing praises to You and make music on various instruments
5. that You know me, intimately, as You know the number of and the names of all the stars in the heavens

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
(Luke 2:52 ESV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers,
you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.
You need milk,
not solid food,
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness,
since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature,
for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV)

Father, make me more like Jesus, increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with You and those around me. Make me mature in Your Word, living on the “solid food” that comes from constant immersion in it.

Arise,
shine,
for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
(Isaiah 60:1 ESV)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake,
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven
and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning,
and his clothing white as snow.
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women,
Do not be afraid,
for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here,
for he has risen,
as he said.
Come, see the place where he lay.
(Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)

“Awake,
O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:14 ESV)

For you are all children of light,
children of the day.
We are not of the night or of the darkness.
(1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV)

Father, may the Light of Christ shine on and through me, today.

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY FOUR

INVITATION

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

As I pause during this quiet morning, I am struck by the Light that is Jesus Christ. My heart’s desire is to be “alive and awake,” shining brightly, in this world of darkness, with the Light of Jesus. I stop to take a long, loving, look at my Father, who is present with me, at all times.

BIBLE SONG

Praise the LORD.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
(Psalms 147:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
(Jonah 1:1-6 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for words or ideas that have stirred within me. I linger over them, giving them my attention. Is there something within about which I need to ask God? I pray my life to my Father and rest in His presence.

Do you know how many stars there are? Does anyone? God not only knows the number of stars, He “determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.” Yes, I do realize that this is poetry, not theology. But it gives us insight into the infinite wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of our God. “His understanding has no limit.”

If He knows every star and calls it by name, how much more does He know each of us? God Almighty, the Creator of everything that we can see and much that we cannot see, condescends to know us. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows everything that I am going to do and say today. He knows what I am going to think.

Yet, still He loves me. He remembers that we are only dust.

This causes me to do what Psalm 147:7 tells me to do. “Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.” I don’t have a harp, but I have instruments, and I can use them to make music to God. I also have a voice, with which I can sing praises to Him.

Father, I praise You for Your knowledge of us! You, who created everything, have made Yourself known to us, just as You know us. Someday, when we see You, face to face (as much as will be possible), we will know You as intimately as You know us. But, for now, we cannot handle such knowledge; it is too wonderful, we cannot attain it. As I go through this day, may this knowledge carry me through all challenges that I might face. Give me Your wisdom and shine in me with the Light of Jesus Christ. May His light be visible in me. All glory and praise to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

"Father,
never let Your salvation,
Your free choice of me,
make me lax or arrogant toward others.
Never let me forget that You've chosen me for both a special relationship as Your child and a special service,
becoming a channel of blessing for all.
In Christ's Name,
amen."

BLESSING

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on
and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.
For such persons loyally in love with God,
the reward is life and more life.
(James 1:12 MSG)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the LORD richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 115:14-15 NLT)

Grace and peace, friends.

Forever Faithful

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-third of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru. Please check out his photo blog!

Day 23,266

Two days until Thanksgiving!

Yesterday was largely a day of rest and recuperation. At least for me. C was a “busy bee” for a good part of the day. Not being content with just sitting around, she put up most of the Christmas decorations in the house, as well as some of the outside decorations. The tree is up, but not decorated. We will probably put the ornaments on tomorrow night after I get home from work at the library.

We plan to put up the outside house lights after I finish blogging, this morning. So I will try to get finished this “morning.” Some are aware that there are some days where it is not posted until noon or later.

There will also be another trip to the grocery store today, to get some things that we either forgot or didn’t know we needed, yesterday. And I’m thinking we will probably have Subway for lunch.

Today is my half-day at the library, 4:15-8:15 PM.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

“Enter, Lord Christ–
I have joy in Your coming.
You have given me life;
and I welcome Your coming.
I turn now to face You,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord;
be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye looks on
be blessed and be bright,
my neighbors, my loved ones
be blessed in Your sight.
You have given me life
and I welcome Your coming.
Be with me, Lord,
I have joy, I have joy.”
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

And now we thank you, our God,
and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your presence here, this morning
2. for Your glorious name, worthy of all our praise
3. for Jesus, the Way, Truth, and Life
4. that You remain faithful forever
5. that You alone satisfy my every longing

“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.”

Thomas said to him,
“Lord, we do not know where you are going.
How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way,
and the truth,
and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you had known me,
you would have known my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:1-7 ESV)

Jesus said to him,
"I am the Way, Truth, and Life.
If you had known me . . ."

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY THREE

INVITATION

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

As I pause during this quiet moment, also enjoying the affection of a favorite cat, I enjoy the presence of God. I am still, and know that He is God.

BIBLE SONG

I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
(Psalms 146:2 NIV)

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 146:6-10 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.”
(Amos 8:9-12 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I slowly mull over those words and phrases, and pray my thoughts, meditations, and desires, and feelings back to the Lord, enjoying His presence.

One word in Psalm 146, that catches my attention, is the word “faithful.” Verse 6 declares that the Lord “remains faithful forever.”

Forever. Infinitely. Never-changing. Faithful.

And in that faithfulness, the Lord does some things.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
He gives food to the hungry
He sets prisoners free
He gives sight to the blind
He lifts up those who have bowed down
He loves the righteous
He watches over the foreigner
He sustains the fatherless and widows
He frustrates the ways of the wicked

In the middle of all of that are two words that I believe may be misunderstood by some.

Righteous and wicked.

It is my opinion (and I believe that opinion to be based on wisdom from the Word of God) that “righteous” defines people who do the same things as God does. In other words, if a person is “righteous,” he upholds the cause of the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over the foreigners, and sustains the widows and orphans.

It is also my opinion that the word “wicked” defines people who do the opposite of what God does. They are the oppressors, they withhold food from the hungry, imprison people, blind people, force people to bow down, ignore the foreigners (or worse), and do not care for the widows and fatherless.

The “righteous” may also be involved in frustrating the ways of the “wicked,” but I think that is largely the job of the Lord.

And here’s the thing. Do I consider myself “righteous?” With as much honesty and transparency as I can muster, I would say it depends on what day it is. There are days when I try really hard to do all of those things as much as it is up to me. I may not be directly involved in all of them, but my prayers are toward those objectives, and if I have resources to share (which I do), I try to send them out in those directions.

But truthfully, there are, no doubt, days when I lean more toward the “wicked” side. And that is where the biggest truth of this passage comes into play.

God remains faithful forever.

Praise the Lord.

I’m not going to speak much about the Amos passage. It is, as far as I can tell, explicitly directed toward Israel. It speaks of a dire need and lack of any word from the Lord, which is something that was fulfilled in the period between the end of the Old Testament and the coming of Jesus Christ. Today, my focus is on the forever faithfulness of our Lord God Almighty.

Father, You are faithful forever. Your faithfulness never changes; it never wanes; it never fails. Our brand of faithfulness is fickle, at best. Some days it is nonexistent. I pray that my faithfulness will more closely resemble yours. But I’m real enough to acknowledge that it likely will not, at least most days. I pray for more of a heart that will work to uphold the cause of the oppressed, to give food to the hungry, to set prisoners free, to give sight to the blind, to lift up the bowed down, to watch over the foreigner, and to sustain the fatherless and the widow. If, in working toward all of those, the plans of the wicked are frustrated, all the better. But mostly, I want to be more like You, in Your righteousness and Your faithfulness.

I pray for the ability to follow Your calling to walk with Jesus in our neighborhoods and work places. I pray for the peace and well-being of our communities.

"God Almighty,
I am hungry for You and famished for life.
When I'm tempted to gorge on spiritual junk food,
work up my appetite for Your nourishing word,
more than enough to fill me up.
Thank You for Your words,
but also for the Word,
Jesus,
who alone can satisfy my deepest hungers.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test
he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 ESV)

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Seek Good, Not Evil

Today is Monday, the twenty-second of November, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,265

Only three more days until Thanksgiving! Preparations are underway, groceries have been ordered.

Plans for Thanksgiving for this year are that we will visit my mother in Mineral Wells on Thursday, taking food with us over there, and then have another Thanksgiving meal at our house on Friday with C’s sister, brother-in-law, and niece, along with niece’s boyfriend.

I’m working tomorrow night, Wednesday all day, and then Saturday, having Friday off for Thanksgiving.

We had a nice flight home, yesterday. We got packed up and checked out with no issues, and met R & J for breakfast at the same place we ate on Friday morning, Lincoln Square. I had a German Skillet, which was scrambled eggs, smoked sausage, and sausage gravy, on a bed of small potato pancakes. It was delicious. For my “bread” choice, I got pancakes, which were also delicious. We said our “farewells” at our car, and got a few pictures. I forgot my tripod, so there is no group picture of all of us, but each of us is in at least one picture.

S, C, R, & J
R & J
S, me, R, & J
S, C, me, & R

There were tears as we drove away.

Our flight was fine. I lucked out, and the middle seat in my row (even though they said the flight was completely full) was never occupied. On the aisle was a young lady who was, at one point, reading/studying a book with some music notation in it. I asked her what she was studying, and she said she was studying the Brahms Handel Variations. Turns out she is a pianist. I asked her if she was going to be a famous concert pianist someday. She laughed and said probably not. I hope she is wrong. I never got her name, though, so I guess I will never know.

The landing in DFW was not nearly as good as the near-perfect landing in IND. Our pilot bounced a couple times in DFW. It wasn’t bad or scary, or anything. Just not as smooth. We made sure to thank all of the flight staff and attendants. I frequently made it a point to thank people, especially at the airport, even in the shops. Thanked them just for being there. These are tough times, and people need appreciation. They get treated so poorly.

I learned something new about my car, yesterday, too. In the second rental we had, in Indy, R pointed out that, if the phone was connected to the car via USB charging cable, the map for Waze (GPS app) would appear on the car display panel. So we hooked that up, which made following the GPS around much easier and safer. This came up when I mentioned having issues propping up my phone so it wouldn’t fall.

When we got back to our car at DFW, we looked around, and sure enough, there is a USB port with a picture of a phone. When plugged in, it activates “Car Play,” which displays the phone screen on the display panel where the radio usually shows.

I felt really stupid. I’ve had this car for over a year and had no clue that it would do that. But now I know.

C is off all week, thanks to her company’s generosity. She might have to crank up her work laptop here and there, but doesn’t have to go to the office. She is currently setting out Christmas decorations. We got in the spirit when we visited that Christmas market in Carmel, so we decided to go ahead and get started with them early, this year. We would normally have done it over the coming weekend, so it’s not too early.

The reason I’m running late, today, is that I have been messing around with my Dropbox account, trying to get files synced up from two different drives on this PC. I’m concerned that one of my hard drives might be about to crash, so I’m trying to get files backed up. I also didn’t sleep well, last night. We’ve been eating so badly, over the past five days, that my stomach, I think, had enough, finally. It decided to keep me up for a few hours last night. I’m still not feeling quite right and haven’t eaten anything this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

“The LORD lives,
and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be my God,
the rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from men of violence.
“For this I will praise you,
O LORD,
among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.”
(2 Samuel 22:47-50 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a very successful trip to Indy, a great visit with our kids, and safe flights both ways
2. that You are the rock of my salvation, my Rock and my God
3. for this season of the year, when most people will find some things for which to be thankful
4. for all who continue the practice of "thanksgiving" beyond this season or just this month
5. for all of Your great and marvelous attributes, described by Your Word

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

LAST WEEK OF ORDINARY TIME – DAY TWO

INVITATION

“Be still,
and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
(Psalms 46:10 NLT)

I pause, now, to consider the affirmation that You will be honored by every nation, eventually.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
(Psalms 145:1-3 NIV)

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
(Psalms 145:17-21 NIV)

BIBLE READING

There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
(Amos 5:7 NIV)

There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
(Amos 5:10-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord, I read these passages again, slowly and deliberately. I try to notice how God might be speaking to me through them. I also try to set aside preconceived prejudices and allow the Spirit to speak freshly to me. I allow my heart to respond to God in prayer, laying out my thoughts and meditations to Him, taking refreshment in His presence.

As we work toward the end of Psalms, we come to a few that are purely praise. It is hard for me to identify a single word or phrase that speaks to me in Psalm 145. It is more of an idea . . . a concept of the character of God, or His attributes. The passage lists some truths about Him.

He is worthy of praise (v. 3)
No one can fathom His greatness (v. 3)
He is righteous in all His ways (v. 17)
He is faithful in all He does (v. 17)
He is near to all who call on Him in truth (v. 18)
He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, hearing their cries and saving them (v. 19)
He watches over all who love Him (v. 20)

This praise psalm, however, seems to be on a different spectrum than the passage I’m reading in Amos, today. In fact, I find the Amos passage to be quite alarming. I do take note of the fact that this prophecy is concerning Israel. However, I see correlations with my own country.

In our modern land, there are certainly those “who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground” (v. 7). And one of our biggest problems, right now, is that there are people on both sides of the political fence who believe that that statement is true for the “other side.”

Verse 10 is similar. “There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” Again, what I said about the alleged political fence is true. Neither Democrats nor Republicans believe the other side is capable of telling the truth.

What it boils down to, though, is stated in verse 12. “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” This has long been true in our nation. It is, perhaps, more prevalent in other nations. But the Bible is clear on this issue. Our Father in heaven detests this practice. And the consequences are dire.

I find verse 13 to be interesting, though. “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” I’m not sure what that means. I don’t think it means that, when we see evil being practiced, we should say nothing. I don’t think it means that we should be silent when the innocent are oppressed.

We are instructed, though, whether we are ancient Israel or modern man, to “seek good, not evil,” that we may live.

Father, I pray for this world, that we would be more inclined to seek good and not evil. I know that there are always going to be people who seek evil, but it is those who do evil and think that they are doing good who are of greater concern. I pray that the innocent not be oppressed, in my own country, as well as around the world. I realize this seems like such a fruitless prayer, but I truly believe in Your ability to stand up for and uphold the cause of those whom You love so much. Help us to find ways to stand up for the widows and orphans, the homeless and poor, the needy and oppressed, and those who constantly live in the shadows of injustice. The rich few have had their way for too long, Father. But in the meantime, please show C and me how we can help.

"Furious God,
thank You for fuming prophets who picture and proclaim Your anger at sin in the world - 
sin that hurts,
maims,
and enslaves.
Help me to trust Your anger,
understanding it as a form of love against oppressive evil.
Thank You that Your justice and anger find their ultimate expression in Jesus's cross and resurrection.
Amen."

BLESSING

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12 NLT)

I pray that, while unity within our country is unlikely, You would bring about unity within Your Church.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Great Disruptor

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

May the peace of God reign on your hearts today.

Day 23,264

Four days until Thanksgiving in the U.S.!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

When, by Daryl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INVITATION

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

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

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

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

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

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

BIBLE READING

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

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart, slowly repeating them, meditating on them. I pray my thoughts, my desires, my heart, and my life, to God, enjoying His presence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLESSING

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Pray For the Peace of Your Cities

Today is Saturday, the sixth of November, 2021.

Day 23,249

Daylight Saving Time ends tonight, in the U.S. Clocks “fall back” one hour.

Six days until C’s birthday.

The garage door opener finally arrived, yesterday, and will be installed, this morning. The installer is scheduled to arrive between 10:00 and 12:00 today. It will be nice to have a working opener again, and this one supposedly will be operable by phone.

I had a great day at the library, yesterday. It seemed busier, at times, than a normal Friday, so far. I had more opportunities to help people than before, which was good. I also had some good conversations with some of the other library folks. I love talking to my new friends. My next shift will be Tuesday evening, doing shelving.

Thanksgiving is later this month, in the U.S. As far as the library schedule goes, I will be off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, but am scheduled to work that Saturday.

There are no solid plans for anything today. C says she is going to mow the yard, as she has been cleared by her back doctor to do so, since we have a self-propelled mower. He advised her to not be “throwing bags of mulch around.” Which we don’t do, anyway.

Today is Numbat Day. What’s a numbat, you ask? My spell-checker certainly doesn’t know. It’s an adorable Australian marsupial, that’s what.

The numbat, noombat, walpurti (Myrmecobius fasciatus)

The word for today is melancholic, “disposed to or affected with melancholy; gloomy.”

Today’s quote is from James Russell Lowell, an American poet. “All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.”

Birthdays for November 6:

Adolphe Sax, Belgium musician and inventor (saxophone), 1814-1894
John Philip Sousa, American "march king" (Liberty Bell March), 1854-1932
Walter Johnson, American Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, 1887-1946
Jonathan Harris, American actor (Dr. Smith on Lost in Space), 1914-2002
Ray Conniff, American bandleader, 1916-2002
Mike Nichols, German-American film director (Catch 22), 1931-2014
Sally Field, American actress (Gidget, Flying Nun), 1946 (75)
Glenn Frey, American rock singer (Eagles, Take It Easy), 1948-2016
Peter DeLuise, American actor (21 Jump Street), 1966 (55)
Emma Stone, American actress (La La Land), 1988 (33)
Saxophone, invented by Adolphe Sax
Glenn Frey

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence.
(Psalms 140:13 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for a warm cup of coffee
2. for dwelling in Your presence
3. for the love of Christ
4. for the city in which I live; I pray for its peace and security and prosperity, for the sake of Your houses of worship within her
5. that when I get lost, You are still seeking me

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY-FOUR – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

For this God is our God forever and ever.
He will be our guide even to death.
(Psalms 48:14 WEB)

I pause, during this quiet moment, to become aware of Your presence and to be thankful for You and Your work in my life. I experience repentance for my shortcomings and failures, and feel the comfort of forgiveness.

BIBLE SONG

A song of ascents. Of David.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalms 122:1-9 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
(Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 NIV)

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I leisurely read these passages again, I look for a word or idea that has stirred within me, lingering over it and giving full attention to it. As I meditate on the readings, I look for things I might want to ask God about. I pray my life to Him and rest in His presence.

The Psalm reading, one attributed to David, begins with a popular verse. I remember a Sunday School song, from my childhood: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'” Indeed, this speaks of a love of the worship of God. It need not be specific to a place, though. For David, it was, perhaps, specific, but it would not have been about the Temple, because it wasn’t built until Solomon was king.

I had a flash of inspiration (I think) while reading Psalm 122, this morning. Many people take it literally, and do pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.

But what if we applied that to the city where we live? “May there be peace with your walls and security within your citadels?” What if I prayed that daily for Fort Worth, Texas? “For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.'” I have no family and friends in Jerusalem. But I have family and friends in Fort Worth and surrounding cities and towns. “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” The house where I go to worship the Lord is in North Richland Hills. The house where my mother goes to worship is in Mineral Wells (we will be attending there tomorrow, in fact). Therefore, I will pray for the prosperity of those cities, for the sake of the house of the Lord.

Apparently someone other than “the Teacher” wrote the last bit of Ecclesiastes 12, as he is spoken of in third person. We are told that he was, indeed, wise, and that his words were upright and true. And after all was said and done (and heard), the conclusion of the matter was simple. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

“Duty.” We get a lot of talk about “duty,” especially around election day. But here is stated the “duty” of all people, all over the world.

“Fear God and keep His commandments.”

And what are His commandments? You know what I’m going to say.

  1. Love God with all your being
  2. Love people, your neighbor as yourself, and your brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loved us

According to the Son of God, those two sum up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets.

Father, I pray for the peace and security of Fort Worth, Texas. I pray for the prosperity of the city in which we live, for the sake of family and friends and for the sake of Your “house,” which exists in many places in that city. I pray for the peace, security, and prosperity of Mineral Wells; for Longview; for Henderson; for Grand Prairie; for Indianapolis, IN; and for any other city or town where I have family and friends. May all cities, wherein dwell Your people, experience peace, security, and prosperity, for the sake of Your house. I pray, also, for a love revolution. I pray that Your Holy Spirit convict every single follower of Christ of the need for a massive shift toward love, both love for You and love for our fellow man, regardless of what he/she thinks or believes. This is Your command, and the bottom line, the conclusion of all wisdom, is that we should fear You and keep Your commands. All glory and honor to You, through the Son and by the Spirit!

I pray that Your Church would have clear vision for mission; I pray that leaders would be servants, that we would be godly when it comes to the stewardship of the goods You have provided us, and that we would be effectively organized to love the people around us and share the Good News of the Gospel of Christ in whatever ways You have equipped us.

"Living God,
the teacher has fine guidance,
but I need more than advice to keep Your commands.
In my frustrated attempts at obedience,
fix my eyes on Jesus,
eagerly looking to Him to forgive and set things right.
My prayer is to change,
to become more and more like Jesus,
energized to go all-out,
not out of nervous anxiety but in loving reverence of You.
Amen."

That prayer from the devotional book brings up a good point. If there is ever any anxiety in your heart, soul, or spirit, about sharing the Gospel with someone, then someone has done something wrong. There is no place for anxiety-inducing manipulation in the Kingdom of God. Period.

BLESSING

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 WEB)

So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
(Luke 19:10 NIV)

For it is by grace
you have been saved,
through faith—
and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works,
so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

The comfort of these verses, and others like them, is indescribable. Yes, God is with me, so there is nothing to fear. Ever. Yes, I get “lost,” along the way, as I foolishly chase after something unworthy of my attention. But Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We normally only apply that verse to those who are “Lost,” with a capital L. You know . . . the ones we say are “going to hell.” But I get lost sometimes, too. So do you, and if you say otherwise, you’re either a liar or just naïve. And, to me, the fact that it is all grace, through faith, makes it even more beautiful and comforting. I can’t save myself, and I don’t have to try. And my boasting remains in God and God alone.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Trust in the LORD
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways
submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Grace and peace, friends.

I Have A Thankful Heart

Today is Thursday, November 26, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,904

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. I wish all of my U.S. readers a happy Thanksgiving. May your day be restful and peaceful. Please be safe.

We all know what’s next. 29 days until Christmas! As many of us have noticed, there are many people who have already put up their Christmas decorations. Ours went up earlier this week, a little earlier than usual. And that’s okay. In fact, I will never complain again about people putting up Christmas decorations early. The “cheer” is most definitely needed, this year.

As previously noted, we will be having our Thanksgiving with only the people in our household. Recent surges in Coronavirus numbers, along with health department strong recommendations, have led to that decision. R & J are together at their house, we will be here, and Mama will be by herself. This saddens me, but it is best. And there will be phone conversations, I’m sure.

Once again, I want to point out that there is a difference between caution and fear. We are not reacting out of fear. We are being cautious. There are many who are acting with neither. And that is why the U.S. had 181,139 new cases yesterday. Almost four times the next highest country in the world. That, my friends, says a lot about the mindset of the U.S. We had 2304 deaths yesterday, as well. Texas had almost 15,000 new cases yesterday, leading the country.

I’ve already shared our menu for the day. Pecan-crusted Buttermilk Chicken (we aren’t turkey fans, here, and don’t need a whole turkey, anyway), a corn casserole recipe from the Emily Bites website, and a “healthified” (slightly) green bean casserole. There will be no pies or baked goods. And I’m not sad about that. I’d rather keep losing weight.

After that, I’m not sure what will take place. There might be hanging of Christmas lights outside, on the house. Most are already up, since C had two extra days off, this week. All that is left will be hanging the ones on top of the house. It’s more of a two-person job, due to the large, heavy ladder.

On to the devotional, which will, as always, include thankfulness.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.
For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.
(Psalms 81:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For this day, devoted to giving thanks for our many blessings
  2. That You have placed thanksgiving in my heart every day, not just one day out of the year
  3. That You care for us even more than You care for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field
  4. To be part of Your “cause” of making Your praise glorious and Your Name lifted high in all the earth
  5. For the love of and for my family

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

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

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
(Psalms 147:7 ESV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
(Matthew 6:25-30 ESV)

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
(Psalms 65:9-13 ESV)

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

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

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
"Almighty and gracious Father,
I give You thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labors of those who harvest them.
Make me, I pray,
a faithful steward of Your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of Your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours)

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
“Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
(Isaiah 12:1-6 ESV)

“We might give thanks easily during harvest celebrations such as Thanksgiving, when we’re enjoying an abundant feast with friends and family. But can we express our gratitude to God in difficult times, such as when we’re missing someone from our table or when we’re struggling with our finances or when we’re locked in conflict with one close to us?”
(Amy Boucher Pye, Our Daily Bread)

Amy makes reference to the Martin Rinkart hymn, translated by Catherine Winkworth, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

Our circumstances have not necessarily been conducive to a thankful heart, in 2020. We are still suffering through a pandemic, and the anxiety level was increased through the madness of the election campaigning, regardless of which side one was on.

But God has given me a thankful heart. “I have a thankful heart, that You have given me,” sang Petra, once upon a time. Truly, I believe that is one thing that has kept me sane, this year. And as my faithful readers (and Facebook friends) will note, I put up at least five things each day, for which I am thankful. Some days, it is more difficult than others to come up with five. Other days, there might even be seven.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV)

A Psalm for giving thanks.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalms 100:1-5 ESV)

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
(Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
If it had not been the LORD who was on our side— let Israel now say—
if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 124:1-8 ESV)

God is “for us,” so who can be against us?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

The idea of God being “on our side” is a very dangerous idea, and has been severely misused, throughout history. I want to be clear. When I say God is on my side, what I really mean is that I’m on His side. God is “for me” because I am “for Him.” God does NOT champion my cause.

Let me say that again.

God does NOT champion my cause. He does not champion your cause, no matter how righteous you think it may be.

God champions no one’s cause but His own. And that is the only cause that I will champion.

What is that cause? I suppose that is open to interpretation. But I believe that the “cause” of God is that His great Name be glorified and worshiped throughout all the world. Call that arrogant, if you want. But there is no other being in the universe who has the right to do that. He created this universe and all that is in it, therefore, He has the right to demand worship and praise. If you have a problem with that, let me see you create something out of nothing, by simply speaking it into existence.

In the words of Frances Ridley Havergal (I seem to be on a hymn kick, this morning), I will gladly sing:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee

I love looking up hymn lyrics. There are almost always stanzas that I have never seen before.

Father, I am so very thankful today, but not just today . . . every day. I have so much to be thankful for that I could write pages and pages were I to list every single thing. It would be a list of things both simple and complex. Most of all, though, I am thankful to be included in the number of those who follow Christ in this life. And thankful that You drew me to that place, for I would not be here, were it not for the calling of the Holy Spirit. So my gratitude is unspeakable, as there are not enough words to thank You. I pray today, that all of my family will have a blessed and peaceful day. I would pray that our nation would be able to set aside its division, but I am not hopeful for that, as we are a stubborn and arrogant people. God forgive us for this, please.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Irish Blessing)

Grace and peace, friends.

Never Leave You

Today is Wednesday, November 25, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,903

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S.

And while today is Wednesday, this one is not a “Hump Day,” because it’s more like Friday! While C has been off already, since yesterday, I will be off tomorrow and Friday. I think I’m also going to have a few more PTO days left to use next month, as well.

Speaking of work, when I left, yesterday, I was virtually caught up. While that could change in a matter of minutes (and drastically, I might add), it is a nice feeling, and has a tremendous impact on my state of mind as I get ready to go in, this morning.

C put Christmas decorations around the house, yesterday afternoon. It looks really nice. No tree, yet. We aren’t sure how Luna (cat) is going to react to the Christmas tree. It could be disastrous.

The U.S. had 175,168 new cases of Coronavirus, yesterday, a tad higher than the day before. Over two thousand new deaths, though, which more than doubled Monday’s total. We will hit thirteen million total cases today. Texas had a staggering 19,790 cases, topping the nation.

C and I have been watching an HBO original series called “The Undoing,” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant (also featuring Donald Sutherland). It’s quite good, and this week’s episode ended with quite the stunning development. It’s a murder “who-dun-it,” and Hugh Grant is the primary suspect, although we don’t think he really did it. This week an unexpected suspect popped up. It’s a fun show.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalms 34:8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. That I have tasted and I’ve seen . . .
  2. That I am alive and breathing and well
  3. For Your righteousness
  4. That, while weeping may tarry during the night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)
  5. For Your constant, comforting presence

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
(Psalms 86:4 ESV)

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(Psalms 119:10 ESV)

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
(John 6:24-27 ESV)

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalms 30:1-5 ESV)

“Let me seek the Lord while He may be still be found.
I will call upon His name while He is near.”
(Traditional)

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

"Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Grant us grace to heed
their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ
our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Divine Hours, The Prayer Appointed for the Week)

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
(Genesis 28:15 ESV)

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
(Psalms 73:23 ESV)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

A Song of Ascents.
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.
(Psalms 123:1-4 ESV)

When we lift up our eyes to the Lord, it is more than just a glance. “It denotes a steady, reflective, adoring gaze filed with longing and desires. The psalmist focuses both his attention and the yearnings of his heart on God in prayer.”

The psalmist manages to overcome his distractions “and makes knowing God experientially and serving God obediently the main business of his life.”

“Lord, I live in an ‘attention deficit disorder’ society. One thing after another comes into my sight and is gone. Oh, teach me how to focus on You. Let me always keep You in mind during the day. And help me gaze long and lovingly on You in prayer. Amen.”

(From The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy and Kathy Keller)

One thing that helps with this is the idea that is put forth by the Scriptures above Psalm 123. God is always with us, holding our hand. He holds us up and keeps us from falling or slipping. But this, of course, is contingent upon our keeping our eyes fastened on Him. When I look away, I will more than likely trip, just like when I take my eyes off of where I’m going and the sidewalk disappears out from under my feet (true story).

Nevertheless, the promise is there. While the most often stated command in Scripture is some form of “don’t be afraid,” there are also many, many times where God/Jesus promises to be with us in one form or another. God is always present. He is above me, below me, beside me, in front of me, and behind me. And, as Psalm 139 famously proclaims, there is nowhere I can go where He is not.

Father, truly, I have tasted and I’ve seen Your goodness in this life, and hope to continue doing so. Your “right hand” is always with me, holding me up and defending me. Yes. Your love defends me. I thank You for Your never-ending presence, which prompts me to never-ceasing prayer. May I take that with me into this day, through this day, and into this long weekend. Help me to overcome all distractions and worship and serve You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.