Love Much; Love Well

So here is a call: May we all, who call the name of Jesus, do our best to make “Jesus Christ attractive to all,” love much and love well, and “provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the twenty-sixth of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Day 23,361

It is currently 34 degrees, here in Fort Worth, today. But the high is only supposed to be 33. Things that make you go “hmmm . . .” There is, allegedly, a chance of “snow showers” this afternoon. I’m not down with that. I don’t care for cold showers, so I’ll take mine hot, please.

Speaking of hot, the HVAC tech is supposed to be coming between 3-5 this afternoon, to replace the circuit board in our system. It has been working fine, since he bypassed the broken one Wednesday, but, as previously noted, the blower runs non-stop.

It was an interesting day at the Computer Center, yesterday. There was non-stop activity for about an hour, yesterday morning, and the fax machine was busier than it’s ever been, when I’ve been there. But people were incredibly patient and kind during that time. One young lady who was faxing four different documents of five pages each (this takes anywhere from ten to twenty minutes for each bundle) allowed someone to break in and scan his documents to email (which is almost instant) in between a couple of her faxes.

Another young man tried to help a woman who was trying to print something that was on her phone. She didn’t have email on her phone, and didn’t remember the password needed to download our mobile print app. Those are the only ways you can transmit a document from phone to our printer station. Finally, the gentleman convinced her that he was trustworthy enough to allow her to text the document to his phone, and he printed off two copies for her. He wouldn’t even let her pay him for the prints.

In this world that seems to be so full of hatred and animosity, it is nice to see some compassion and kindness in action.

Outside of the heater guy coming and a grocery delivery from Walmart between 2-3 today, I have nothing on the agenda. Well, except that I’ll likely make cheeseburgers for S and me tonight. I’ll make one for C if she wants, but she usually doesn’t. We had pizza (not our homemade variety) last night, and have some left over for lunch, today. We haven’t gone totally off the rails, diet-wise. Or have we? Not sure. I’m committed to not gaining all of my weight back, at least.

Talk about a rambling paragraph. I guess I should move on to the devotional before I lose all sense of focus.

Oh, look!

Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Do not be anxious;
Life is more than food and clothes;
Seek first the Kingdom.
(Inspired by Matthew 6:25-34)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the many blessings and privileges that I usually take for granted
2. for a heart of generosity and a leaning toward humility
3. for all the grace that I need for today
4. for the saints who focus on gratitude and goodness
5. for my imagination, spawned by the ultimate imagination of God

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.

Today, I’m examining the phrase, “give us today our daily bread.” As physical beings, “bread” is necessary. We are not speaking only of literal “bread,” of course, in the form of carbs and grains. We simply mean that our energy source must come from outside of our bodies. We must ingest food, lest we become “feeble and incapable of movement.”

Beyond physical food, we also need “incentives” (Simone Weil’s word for them) of “money, ambition, consideration, decorations, celebrity, power, our loved ones, everything that puts into us the capacity for action.” These are also like “bread” to us.

“There is a transcendent energy whose source is in heaven, and this flows into us as soon as we wish for it. It is a real energy; it performs actions through the agency of our souls and of our bodies.

“We should ask for this food. At the moment of asking, and by the very fact that we ask for it, we know that God will give it to us.”

In this case, we are asking for “bread” that is supernatural. This bread is Jesus Christ. He is, and He calls Himself this, the bread of life. So, in this case, we see that the petition in question has a double meaning. We ask God to supply our physical food, but we are also asking Him to provide Christ’s presence in our lives. But we can only have enough for today, for this moment, because this moment is all we have.

It’s like the manna that the Israelites gathered for food while in the wilderness (wasn’t that yesterday’s prayer word?). They were only given enough for the day. If they tried to gather more than they needed for the day, they would awaken the next morning to find it rotted and useless. We cannot save up grace.

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

Here are some words for today’s Christians, from the book of Philippians, Message-style.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.
(Philippians 2:14-15 MSG)

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:9-11 MSG)

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
(Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

If you claim to follow Christ, are you doing these things on a daily basis? I don’t mean perfectly, of course. None of us is perfect.

A little over a month ago, I ventured into the dark territory that is TikTok. If you aren’t familiar with it, TikTok is a video app that allows users to produce up to three-minute videos on just about any topic they want. There are, of course, “community guidelines” which prohibit certain things, such as nudity or explicit sexuality, blatant hate speech, and other such things. A lot of time can be wasted scrolling through TikTok, just as it can be wasted scrolling through Facebook. I should know. I have wasted ample time in both places.

But I have chosen to try to live up to Paul’s words, to some degree, but posting my gratitude lists in video form every day on TikTok, just as I do on Facebook (not in video form on Facebook, but just copied and pasted from this blog). I don’t do these things to appear to be “super-spiritual.” I do these things to inspire positivity and gratitude in others. I want people to see something other than the hatred and hypocrisy that some others who claim the name of Christ are portraying. You can find my TikTok profile here, if you are interested. I hope to also, eventually, post some music, as well as my love of books, on there.

So here is a call: May we all, who call the name of Jesus, do our best to make “Jesus Christ attractive to all,” love much and love well, and “provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”

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

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
(Philippians 3:13-16 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “imagine.” Now there’s a word that can be of great use in our prayer lives and in our physical lives. But it can also be a great danger. An imagination running amok can create some serious problems, as we have seen in our world in recent years.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

There is another version of this quote that I found. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Here’s another, claiming to come from an original source, Einstein’s book, On Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

So, regardless of which one is actually correct, it is apparent that Einstein said something to that effect. It also illustrates that we may be too quick to attribute quotes to people without due research. I won’t hold that against the Guideposts people, today, as there does seem to be validity to at least one version of the quote.

I love imagination. Mine is fairly active, but I am mildly envious of people whose imaginations soar much higher than mine. I’m speaking of people who can write great songs and wonderful books. People like Paul McCartney and Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. You know . . . people with crazy levels of imagination.

The “imagination” of God, if it can even be called that, because His knowledge is ultimate and complete, is endless. It was the imagination of God that resulted in this universe, this planet, along with you and me. The ultimate imagination is responsible for my imagination and everything that it can conjure.

And, yes, I can use that imagination in prayer. If I can imagine it, I can most certainly pray for it. So, I imagine sick people healed; I imagine hungry people fed; I imagine homeless people with roofs over their heads; and I imagine people not having to live in fear of tyrants and their madness. Is it even possible to pray without imagination? Now that I think about it, I think not. How can you pray for something that you cannot imagine?

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, there is a lot today. I pray for my daily bread, both the real kind, the physical kind that I consume, as well as the spiritual kind, which is the presence of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, the Bread of Life. I pray for enough for this day, as I am aware that I cannot store up grace for tomorrow. Then tomorrow, I will pray for enough for that day.

I pray for the ability to make Your Son attractive to all. Help me to never do anything that makes Jesus unattractive to those around me. Help me to live my life in His service, walking in His steps, living in His “easy yoke.” Help me to love much and love well, as I have been trying to do for a number of years, now. Don’t let me lose sight of this Love Revolution, Father. May I give people a glimpse of good living, and of You, a loving and good and giving Father.

I thank You for my imagination, Father, and I also thank You for the imagination of many people in this world, people who can compose and write music and books, that both entertain and inspire. I pray for more of them who might display their faith in You in ways that inspire us to do the things that I have prayed for above. And help me to use my imagination to pray, to pray for people in other lands, people I have never met, and for people that are close to me, as well. And, should it be Your will, help me to use that imagination to compose songs of praise to Your Name. Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Your face, even if just in my imagination.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Wilderness

Today is Friday, the twenty-fifth of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,360

We never did get any snow, here. I honestly don’t know if there was any snow in the DFW area at all. It’s still cold, though, and, contrary to the initial forecast, never got above freezing, yesterday. In fact, I don’t think it got above 30 degrees. I ventured out for Sonic drinks around 4:30 PM, and it was, I think, 29 degrees. Currently, at almost 8:00 AM, it is 21 degrees.

As far as I know, the library is scheduled to open at regular time, this morning, so I will be there, ready for my day in the Computer Center. There may be some shelving on the side, but that depends on if any of the regular shelving people show up to make up lost time from yesterday. If they do, I may just be sitting at the computer desk all day, which is also fine with me.

As for the weekend, at this point, there are no plans. I assume we will have our little congregation gathering on Sunday morning. Some good news, I suppose. We have begun planning for a Night of Worship on March 12, two weeks from tomorrow. This will be the first one in well over a year, I believe . . . possibly two? I can’t remember if there has been one at all since the pandemic began. We haven’t discussed location, but, as far as I know, this one will be at the usual host’s home, which is also where we meet on Sundays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! 
Praise befits the upright. 
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; 
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 
Sing to him a new song; 
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 
For the word of the LORD is upright, 
and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
(Psalms 33:1-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the sunshine
2. for the joy of the Lord
3. for the fingerprints of God all over my life
4. for wilderness and desolate places in my life
5. that God always brings me back from those

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.

Yesterday, we looked at the request, “Your will be done,” and today, the follow-up phrase, “On earth as in heaven.” As we associate our desire with the will of God, it extends to spiritual things as well as physical. While these things have to do with “the other world,” they are also “events that take place here below, in time.” We discussed, yesterday, this idea that we must be okay with the things that have happened in the past, as they must, in some way or shape, be within God’s will. We must extend this into the future, as well.

One way a former pastor of mine used to frame this statement was to consider the state of things in heaven. We know from Biblical promises that there will be no tears in heaven; we know that there will be no pain in heaven; we know that there will be no sickness in heaven. Therefore, when we pray this prayer, we are, in a sense, asking for those things to be true on earth, as well. We know that God’s ultimate will is to eradicate pain and sickness and poverty and hunger. And this is why we pray this prayer. We long for these things to come to pass, “on earth as in heaven.”

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

God can do anything, you know—
far more than you could ever imagine
 or guess or request in your wildest dreams! 
He does it not by pushing us around 
but by working within us, 
his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Glory to God in the church! 
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! 
Glory down all the generations! 
Glory through all millennia! 
Oh, yes! 
(Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
(Jeremiah 18:5-6 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “wilderness.” The Scripture reference is Luke 5:16:

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
(Luke 5:16 NLT)

The ESV calls it “desolate places.”

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
(Luke 5:16 ESV)

Time is short, so I must move one. Wilderness seems to have a bad connotation, but it doesn’t have to. In the case of Israel, it was a place of correction, perhaps punishment, as they wandered around in wilderness for decades, after refusing to go into the Promised Land as directed.

But it was also a place of healing. In Jesus’s case, it was place to be alone. “Desolate” means, ” deserted of people and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness.” The purpose for this is to avoid distractions. If there are no people, there are no demands. If there is “dismal emptiness,” there is nothing else to distract one’s attention from God.

So we need those times of “wilderness” in our lives, in order to get our attention back on the Lord.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am grateful for times of wilderness and desolation in my life, in my past. But I am also grateful that You have always brought me out of those, stronger than before, with eyes focused more on You. Help me to be more focused on You and on Your will in my life and in this world. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as in heaven. I pray for all things to come to pass in perfect time and in perfect order, even if some of those things are not pleasant, or don’t seem to be what we desire. Help us to mold our desires to fit Your will and not to try to get You to do the opposite.

Your will is supreme, no matter what it causes us in this world, and we must, we simply must be okay with that, as Your children. This is something that the world simply cannot understand.

At the same time, this does not release us from our obligation to do the things that Jesus told us to do to and for “the least of these.” Help us to have more compassion for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the hungry, the sick, the naked and homeless, and all of those kinds of people. Give us the love and compassion of Jesus for those, and the willingness to share our resources with them.

I thank You, Father, that I can see Your fingerprints all over my life. I pray that this never stops.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Your Will Be Done

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the twenty-fourth of February (did I almost just type “July??”), 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today.

Day 23,359

Well, there is no snow on the ground, this morning. At least, not yet. It is cold, currently 22 degrees outside. And there is a very fine sort of mist in the air, so there is moisture out there. I could feel it, but couldn’t see it. Why was I out there, you ask? I was mailing a confirmation form for S, to the SSA office in Austin. We have a doctor appointment on March 22, for an evaluation in their ongoing effort to determine if she is still eligible for disability benefits.

We received word, last night, that the library will be closed today. I got text messages from both my manager and the circulation manager.

I know that I indicated at the end of yesterday’s blog that we had heat by that time. I’ll give a little more detail, here. We have to get a new circuit board for our heating unit. The tech indicated that he thought the blower motor might be going out in the near future. It might last another five years, or it might not last the rest of this year. One of those scenarios. He also kind of suggested that we might be better off replacing everything. Outside unit, inside unit, the whole shebang. We’re talking seven to eight grand to do that.

Now, let me say that I do not think this was a money-grabbing effort. From previous experience with this company and family, I trust them, highly. There was no pressure at all, just a suggestion. At this time, though, we are only going to replace the circuit. However, we are aware that 1) the heating system in the attic is as old as the house, almost 23 years old; 2) the outside A/C unit is at least fifteen, possibly seventeen, years old. So there’s that. We’ll be spending just over seven hundred for the new circuit board. But that includes yesterday’s visit, the parts and the labor for installation. He is supposed to come Saturday to replace that.

In the meantime, he has hardwired the system, bypassing the board, so that the heater will work. The blower is on, non-stop, because of that, but that’s not that big a deal.

C is working from home, today. She came home early, yesterday, which was good. I was nervous, the whole time she was on the road, and was quite relieved when she walked in the front door. The roads were mostly dry, but there were isolated spots where the early morning sleet had accumulated, one being a small bridge between our house and the next major intersection.

So we are all safe and warm, this morning. Unless, of course, the madman in charge of Russia, right now, decides to nuke us all.

I have no agenda for today, other than finishing this blog and writing a book review blog. Oh . . . I just remembered . . . I’m supposed to start soup for dinner. Be right back.

Thanks for waiting.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Gratitude Is the Way, by Daryl Madden

Gratitude is the way
That the heart remembers
Thoughts of kindnesses
Loving, glowing embers

Everyday blessings
Cherished interactions
Gifts of surprise
Acts of compassion

We honor and acknowledge
By remembering
Of the many ways
The ripples these acts bring

Through the soul of others
Of sacrifices giving
Of how we have been shaped
By both the dead and living

This poem was inspired by the following quote from “the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude,” Robert Emmons. “Gratitude is the way the heart remembers––remembers kindnesses, cherished interactions with others, compassionate actions of strangers, surprise gifts, and everyday blessings. By remembering we honor and acknowledge the many ways in which who and what we are has been shaped by others, both living and dead.” As you know, gratitude is something that I have stressed and tried to live for a number of years, now. Every day, I share at least five things for which I am grateful. This is not to appear “super-spiritual.” It is, hopefully, to inspire gratitude in others, because, “Gratitude Is the Way.”

Please take a look at more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for all the saints who try their best to live by this scripture passage
2. for the ultimate will of God in all things that happen in our world
3. for the good things that happen when we sing
4. that, just like the wind, though we cannot see God, we can see the effects and results of His working
5. for the freedom I experience in Christ; freedom from sin, freedom to love unconditionally

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.

Today, in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin, I’m continuing to look at the “prayer of prayers,” as examined by early twentieth-century mystic, Simone Weil. The phrase today is “Your will be done.” I have believed, for many years, now, that this is the safest prayer to pray.

“Your will be done.” It is the one prayer that we can pray that is sure to be answered 100%.

Simone Weil makes some bold statements about this phrase. “We are only absolutely, infallibly certain of the will of God concerning the past.” I agree with this. As fallible, faulty, sinful humans, we cannot be certain of what God’s will is, going forward. Even regarding our interpretations of Scripture, we cannot be. We fancy ourselves wise, and think we have some things figured out, but we don’t really. Every opinion we have, concerning the future will of God, is based on prejudicial presuppositions. Therefore, we can only be 100% certain of the will of God, looking backward.

Everything that has happened, looking backward, can be said to have been the will of God. This is really tough for us to agree with, because some terrible things have happened in the history of the world. But hear this: if we cannot say that this is true, then God is not fully in control of our world, and our faith in Him is useless.

When we pray “Your will be done,” we are asking for what already is. And we are asking, not for internal realities, such as holiness, and so forth, but for what will happen “in the time order. Nevertheless we are asking for the infallible and eternal conformity of everything in time with the will of God. . . . We have to desire that everything that has happened should have happened, and nothing else. We have to do so, not because what has happened is good in our eyes, but because God has permitted it, and because the obedience of the course of events to God is in itself an absolute good.”

Any objection to the above comes out of ignorance. And trust me, I have been plenty ignorant, over time. This ignorance is necessary, because we are not God. Therefore, all of us, every single one of us, is ignorant when it comes to completely understanding the ways of God in this world. Because we are not Him.

We will still pray for things according to our own desires and incomplete knowledge. This is inevitable. But we couch these prayers in the caveat of “Your will be done.” And remember . . . Jesus did the same thing in the Garden of Gethsemane. And also remember . . . the cross of Christ, where God, Himself, incarnate died for us, the most horrible event that has ever happened in history (in human eyes), was the will of God.

“When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them ‘in their place.’ The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.” ~ Eugene H. Peterson, in Symphony of Salvation, “Free from Within,” the chapter on Galatians

I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalms 9:2 ESV)

My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
(Psalms 71:23 ESV)

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.
(Acts 16:25-26 ESV)

Great things happen when we sing.

Today’s prayer word is “wind.” Wind is an interesting thing. You can’t see it. It is invisible, because it is nothing more than moving air, and you can’t see air.

Christina Rossetti, nineteenth century English writer, is quoted as saying, “Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”

There is also a quote by Billy Graham that has been used in many places. “I’ve never seen the wind. I’ve seen the effects of the wind.”

Wind can be gentle and comforting, a gentle breeze on a beautiful fall or spring day. Or, it can look like this:

I remember that day. God is a lot like the wind. In fact, the Holy Spirit is described multiple times in the Bible, as wind. But we cannot see God, can we? We can see the evidence and effect of God, but we cannot see God. And, in addition, God can be gentle and comforting, or He can be awesome and destructive, as has been proved many times in Scripture.

The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Barbranda,” says, “The Almighty One reminds me of the ever-moving wind: I can’t see Him, but I know He’s there.”

Incidentally, wind is needed to fly, which was yesterday’s prayer word.

Father, I believe in You, as You know, even though I cannot see You. I am grateful for the many ways that I can see evidence of Your work, in my life, and in this world. I am grateful for the times when Your presence comes in like a gentle breeze, as well as for the times when You rush in like a hurricane. I trust You and Your will implicitly, believing that You will, as Your Word promises, work out all things for our good. This helps me look back on world events that humans see as horrific and trust that, somehow, in the grand scheme of things, they were included in Your ultimate will. I will never claim to understand the workings of these things, though, because I am not You, and Your ways are infinitely higher than mine.

God, wonderful things happen when we sing. Paul and Silas were released from prison, because the earth shook. Other wonderful things happen. Over and over, the Bible depicts Your people singing Your praises after You acted in marvelous ways for them. I pray for more opportunities to sing. I pray for future opportunities for Your people to gather and sing Your praise together and pray together, because great things happen we the saints gather and pray and sing.

I pray for our world right now. Scary things are happening, Lord, so I pray for protection for Your people. I pray for Your hand on the events surrounding Ukraine, right now. I pray for peace. I pray for leaders to have wisdom and mercy. And I pray, “Your will be done.”

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Drop Your Differences

We’re Christ’s representatives.
God uses us to persuade men and women
to drop their differences and enter into God’s work
of making things right between them.
We’re speaking for Christ himself now:
Become friends with God;
he’s already a friend with you.
(2 Corinthians 5:20 MSG)

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,358

It’s currently 23 degrees outside, with “snow showers” imminent. Those are not the kind of “showers” we were supposed to pray for the other day.

It’s 63 degrees in the house, because, when I got home from “work” last night, the heat was not working. I got hold of our usual A/C people, who didn’t have any techs available until this morning. Whoever I was texting with tried their best to help me get it running last night, which involved multiple trips into the attic (and hurting something in my wrist in the process . . . probably a tendon or ligament, I don’t think I broke anything), but to no avail. I couldn’t find the tools I needed to do what is probably a fairly easy fix.

The good news is that our house is “warm-natured” and holds heat quite well. Too well, of course, as it is difficult to keep it cool in the summer. That’s why, after more than twelve hours of no heat, and sub-freezing temperatures, it is still over 60 in the house.

The tech is on his way, though, which is good news, and should be here any minute. Therefore, I am typing this blog on my laptop, in the living room, instead of back in the study. You shouldn’t be able to tell any difference. The difference will be for me, as the laptop has a touchpad, which, try as I might, I have been unable to deactivate, and the slightest bump of it can send the cursor flying off to parts unknown, and has been known to completely eradicate an entire page in a single bound. Wish me luck.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let your light shine bright;
You are the light of the world;
Give glory to God!
(Inspired by Matthew 5:14-16)
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, 
burst into jubilant song with music; 
make music to the LORD with the harp, 
with the harp and the sound of singing, 
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn;
 shout for joy before the LORD, the King. 
(Psalms 98:4-6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that our house holds heat really well
2. for the ability to contemplate the presence of God in my life
3. for the message of peace in the Gospel; Jesus really wants us to drop our differences and make things right between us
4. that, in the big picture, God does not play favorites; "the ground is level at the foot of the cross"
5. that, if I delight myself in the Lord, I can "fly;" that is, He will give me the desires of my heart
6. (written at the end) that our heat is on

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.

I’m continuing with the treatment of the “prayer of prayers,” by Simone Weil, from Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. Today, I’m looking at the simple phrase, “Your kingdom come.”

In this, we are asking for something yet to be accomplished, something that is not yet here. In one sense, we know that the kingdom of God has been here, ever since Jesus walked the earth. But in another sense, it is not yet here, or not yet fully accomplished. This, in itself, is somewhat of a mystery.

In this writer’s view, this involves the coming of the Holy Spirit. And, while she says we are inviting Him, we should not invite in a specific way, “to visit us or anyone else in particular . . . so that our thought of him is an invitation, a longing cry. It is as when one is in extreme thirst, ill with thirst; then one no longer thinks of the act of drinking in relation to oneself, or even of the act of drinking in a general way. One merely thinks of water, actual water itself, but the image of water is like a cry from our whole being.”

Again, this is the musings of what we call a mystic, and they are, at times, ponderous and confusing. However, I think I get this. It is similar, in concept, to what we call contemplation, in which all we do is think about God, Himself, and do not venture into any specific thoughts or requests.

So, to pray “Your kingdom come,” we are simply inviting God, in the form of His Holy Spirit, to be among us.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
(Psalms 63:1 ESV)

We're Christ's representatives. 
God uses us to persuade men and women 
to drop their differences and enter into God's work
 of making things right between them.
 We're speaking for Christ himself now:
 Become friends with God;
 he's already a friend with you. 
(2 Corinthians 5:20 MSG)

I’m telling you that if anyone comes with a different message than this, they are not speaking for God. God is in the business of reconciling. Yes, I know . . . Jesus said that He would divide even families, and He does. But He also comes, in general, to bring peace. And He demands peace and unity within His Church. He wants us to drop our differences and make things right between us.

For God shows no partiality.
(Romans 2:11 ESV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
(John 15:12 ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
(Romans 12:9-10 ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
(James 2:1 ESV)

I could wax eloquently (or maybe not so much) for days on this group of verses. But my main message, through this forum, is exactly this, and springs directly from the verse from The Message above that last purple line. God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek, male and female, and so on. Color of skin or country of origin matters not. And, contrary to current popular belief, the USA does not enjoy “favored nation” status with God! And we, the Church of Jesus Christ have a job. That job is explicitly given in Romans 12, above. Philippians 2:3 also adds to that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 ESV)

I also like the way The Message puts this.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
(Philippians 2:3 MSG)

The prayer word for today is “fly.” Orville Wright (surely I don’t need to tell you who he was) is quoted as saying “If birds can glide for long periods of time, then why can’t I?”

The simple answer is because you don’t have feathers or wings. But that’s not the point of this.

The idea is not so much about physical, literal, flying as it is excelling in something in our lives. Even “excelling” is a suspect word, there. It has to do with ambition and expectation; desire. And it is wrapped up in that little question, “Why can’t I?”

I could personalize this. If Dennis Jernigan can write worship songs, why can’t I? If Dallas Willard could be the quiet, contemplative, peaceful person he was, why can’t I? Of course, we can get carried away with this. There are some things I don’t want to do. Be president, for example. No thank you.

Here are the things I want to do:

  1. Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength
  2. Love my neighbor as myself
  3. Love the community of saints as Jesus has loved us
  4. Spark a love revolution

Why can’t I? The only person holding me back is me.

Father, why can’t I do these things? It certainly isn’t You holding me back. It is me, of course. If I cannot accomplish any of these things, it is because I am holding myself back. However, I do believe that I have made significant progress in these ventures, in the past couple of decades. I thank You for that.

I pray for Your Church today. I pray that we can succeed in doing what Jesus is asking of us, specifically, dropping our differences and making things right between us. Help me to be a leader in this, Father. And that goes back to my list of desires, doesn’t it? For, in order for those things to happen, I have to practice what I preach and “love one another,” unconditionally, the way You love us.

And, Father, help me to get back into the habit of daily praying for Your kingdom to come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

A Thousand More Hallelujahs!

Good morning. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-second of February, 2022, in the seventh week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today!

Day 23,357

I don’t think the storms we got last night were nearly as severe as expected. In fact, I’m not even sure we got a “storm.” I do remember seeing lightning and hearing thunder, between 9 and 10 last night. But I was not awakened by any wind or rain or anything, during the night. Perhaps I should consult S. She would know.

The winter weather is still coming, though, it appears. The temperature is expected to drop at least thirty degrees between this morning and tomorrow morning, hitting thirty degrees around 6-7 in the morning. And that is supposed to be the high for tomorrow, as the temperature will continue to drop, but only a couple more degrees. The snow or precipitation is not supposed to begin until around midnight tomorrow night, though. So it looks like Thursday will be the worst day of it. There might be some light snow tomorrow afternoon, but the heaviest part looks like it is predicted around 2-3 in the morning, Thursday morning. But, it is supposed to get above freezing Thursday afternoon.

I’m hoping that C will plan to work from home on Thursday, just in case. I don’t work tomorrow or Thursday, so I will be safely bundled up in the house.

I don’t have much planned for today. I have a small grocery delivery coming between 1-2, this afternoon. I will go pick up lunch for me and S, around noon, probably. C has a dinner with work people, this evening, so she will not be home for dinner, tonight. And, of course, I will be roaming the shelves at the Hurst Public Library this evening, from 4-8 PM.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"If you are the Son,"
the devil said to Jesus,
knowing that He was.

"Not by bread alone,
but by words spoken from God.
Worship Him alone!"
(Inspired by Matthew 4)
The LORD reigns; 
he is robed in majesty; 
the LORD is robed; 
he has put on strength as his belt. 
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 
Your throne is established from of old; 
you are from everlasting. 
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, 
the floods have lifted up their voice; 
the floods lift up their roaring. 
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, 
mightier than the waves of the sea, 
the LORD on high is mighty! 
Your decrees are very trustworthy; 
holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. 
(Psalms 93:1-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that our storms last night, if any, were not severe
2. for the intrinsic holiness of the Name of God
3. that, even though that Name transcends us all, it is still accessible to us
4. for "hallelujahs," no matter how often they come, and how quietly they may be uttered
5. for the people who can write songs so full of meaning and inspiration

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.

I’m continuing to look at Simone Weil’s examination of the “prayer of prayers,” in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. Today, I’m looking at the phrase, “hallowed be Your Name.”

Simone tells us that “God alone has the power to name himself. She also opines that His name is “unpronounceable for human lips.” We might object to this, thinking that He told us His name when He told Moses “I AM” had sent him. And most are aware that this was “YHWH” in Hebrew.

But how many of you have seen a production of the musical “Cats?” In this adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem collection, cats are said to have two names. One that the humans know, and one that only they know. Yes, I know . . . God is not a cat (or is He?)(settle down, that’s a joke). But is it so far-fetched to think that He has a name or names that we couldn’t possible comprehend or pronounce? I mean, there are no less than a dozen other “names” that He is given, throughout the Old Testament.

And the beauty of this is that, even though the name(s) of God is transcendent to us, we still have access to Him and His name(s). Also interesting is that the name of the Lord is, in itself, holy and holiness. Therefore, to ask for His name to be “hallowed,” is to ask for something that already exists, or already is. I think Simone words this beautifully.

“In asking for its hallowing we are asking for something that exists eternally, with full and complete reality, so that we can neither increase nor diminish it, even by an infinitesimal fraction. To ask for that which exists, that which exists really, infallibly, eternally, quite independently of our prayer, that is the perfect petition.”

I might be, however, of the opinion that that phrase is not so much a “petition” as it is stating a fact. “Our Father in heaven, Your Name is holy.” Or, perhaps, it may even be a petition that His Name be acknowledged as holy throughout the world.

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does.
(1 Corinthians 14:1 MSG)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
(Psalms 28:7 ESV)

“You can complain . . . but it doesn’t stop the wind. Just sing along with what’s going on around you.” Advice from the Grandpa of Erika Bentsen, Daily Guideposts writer.

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalms 32:11 ESV)

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.
(Psalms 35:9 ESV)

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
(Psalms 98:4 ESV)

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
(Psalms 105:3 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is a rousing “hallelujah!” The quote, ironically, is from a very popular (and over-covered) Leonard Cohen song.

“And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.”

The word we see as “hallelujah,” is actually two words, in Hebrew. It is most often seen at the beginning and ending of a number of the Psalms; for example, Psalm 150.

Praise the LORD! 

Praise God in his sanctuary; 
praise him in his mighty heavens!
 Praise him for his mighty deeds; 
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
 Praise him with trumpet sound; 
praise him with lute and harp! 
Praise him with tambourine and dance; 
praise him with strings and pipe!
 Praise him with sounding cymbals; 
praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! 

Praise the LORD! 
(Psalms 150:1-6 ESV)

The phrase that is translated “praise the LORD,” is “halal yahh.” That eventually became mashed together to be “hallelujah.” By the way, I knew this before reading today’s reading.

We throw the word around, sometimes, but even so, it is usually a celebratory meaning. I breathe the word, frequently. Sometimes, it could be over something as simple as a traffic light staying green for just a few more seconds. Other times, it might be shouted, when something inspirational happens during a worship time. Says our writer, identified only as “Bob,” “It enlivens my prayers, probably more than any other word. i pray it in good moods and bad, in ecstasy and misery, and it never fails to express my desires and lift my spirits. Hallelujah.”

It’s true. Sometimes, just saying the word can lift the spirits. So it’s definitely a great word to use in our prayers.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 
"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns."
(Revelation 19:6 ESV)

By the way, in case anyone wonders, here is what Cohen said about his song:

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can… reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah’.

“The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.”

Father, I cry “hallelujah” to You, this morning, in praise to the intrinsic holiness of Your Name. I sing praise to every Name of Yours that I can think of, and to the ones that I do not know and cannot know. I sing praise to You, because You, in Your infinite and absolute holiness, are, nevertheless, accessible to us. You have condescended to treat with us, and we, in no way, shape, or form, deserve this. So, “hallelujah!”

I thank You for the many admonitions that we see to sing and praise Your Name. I keep coming back to this, and am still aware that I need to do more singing. I find it coming back to me, though, as I randomly burst into song, during my days. So thank You for this. I pray that it continues to grow and swell within me, so that I cannot contain it, but it must be released.

I also pray that You help me continue to do what 1 Corinthians 14:1 says, to go after a life of love like my life depends on it . . . because it does! And help me remember that good advice, that complaining doesn’t stop the wind. It really does no good at all. So let us sing “hallelujah!” instead.

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

Hallelujah!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Here’s a different “Hallelujah.”

Grace and peace, friends.

Hope

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

May the peace of God reign in your life today.

Day 23,271

Twenty-seven days until Christmas!

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Two Truths of Advent, by Dayl Madden

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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INVITATION

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

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

BIBLE SONG

Of David.

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

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

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

BIBLE READING

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

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

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLESSING

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

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Take It Seriously

Today is Sunday, the twenty-ninth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,180

Eight days until Labor Day

This will be a challenging week, but I’m up for the challenge.

I’m working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (total of twenty hours) at the library. Thursday, C has back surgery at 9:30 in the morning. We have to have her at the surgery center by 7:30. She will have either a one night or two night stay over at the surgery center.

Friday, Cleopatra (Siamese kitten) is getting spayed. For the record, this was scheduled before the back surgery, but since C will be staying at the surgery center for at least one night, this is not a problem at all. I will drop Cleo off between 7:15-7:30, and, if C is getting to come home on Friday, I can head over there and wait for the many hours it takes them to process her release.

I’m supposed to work at the library on Saturday, eight hours, but if C doesn’t get to come home until Saturday, I won’t be able to work the full day. Both my direct manager and the circulation manager are aware of this possibility, and seem more than willing to be flexible with me on this. Fortunately, I’m not scheduled the following Monday at the library, so I will have a couple days to recover from all this.

C will be off work for at least three to four weeks, but may be able to work from home after three weeks. It may be six weeks before she is recovered enough to go to the office. For this reason, as previously mentioned, we elected to cancel our Galveston trip for this year. We may, however, and I have not discussed this with her, try to grab a few nights in Glen Rose, on a week when I’m off for a few consecutive days.

We went bowling, yesterday, and had a great time! It was fun to bowl at the center where C works. There was only one other person bowling, so it was pretty quiet. After we finished, we stopped by their pro shop to have a ball plugged and re-drilled for me. It was C’s ball, but she doesn’t use it any more, and I like it, so the pro will plug the thumb hole and move it to fit my grip. He only has to drill out the fingers and put inserts into those holes.

Today, we have our church gathering, but we are continuing to Zoom for now.

Today is Pony Express Day, celebrating those brave souls who risked their lives to deliver the mail, “back in the day.”

The word for today is memoriter. In adverb form, this means, “by heart; by memory.” “There are certain subjects of study, which must, of course, be learned memoriter.”

Today’s quote is from Plato: “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.”

Birthdays for August 29:

1632 John Locke, English empiricist philosopher; influential Enlightenment thinker and "Father of Liberalism" (Two Treatises of Government), born in Wrington, England (d. 1704)
1809 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., American physician and author (Old Ironsides), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (d. 1894)
1811 Henry Bergh, Founder of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), born in NYC, New York (d. 1888)
1906 Lurene Tuttle, American actress (Father of Bride, Julia), born in Pleasant Lake, Indiana (d. 1986)
1915 Ingrid Bergman, Swedish actress (Casablanca, Cactus Flower), born in Stockholm, Sweden (d. 1982)
1916 George Montgomery, American actor (Battle of Bulge, Hallucination), born in Brady, Montana (d. 2000)
1917 Isabel Sanford, American actress (Louise-Jeffersons/All in the Family), born in NYC, New York (d. 2004)
1920 Charlie "Bird" Parker, American jazz saxophonist ("Ornithology"), born in Kansas City, Kansas (d. 1955)
1923 Richard Attenborough, English actor and director (Gandhi, Jurassic Park, Young Winston), born in Cambridge, England (d. 2014)
1926 Elizabeth "Betty" Lynn, American actress (The Andy Griffith Show--Thelma Lou), born in Kansas City, Missouri
1936 John McCain, American war hero and Republican politician (Rep-Arizona, 1983-2018, Presidential nominee 2008), born in Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone (d. 2018)
1938 Elliott Gould, American actor (M*A*S*H, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), born in Queens, New York
1939 Joel Schumacher, American film director (Lost Boys, Batman), born in New York City (d. 2020)
1940 James Brady, U.S. press secretary (wounded during Reagan assassin attempt), born in Centralia, Illinois (d. 2014)
1941 Robin Leach, English TV host (Life Styles of Rich & Famous), born in London, England (2018)
1942 Sterling Morrison, American rock guitarist (Velvet Underground - "Sweet Jane"), born in East Meadow, New York (d. 1995)
1943 Dick Halligan, American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger (Blood Sweat & Tears, 1967-72 - "Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie"), born in Troy, New York
1945 Chris Copping, British rock bassist and organist (Procol Harum, 1969-77), born in Middleton, Lancashire, England
1947 Temple Grandin, American animal welfare and autism expert, born in Boston, Massachusetts
1953 Rick Downey, American rock drummer and vocalist (Blue Oyster Cult, 1981-85)
1953 Speedy Gonzales, Warner Bros. cartoon character created by Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series), first debuts in "Cat-Tails for Two"
1958 Michael Jackson, American recording artist, dancer, and King of Pop ("Thriller"; Billie Jean"; "Bad"), born in Gary, Indiana (d. 2009)
1959 Rebecca De Mornay, American actress (Hand that Rocks Cradle), born in Santa Rosa, California
1963 Elizabeth Fraser, Scottish singer (Cocteau Twins - "Heaven OR Las Vegas"), born in Grangemouth, Scotland
1971 Carla Gugino, American actress, born in Sarasota, Florida
1975 Kyle Cook, American rock guitarist, and banjo player (Matchbox Twenty - "Bent"; "Unwell"), born in Frankfort, Kentucky
1980 David Desrosiers, Canadian rock bassist (Simple Plan, 2000-20), born in Montreal, Quebec
1986 Lea Michele [Sarfati], American actress and singer (Glee), born in The Bronx, New York

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

He Himself is my contemplation;
He is my delight.
Him for His own sake
I seek above me;
from Him Himself I feed within me.
He is the field in which I labour.
He is the fruit for which I labour.
He is my cause;
He is my effect.
He is my beginning;
He is my end without end.
He is, for me, eternity.
(Isaac of Stella)

But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive!
(Psalms 54:4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that You are my helper
3. for Your great love that reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness that reaches to the skies
4. that You are my strength and my fortress, and I can sing to You, regardless of my circumstances
5. for peace

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK FIFTEEN – DAY ONE

INVITATION

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
(Psalms 57:9-10 NIV)

During this quiet moment, I contemplate the great love and faithfulness of the Lord, which reaches to the heavens. This is a poetic way of saying that His love and faithfulness know no limits.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.

They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied. But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
(Psalms 59:1-3, 14-17 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
“‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'” Aaron remained silent.
Then the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses.”
(Leviticus 10:1-3, 8-11 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I continue to be aware of the presence of the Lord, I linger over these passages, meditating over their truths and contemplating what speaks to me, this morning.

In the passage from Psalm 59, I see the truth that, no matter what circumstances are facing me, whether it be enemies, snarling like dogs, or a really busy, challenging week ahead, which includes mildly risky surgery on a loved one, I can sing of the strength and the love of the Lord, for He is my fortress and my refuge, regardless of the circumstances in front of me.

In the passage from Leviticus 10, I see a grave warning in the consequences suffered by Nadab and Abihu. This is stressed in what the Lord said to Moses, “Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”

This tells me that we should never approach our God in a manner that is glib or aloof. Not to say that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. I certainly believe He does, and I believe that Jesus laughed much. However, when we come before God, bringing offerings, sacrifices, or worship, we must take it seriously, and we must examine both ourselves, as well as the attitude behind our offerings. I also can’t help but wonder, based on the Lord’s instruction in verses 8-11, if Nadab and Abihu might have been drunk when they acted the way they did. Just something to ponder.

Father, I praise You for Your strength, for Your love and faithfulness, which know no limits. Your grace exceeds all of our sin and our guilt, not only in the past, but what I might do today, and going forward into the future. Such magnificent grace, Father! Such marvelous mercy, strength, and faithfulness. Thank You for being my refuge and my fortress, where I can hide and take strength for whatever is facing me. Help us to take You more seriously when we bring offerings to You, whether they be physical offerings or sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Let us not be glib or aloof when approaching You.

I pray for the risen Christ to dwell richly in my heart, bringing spiritual renewal and refreshment into me, by the Holy Spirit.

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.

"Holy God,
how do I worship you without getting killed?
How do I live with you and not be undone?
Keep me from a paralyzing fear of your holiness and justice,
as well as from a breezy chumminess.
To you,
mercy-filled and mighty,
just and gentle God,
I offer everything I think,
say,
or do as a pleasing sacrifice to your glory and honor.
Amen."

BLESSING

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(James 1:27 NIV)

The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
(Psalms 146:9 NIV)

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
(Isaiah 1:17 NIV)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:40-46 NIV)

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Forgiveness

Today is Friday, the twentieth of August, 2021.

Shalom Aleichem!

Day 23,171

Seventeen days until Labor Day, the next official holiday in the U.S.

The birthday celebrations have taken a bit of a bittersweet turn. The first thing that is causing this is that our dog, Tessie, is not doing well. Over the course of the past week or so, she has developed a condition in her hind legs that is giving her tremendous struggle in walking. It seems like it hurts her, but we are not sure. She hasn’t eaten consistently and, when she has eaten, she has some pretty gross diarrhea. So we aren’t sure what’s in the future for her.

The other thing has to do with our church. There seems to have developed a rift in our fellowship over some opinions that were shared last Sunday, concerning the vaccine and some who have elected to not receive it. That’s all I’m going to say about it, as the situation seems to be being resolved.

In the meantime, we are considering going to the zoo, later today. S has said that she would like to do that, and we haven’t been there in quite some time.

Today is World Mosquito Day. Why on earth would we have a day that celebrates mosquitos?? They answer that question in the link, should you care to read it.

The word for today is mickle. This is an archaic word that means, “great; large; much.”

Today’s quote, from Oscar Wilde, is, “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”

And now for today’s birthdays, right after I get back with another cup of coffee:

1561 Jacopo Peri, Italian composer and singer who wrote the 1st recognized opera "Dafne", born in Rome (d. 1633)
1833 Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States (Republican: 1889-93), born in North Bend, Ohio (d. 1901)
1890 H. P. Lovecraft, American horror writer (At the Mountains of Madness, Weird Tales), born in Providence, Rhode Island (d. 1937)
1905 Jack Teagarden [Weldon Leo Teagarden], American trombonist and actor (Meet Band Leaders), born in Vernon, Texas (d. 1964)
1907 Alan Reed, American actor (Breakfast at Tiffany's) and voice artist (Fred Flintstone, Lady and the Tramp), born in NYC, New York (d. 1977)
1918 Jacqueline Susann, American author (Valley of the Dolls), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (d. 1974)

1923 Jim Reeves, American country singer and actor (Gun Fury, Kimberley Jim), born in Panola County, Texas (d. 1964)
1926 Frank Rosolino, American jazz trombonist (The Frank Rosolino Sextet), born in Detroit, Michigan (d. 1978)
1931 Don King, American boxing promoter best known for his association with Mike Tyson and for his unusual hairstyles, born in Cleveland, Ohio
1932 Anthony Ainley, British actor (Doctor Who), born in Stanmore, Middlesex (d. 2004)
1935 Ron Paul, American author and politician (3 times presidential candidate, 1988, 2008, 12), born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1942 Isaac Hayes, American musician and composer (Shaft), born in Covington, Tennessee (d. 2008)
1943 Sylvester McCoy, Scottish actor (Seventh Doctor in Doctor Who), born in Dunoon
1944 Graig Nettles, American MLB 3rd baseman (NY Yankees, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians), born in San Diego, California
1946 Connie Chung [Constance Yu-Hwa Chung Povich], American news anchor (NBC, CBS), born in Washington, D.C.
1946 Ralf Hütter, German musician (Kraftwerk), born in Krefeld, Germany
1947 James Pankow, American trombonist, arranger and composer (Chicago - "Make Me Smile"; "Colour My World"), born in St. Louis, Missouri
1948 Robert Plant, English rock vocalist (Led Zeppelin), born in West Bromwich, England
1949 Phil Lynott, Irish rock singer and bass player (Thin Lizzy - "The Boys Are Back In Town"), born in West Bromwich, England. (d. 1986)
1951 Greg Bear, American sci-fi author (2 Hugos, Eon, Eternity), born in San Diego, California
1952 John Hiatt, American singer and songwriter (Have a Little Faith in Me), born in Indianapolis, Indiana
1952 Rudy Gatlin, American country singer (Gatlin Bros-Broken Lady), born in Olney, Texas
1952 Doug Fieger, American singer–songwriter (The Knack - "My Sharona"), born in Oak Park, Michigan (d. 2010)
1954 Al Roker, American weatherman (NBC, Today), born in Queens, New York
1956 Joan Allen, American actress (Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker, In Country), born in Rochelle, Illinois
1956 Rick Olsen, American rock guitarist (Berlin-Take My Breath Away)
1962 James Marsters, American actor (Spike-Buffy the Vampire Slayer), born in Greenville, California
1966 "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, American heavy metal guitarist (Pantera), born in Arlington, Texas (d. 2004)
1970 Fred Durst, American singer (Limp Bizkit), born in Gastonia, North Carolina
1971 Brad Avery, American musician (former guitarist for Third Day)
1974 Amy Adams, American actress and singer (Arrival, Man of Steel, American Hustle), born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy
1979 Jamie Cullum, English singer-songwriter, pianist and radio presenter, born in Rochford, England
1992 Demi Lovato, American actress (Camp Rock) and singer/songwriter (Unbroken), born in Albuquerque, New Mexico
James Pankow, trombone player, is the writer of this suite of songs
James Marsters

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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)

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.
As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory.
(Psalms 48:9-10 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Your steadfast, unfailing love
2. for the victory of Your strong right hand
3. for forgiveness, which is central in Your model prayer for us, and central to our very existence
4. for Your great and might acts, both in history and in our lives
5. for loving us, in spite of ourselves

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK THIRTEEN – DAY SIX

We will celebrate and praise you, LORD! You are good to us, and your love never fails.
(Psalms 106:1 CEV)

I pause for a moment to reflect on Your unfailing love, so grateful that Your love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of Asaph.

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.
(Psalms 50:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
(Exodus 14:26-31 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I linger, asking the Holy Spirit to guide my meditations and prayers.

The visual of Psalm 50:2 is beautiful to me. God shines forth from Zion, perfect in beauty.

When we read things like Psalm 50, it is easy to allow our misconceptions about God come through. I’ve written before about the dangers of thinking about God in terms of “us vs them.” We get this cockamamie idea in our brains that God is “on our side,” and then we read things like: “Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.”

We then read our preconceived incorrect thoughts about God into those verses and get all self-confident in our “causes” and believe that God is going to come down and wipe out all of “them,” whom we foolishly believe to be the sole source of all the evil in the world.

But here’s the thing. When God does come and send devouring fire before Him and His raging tempest, it’s not going to be pretty or pleasant. And many, if not most, of us are going to be surprised at the results.

I’ve said it before, and I will, no doubt, say it again.

God is on God’s side. And we need to (all of us) do a much better job of making sure that we are on His side.

When Pharaoh chased Israel into the middle of the Red Sea, God came, with a raging tempest. He instructed Moses to stretch his hand back out over the sea so that the walls of water would crash back down, engulfing the Egyptians. “Not one of them survived.”

The words of Moses turned out to be true. “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”

What is sad is that what is stated in verse 31, “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant,” didn’t stick. It lasted only a few chapters, in fact.

So fast-forward a few thousand years. If the fickle human beings that saw, first hand, the miracles of the Lord, couldn’t be faithful to Him and His Word for more than a few days or weeks, how do we expect to do better?

The beauty of all of this is that He knows it. Nothing that we do surprises Him. He knows everything that there is to know about us, and, because He is outside of time, He already knows everything we are going to do before we do it. Therefore, I think it is even safe to say that He isn’t even “disappointed” in us, not the way we tend to get disappointed in one another.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
(Psalms 103:14 NLT)

And, in the words of a great Easter song that used to love to sing, “But still He loved me . . .”

Let’s go back to that one prayer that we have. You know the one . . . we usually call it “The Lord’s Prayer.”

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.

Is it a coincidence that “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” is pretty much right smack in the middle of that prayer? I’d like to think not. I’m not much of a believer in coincidences.

Now, let’s go back up to that bit at the top about some church issues. While I’ve been typing this blog (which has taken most of the morning), people have been talking. There have been multiple conversations, both in texting and verbally. It looks like things are working out, which is good, because we believe that this church is worth preserving. I don’t think any of us simply want to walk away. Forgiveness is central. It is the center of this prayer, and it is the center of our lives.

Honestly, we can’t survive without it.

Father, thank You. Thank You for forgiving us for our sins. Thank You for loving us, when we get so unlovable. Thank You for being faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to You. Thank You that “Your love never fails, it never gives up; it never runs out.” And thank You for giving us the ability to forgive one another. Help us to be stronger, though, and to not be so easily offended. Help us to be stronger for one another; help us to love one another and carry one another’s burdens. Also, help us to reach out when there are misunderstandings, rather than jerking our knees.

Please give us the Christlike ability to deny ourselves and serve others. Give us the commitment to do justice and show mercy. And please show mercy to those who are imprisoned, and give grace to those who minister to them.

"Strong and mighty God,
retrieve holy fear for you from the depths of fright and anxiety.
Make me deeply intimate with your awesome presence and mightily aware of your costly mercy.
Mingle in my heart a holy fusion of reverence,
love,
awe,
and trust,
freeing me to lovingly,
willingly yield my all to you.
In Jesus' name,
amen."

BLESSING

You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.
(Psalms 16:11 CEV)

Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.
(Proverbs 20:30 GNB)

The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.
(Psalms 118:22-23 NLT)

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30 NLT)

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

He Holds the Keys

Today is Sunday, the eleventh of July, 2021.

May the peace of God reign in your life!

Day 23,131 (the number of days I have lived on this planet)

39 days until S’s birthday!

Yesterday was one of those days. We’ve all had them. The kind you don’t want to see any more of.

It started with me gaining 2.6 pounds, inexplicably, at the weigh-in. I expected to gain, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. I only expected it because it’s what my home scale said was happening. Doesn’t make me happy about, and also, there is no logical explanation for it. I rarely go over my daily point budget, and never more than five points, if I do. Not enough to gain that much in a week.

The day continued with the last workshop with our favorite WW coach ever. We said goodbye to Kim, with many tears, yesterday morning. We gave her a gift. Since I had found out that she is a gamer, primarily playing on PS4, same as me, we got her the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, which I have been playing for the past few weeks. She was very excited about that.

Then we had a huge fight with S over whether we were having Applebee’s for a meal, yesterday. She wanted it for lunch, because we are having a cookout after church today, and won’t be having Applebee’s for lunch. The fight escalated into one of those legendary fights, the likes of which we haven’t experienced in a long time. Everyone was mad by the time we got home. We picked up our Walmart grocery order, and got it unloaded and put away.

Oh, I almost forgot. In the middle of all of this, C was having a work crisis, so she had to get online, while I brought in the groceries and put them away. After getting the Walmart order put away, I headed to Alberton’s to pick up the burger patties for our cookout, along with other things that we don’t get at Walmart. That didn’t take too long, and I was feeling better, at least emotionally, by the time I got home with that load. That was when the day took the worst turn of all.

We couldn’t find Luna (cat).

This started while I was bringing in the groceries from Albertson’s. I had pulled the door just to the brink of closed, but didn’t shut it all the way. We do this, so we can kick it open with two hands full of grocery bags. When I headed back to the car, Rocky (other cat, Russian Blue named after Sergio Rachmaninoff) was nosing about the front door, which had opened, slightly. The only time he has gotten out, he got terrified and hid under the neighbor’s trash bin.

I nudged him away from the door and went back out. When I got back with the last of the groceries, the door had swung further open and Rocky was actually standing on the front porch!

When I told C about that, she started to panic, because she didn’t see Luna anywhere. This panic bled over into S, so she started to panic. We looked all over the house, in all the closets, under the beds . . . no Luna to be seen. By now, I’m panicking, too, even though I was pretty well convinced that she had not gotten out of the house.

We went ahead and had our brunch, but the mood was about as dark as it’s ever been in our house. After we ate, I tried to play my game, but was distracted. I eventually even went out and drove around the block a few times. Depression was setting in. S put an ad up on the Nextdoor app, asking people to help us find her.

I’m not sure how many hours went by. C put Luna’s food dish out on the front porch, and even put a litter box out there.

I had settled in to play my game, finally. I just happened to be looking down, to my left, when Luna sauntered out of the bedroom and stretched, as though nothing had ever been wrong.

That must have been one heck of a nap. There’s a part of us that wonders if she was really lost, and God just “poofed” her back into the house. I don’t know that she has ever stayed out of sight for that long, before. She probably has, but once that seed of doubt is planted, things just escalate.

So, everything turned out fine. And we had Applebee’s for dinner.

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)

Fear the LORD, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need.
(Psalms 34:9 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that we found Luna (cat) yesterday.
2. for the worship and fellowship we will experience today.
3. that I have all that I need.
4. that You, Jesus, are alive for ever and ever.
5. that You, Jesus, hold the keys of death and Hades. You are my Source and my Destination.
6. that You are present, at all times, whether we realize it or acknowledge it. You are always here.

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK EIGHT – DAY ONE

INVITATION

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!
(Zechariah 9:16-17a NIV)

I pause to reflect on the Lord saving His people, and how we will sparkle like jewels and be beautiful. This is something that we don’t consider, often, I think.

BIBLE SONG

For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Help, LORD, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the LORD silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue—
those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”
(Psalms 12:1-4 NIV)

You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.
(Psalms 12:7-8 NIV)

BIBLE READING

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
(Revelation 1:9-18 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my thought, meditations, and prayers. Help me to enjoy Your presence, this morning.

The psalmist is obviously using hyperbole in this particular song, as it is a complete exaggeration to say that “no one” is faithful any more. But, even in our day and time, we say things like that. “No one cares, any more,” we say, or similar things. I’ve been guilty of saying that no one has any work ethic, any more. At least no one younger than me. Which makes me sound like a grumpy old codger.

But some things never change. It does seem like society, as a whole, works on the principle of flattery. How many bosses have we seen that prefer “yes men?” One of my favorite bosses wound up leaving the company because he was most definitely not a “yes man.” I’m not either. I will tell you the truth, not what you want to hear, about a situation. It is literally impossible for me to “suck up.”

I find the statement in Psalm 11:4 to be somewhat amusing. Anyone who believes that they can prevail with their tongues and be defended by their own lips deserves what they get. The utterance of mere words is useless when action is required. Rush once played a song that said, “Show me, don’t tell me.”

There is a quote that is attributed, sometimes, to Francis of Assisi, that says, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” He probably didn’t really say that. But the idea behind it is not necessarily wrong. Ligonier Ministries once changed that, slightly, to say, “Preach the gospel at all times, and since it’s necessary, use words.”

Either way, the point is that our walk needs to match our talk. Flattering lips are useless, and even an abomination.

When John got his introduction to the risen Christ, in Revelation 1, part of the image, the vision, that he saw, featured a sharp, double-edged sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus. If you remember, Paul equated the sword with the Word of God, that which comes out of His mouth. The writer of Hebrews said that the Word of God, being living and active, is actually sharper than any double-edged sword.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

The Word of God is truth; it is not flattery. Everything that comes out of the mouth of God is sharp and cutting, exposing “our innermost thoughts and desires.” That should probably scare us a little bit.

Or not, because Jesus also told John, “Do not be afraid.” And when He said that, He touched John.

So right now, I am stopping to ponder that moment, what it must have been like to be John, at that moment, having the resurrected Christ physically tough him and speak to him.

He is the First and the Last, the Living One. He is our Source, and He is our Destination. He was, for a short time, dead, and now lives, for ever and ever. And He holds the keys of death and Hades.

Those words should cause us to sit up and take notice of Him, the Son of God. If ever there was one about Whom it could be said, “It is all about . . . ,” it is Jesus.

Father, I worship You, and I worship Jesus, though Whom all things were created. Lord, for the rest of my days, keep Jesus in front of me. Let Him be the “big picture” of my life, the all-encompassing, all-consuming fire of my existence. There is no other Name by which we are saved, and He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to You by any other path then Jesus.

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

Living One,
what will it be like to see you face to face?
Brilliant light,
blazing eyes,
feet like fire,
and face like the sun--
falling before you will seem the most obvious thing to do.
And yet you bid me not to be afraid,
so I look forward to basking in your presence.
Amen.
(Belgic Confession 37)

BLESSING

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)

Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.
(Psalms 34:10 NLT)

For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
(Psalms 81:10 NLT)

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
(Isaiah 53:4-5 NLT)

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
(Romans 5:11 NLT)

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 3:11 NLT)

Father, You are here, always. And “here” is wherever I am. I thank You that You are present, always, even when I don’t feel it, know it, or acknowledge it. However, those times when I do feel Your presence, and acknowledge Your presence, are so much more meaningful. You have filled my life with “good things,” Lord, and I thank You for this. Forgive my mindset and attitude for something as trivial as a seemingly lost cat. Yet You provided and our beloved family pet was not, in fact, ever lost. We are so fragile and fickle, Father. Forgive us and strengthen us. Continue to show me these truths as I walk in Your Kingdom.

Lord, grant us resurrection hope and joy, this morning. May we experience the touch of Jesus, as He bids us not be afraid. Help us to be faithful in sharing the good news of the Gospel, whenever called upon.

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!

I used to be able to sing this. 🙂

Grace and peace, friends.

No Needy Persons

Today is Friday (Friyay?), the twenty-eighth of May, 2021, in the first week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,087

Three days until Memorial Day!

At this point, I don’t know what this three-day weekend will hold, besides going to Mineral Wells on Sunday so that S can join FBC. She is so excited. She got her membership packet and card, yesterday, and probably got the card filled out last night.

We are not, as it turns out, planning to visit Scarborough Faire on Monday, as the guy who is going to repair/install our new pool equipment, wants to do that Monday afternoon. I’m fine with that, as we need to get that fixed. We can’t discern if there is more damage to the pool, itself, until we get the equipment running. Hopefully, the rain will hold off on Monday, but the chances of rain have been upped to 60% Monday.

Of course, we all know that, once we hit mid-June, it won’t rain for a couple of months, at least.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen."
(The prayer of St. Richard of Chichester)

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

Today I am grateful:

1. for the knowledge of Your presence here, this morning
2. for the work of Jesus Christ in our lives, rendering us blameless before You
3. for Your Word, which leads me along the path that I am to walk; it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
4. for the way You have guided us to care for one another's needs
5. for the fullness of joy in Your presence; contentment; pleasures forevermore

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

ORDINARY TIME – DAY 5

INVITATION

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)

I pause, briefly, to meditate on Your presence, to ponder the “new heart and . . . new spirit” within me, asking for guidance through this time with You. Teach me by Your Holy Spirit.

BIBLE SONG

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— they do no wrong but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
(Psalms 119:1-7 NIV)

BIBLE READING

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
(Acts 4:32-35 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

I remind myself that I am in Your presence, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I linger on these passages. May You teach me something about my life in Jesus Christ as I read and meditate.

Is my way blameless? Hardly. Do I walk according to God’s Word? I certainly try. That is the goal of each day. I try to live and walk according to His statutes, and I hope to seek Him with my whole heart.

But “stuff” happens and gets in the way of all of these things. This is where I stop and acknowledge that the Lord does, in fact, remember that we are but dust. He knows our frailty. And, because of the precious blood of Christ, He does not see my faults, because they are erased. So, effectually, yes, I am blameless!

As are all of us who call the name of Jesus and walk in His ways. Are we all one in heart and mind? Sadly, that does not appear to be the case, in this day and culture. The enemy has sneaked in with faulty ideas that many have latched onto, and division is caused. The sad thing is that the divisions are mostly over things that don’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things.

I recently listened to a podcast, with John Joseph Thompson, of True Tunes. In it, he had the pleasure of interviewing the queen of CCM, Amy Grant. It was a fascinating interview. Did you know that she is sixty years old??

How can Amy Grant be sixty??? I think she will forever be fifteen in my mind.

Anyway, she said something in that interview that will forever stick with me. She talked about two jobs and a prayer. The two jobs are to love God and love people. I’m certainly down with that, as those are the two “greatest commandments” that Jesus emphasizes, and He proclaims that the entirety of the law and prophets can be summed up in those commandments.

The prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, which has a very strong emphasis on forgiveness.

Once, earlier in her career, she was asked about her opinions on controversial subjects, such as homosexuality. Her response was that she doesn’t think her opinion on those things is included in the job description for those two jobs.

How brilliant! I love this, and believe that I have already adopted this philosophy regarding all such issues.

My jobs are to love God and love people. My opinions (and trust me, I DO have them!) are, for the most part irrelevant to those jobs.

I believe that the early believers had this kind of mindset among themselves. And the result of this is seen in verses 33 and 34.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.
(Acts 4:33-34 NIV)

There were no needy persons. They took care of one another, which was part of the “new command” that Jesus had given the disciples before He departed earth.

Our little church group is attempting to emulate these early believers. I personally believe that some of the things we have accomplished are astounding, small as we are. And that is largely because of the giving model we have adopted. You see, we have no building to pay mortgage or rent on. We have no “staff” to pay a weekly or monthly salary. I suppose we might have “elders,” although none of us would be quick to assume that title.

We all set aside our regular giving money (call it “tithe” if you must), and some of us put it into a separate bank account created exclusively for that money. It sits there until we become aware of a need, and then we gladly, generously provide for that need.

It is with great caution that I say that we (C and I) recently gave $4000 to a family whose van had been repossessed, so they could get it back. This is not to boast in our own generosity, but to simply illustrate the benefits of this model.

Outside of that, we do not share with others what we do with our money. It is between us and God.

I’m not knocking “traditional” church. There are great benefits to it, and there are certainly some aspects of it that I miss. But I do enjoy the model that we are using with our little band of believers, and I believe that it follows closely with what the early believers did.

Father, I give You praise for the examples of the early church that we receive from the book of Acts. I also thank You that, in Christ, I can say that I am “blameless.” This does not mean that I never do anything sinful or wrong. But it does mean that, because of the work, the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, You do not see those sinful or wrong acts. They have been perpetually erased. This, as the psalmist says, is to wonderful for me, too lofty to attain. But I know it is true, and Your Spirit validates it within me. May I walk in ways that are worthy of these truths today.

Generous God,
your Spirit dwelling among your people,
working your salvation deep into our daily lives,
is a thing of simple beauty--
powerful grace,
freely flowing forgiveness,
lavish giving.
Continue to make us full players in Christ's redemption story through the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism 29)

BLESSING

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NIV)

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:16 NLT)

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

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 NLT)

The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.
(Proverbs 11:1 NLT)

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness.
(Proverbs 16:11 NLT)

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
(Isaiah 5:20 NLT)

Father, as I walk through this day, may it be with justice and fairness, treating all people as equals in Your eyes. You make the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. At least half of the world has no clue how merciful and gracious You are! Help us to show them, Father. Help us to show them Your mercy and grace, rather than meanness and wrath and injustice. Bring us to our knees in repentance for our injustices, our racism, our prejudices, and our unfairness. Teach us that You are the measure of good and evil, of accurate scales and balances, not any human. Thank You for the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore found in Your presence!

Lord, give me great wonder at the sacrifice of Jesus. May it never become commonplace to me. May we have the capacity to suffer when others suffer and to rejoice when others rejoice. Please increase the generosity of our hearts; may it be ever-expanding.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends!