Extravagant Love

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

Peace be with you!

Day 23,474

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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

Today I am grateful:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ouch. Explicitly descriptive, but truthful.

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

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

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

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

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!


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

Grace and peace, friends.

Love Beyond Reason

Today is Tuesday, the tenth of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ find you today!

Day 23,434

Yesterday seemed a little busy, but not terrible. I got C’s oil changed and filled up her car with gas, as planned. I also got several loads of laundry completed, and then cooked chili for us for dinner, last night.

Mama and I watched most of the Texas Rangers game in NYC, but they lost, 1-0. It was obviously a very close game. Both pitchers pitched well, the Yankees pitcher flirting with a no-hitter. In the end, the Rangers got 2 hits and the Yankees only got 3, but they were able to plate the run. John Gray, the starter, did pretty well, and was not pegged for the loss. The Rangers are now 11-16 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL West, one game ahead of the Athletics, who broke their losing streak yesterday. The Rangers begin a series with the KC Royals today at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Boston Red Sox did not play, yesterday. That’s good, because it meant they didn’t lose. Hopefully, the rest did them some good, and they can maybe refocus and win a few. They face the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta tonight at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees are back on top of MLB, with 20-8 record, being the third team to have 20 wins. The LA Dodgers (19-8) are only a half game behind them. The Cincinatti Reds have a win streak! They have won TWO IN A ROW! They still have the worst MLB record, at 6-23, but they are only 2.5 games behind the Tigers. There are now only three teams who have yet to win 10 games; the Reds, the Tigers, and the Royals. Let’s hope the Rangers can keep that true for the Royals. The Astros continue to hold the longest win streak at 7, and the Tigers now have the longest losing streak, at 6. The LA Dodgers have, by far, the biggest run differential, at +70, while the Reds have the biggest negative at -74.

It’s Tuesday, so I work tonight, from 4:15 to 8:15, at the library. It’s my “heavy” week, so I will also be working tomorrow and Thursday, have Friday off, and work Saturday. I think there might be plans for C and Mama to go to Mineral Wells on Saturday.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father in heaven, bless us who have become united in our hope in you and in our expectation of your help on this earth, where people live in all kinds of foolish ways. Bless your Word within us. Grant us your Holy Spirit to restore life and gladness to our hearts, even in grief and suffering. Grant this not only in the distress of the whole world, but also in our own lives as long as we remain on this earth. Let signs be seen on every hand that you help us and give us a strength we can rely on. You help us in all circumstances every day, every year, ever anew. For this we thank you and praise your name. Amen.
(Today's daily prayer from Plough)
Trust in the LORD and do good. 
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. 
Commit everything you do to the LORD. 
Trust him, and he will help you. 
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, 
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
(Psalms 37:3-6 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the safety that I feel in the presence of God
2. that, in Christ, there is no difference between any of us; we are all equal in Him
3. for the hope of the full realization of my salvation, my inheritance in heaven; may I wait patiently and confidently
4. that God cares for us more than He cares for the birds of the air; this should give us great confidence in Him
5. for the various platforms of social media that are available to spread the positive message of the Kingdom of God; I pray that people would stop using them to do harm and spread harmful words

Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”
(Job 40:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “differences.” Author Tom Robbins is quoted as saying, “Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.”

In many ways, everyone is different. According to science, everyone has a unique DNA string, with very few exceptions. In many ways, we are alike, as well. Everyone has at least one doppelganger in this world.

While Mr. Robbins has a good point, all too often, we focus too much on the differences. Much ado is made about the differences between, say, male and female. And there are people out there that are proud of their difference. Some people want to be known as outside the norm.

But here’s the thing. According to the Bible, in the eyes of God, there is no difference. No, that doesn’t mean we are made out of cookie cutters. It doesn’t mean that we are rolled out like doughnut dough and run through that machine that cuts out fifty doughnuts that all look exactly the same.

What I mean by this, and what I believe Paul meant, is that, in Christ, we are all equal. It has been said, and I have quoted this here, before, that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Here’s what Paul says:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28 NLT)

Here is another passage that brings the same kind of message:

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
(Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

Where the NLT says “no matter who we are,” the NIV says, “there is no difference.”

So, yes, let us celebrate differences, as long as we are looking at them in a positive light. As soon as you use “differences” as a way to place yourself ahead of someone else or make yourself feel more important than someone else, you have crossed a line into sin. Because, here’s another word from Paul:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NLT)

(Inspired by Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I thank You for the differences in all of us that keep things interesting. But I pray that we not use differences as a way to discriminate against others. It makes me sad that I see a lot of that going on, these days, and, at times, even using Your name as an excuse. That ought not be, Father. I pray that Your Spirit would intervene in these cases and change hearts and minds to view everyone as equal under Your gaze. This, I believe, falls under Your command to love one another. So, please help us to do that. May we embrace differences, but not use them.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.”
(Daniel 4:1-3 NLT)

We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
(Romans 8:24-25 NLT)

This is the essence of hope. We are looking forward to something that we do not yet have, and we wait. Sometimes not so patiently, and most definitely, not always confidently.

If I’m being honest (isn’t that a strange phrase? I mean, shouldn’t we always be “being honest?), I do not always wait patiently. If my wife would read that statement, she might fall on the floor laughing. I do believe I’m getting better, though. Confidence is another thing entirely.

I’ve always had this problem. My faith is not an issue, when it comes to what I believe God can do. I’m just not always confident that He wants to or He will. So I wait, sometimes not patiently, and sometimes not very confidently.

But there are things that I am both patient and confident about. One of those is the “future grace” (a John Piper-ism) of my inheritance in “heaven.” This is something that I hope for, because I do not yet have it. In one sense, I do have it, because it is, I believe, set aside for me. But in a more tangible sense, I do not yet possess it, because I cannot see it or experience it.

So I hope. And, even though I have been “saved,” I do have salvation, I am also still waiting for salvation to be fully realized. I long for the reality of this, yes, with all my heart. But I wait. Patiently and confidently. And that changes the way I look at the world.

Father, I thank You for this hope that I have. For if I was not confident of my eternal inheritance, I would have no hope. And, frankly, I do not see how anyone can survive, in this world, without hope. My hope in Christ is what allows me to look around me and see all the trouble and still keep going. That hope is what keeps me from despair. And that hope is also what keeps me from chasing after “causes” that are not relevant to Your Kingdom. Help me to walk more confidently and patiently in that hope, Father.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
(Matthew 6:26-27 NLT)

Here is something that addresses that struggle that I have with confidence in my waiting. In The Place of Trust, Martin Luther also addresses this, and, quite handily, puts us to shame as he speaks of the birds being our “schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men.”

Finally, he says, “Now, since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and of casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more. Thus this is an excellent illustration that puts us all to shame. We, who are rational people and who have the Scriptures in addition, do not have enough wisdom to imitate the birds. When we listen to the little birds singing every day, we are listening to our own embarrassment before God and the people. But after his fall from the word and the commandment of God, man became crazy and foolish; and there is no creature alive which is not wiser than he. A little finch, which can neither speak nor read, is his theologian and master in the Scriptures, even though he has the whole Bible and his reason to help him.”

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

I find this both amusing and shaming. Amusing because of the way Luther presents it to us, but shaming, because it is true. Any amount of worry that I might experience falls to the ground when I consider the truth of Jesus’s words. And, when I acknowledge the truth of those words and embrace it, the weight that is taken from my shoulders is immense. We have no excuse, my brothers and sisters, to worry about anything. We have ever reason to live like the birds. Not that we don’t need to work for our living, because that is our lot in life. We need to do that for which we were created. The birds can do that for which they were created, and the Lord takes good care of them. We have our own purpose, and when we are walking in that purpose, we will have all that we need.

Of course, “need” is the operative word in that sentence.

Father, I thank You for the truth of these words, and I thank You that they arrived on the heels of a brief discourse about my struggles with confidence. There will always be doubt in my mind when it comes to certain prayers that I lift up. I don’t know if it is Your will or plan to heal someone from a disease. I don’t know what You have in store for someone who is suffering or struggling with something. But I do know that You are there with us, and that everything we do, we do in Your presence. I also know that You love us beyond measure and beyond human reason.

If we could fill the ocean with ink and make the sky a parchment, and attempt to write Your love on that parchment, it could not contain all the words, and it would drain the ocean dry. Help me and help all of us to embrace this love, this love beyond human reason, and to live our lives in confidence that You will care for us like You care for the sparrows.

These words from Eugene Peterson, to a large degree, sum up the way I feel about my presence here, and on other forms of social media.

“My first and continuing pastoral purpose in this pulpit is that you confess Christ personally. As a pastor, I have never wanted to be a moral policeman. Your morals are not that interesting to me. I am not interested in rewarding you when you are good or punishing you when you are bad, nor as a pastor have I wanted to gather large crowds here for religious entertainment. It makes little difference to me whether there are many or few in this place. Religious crowds are the easiest crowds to gather. But increasing the number of people under one roof has never been a conspicuously successful way of involving people in what is essential. The pastoral act that is central to me is to introduce God at his personal best (Jesus, the Christ) to human beings at their personal best.

“That is exactly what I hope happens here each week. I don’t want merely to tell you about this great story I have been reading in this book (the Bible); I want you to meet the Author. And he has told me that he wants to meet you–to involve you in a new story he is making. I can arrange the interview.

“Do you see why I have little interest in entertaining you with gossip about God? Do you see why I have little interest in lecturing you about what kind of life you ought to lead? There is something far more interesting and more to the point about introducing you personally to the personal God so that you no longer talk about God but to him. I long for you to confess Christ personally and get in on the new creative work that God is writing: the story of your salvation.”

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

Obviously, I’m not a pastor with a pulpit. But I am a person with a forum, a form of media that I use to proclaim a message. I might be guilty, at times of “lecturing,” but that is only because I desire to see people doing what Jesus commanded us to do, which is to love God and love people.

One thing I do not do is beg for followers or try to manipulate people into following me. That is something that I find quite annoying on TikTok and other social media platforms (YouTube, as well, although, at this point I do not have a YouTube channel), the constant begging and trying to attract followers. I couldn’t care less what that number is. Oh, sure, I’ll admit that it felt good to see that I now have over 1000 followers on WordPress, but that is not my intent; that is not my purpose. That just means that there are that many more people who will be introduced, in some way to Jesus.

My favorite part of the piece by Peterson is the bit where he says he wants people to be talking to God, rather than talking about Him. And that is why I include my prayers in this blog. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to not only think about, meditate on, and contemplate God and the Scriptures, but I want to also encourage people to pray.

Father, I thank You for this platform that has been provided, and the freedom I have to express my beliefs on said platform. I thank You that this goes out all around the world, and that it is available for people to see almost anywhere. I do realize that there are exceptions to this, because of various circumstances. I pray for this blog to reach people for Your kingdom, for Your “cause.” I believe with all my heart that Your cause, the Gospel of Christ, is the only cause worth following and fighting for. I pray that someone will read these words, today, and get a glimpse of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that they might being to experience Your love beyond reason.

I don’t even have to know about it. I send out these words with the confidence that You will work through them. I have the same confidence in Your Word, because You have said that Your Word will not return to You without serving its purpose. I also pray that You would, as far as it serves Your purpose, “redeem” all forms of social media, that they would be used for good and not harm. All praise and glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Grace and peace, friends.

The Bond of Love

Today is Saturday Friday, the twenty-ninth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,423

Yes, I’m still confused about what day it is. Today is Friday. I’m off on Fridays now. And tomorrow, the real Saturday, is a work day for me, this week.

This afternoon, or maybe late this morning, we are planning to drive to Mineral Wells again, this trip to measure some things and see what we have room for in our house. C has already done some measuring up in the front rooms (formal living and dining rooms), so she’s got some ideas. We will also start packing up some books in boxes, and my mother will pick out a few more things to bring back with us. At some point, we will still need to rent a truck, I’m sure, but not this trip.

The Texas Rangers lost again, last night (I’m getting tired of typing that, you know . . . they need to fix that), to the Astros, 3-2. Actually, it wasn’t last night, it was yesterday afternoon. Once again, a ninth inning rally fell short. The sad thing is that Matin Perez was actually perfect through six innings! Unfortunately, so was Justin Verlander. Both pitchers lost the perfect game, the no hitter and the shutout in the seventh inning, and it was tied 1-1. But then Matt Bush gave up 2 runs in the eighth, to put the ‘Stros up 3-1. Corey Seager hit a solo homer in the ninth, but nothing else happened.

So the Rangers are now at 6-13 for the season, maintaining their last place position in the AL West, 6.5 games out of first, and 4 games behind the Athletics and Astros, who are tied for third. The LA Angels are currently in first place. Texas plays Atlanta tonight, in Arlington, at 7:05 CDT. The Braves are doing slightly better than the Rangers, at 9-11.

The Boston Red Sox also lost again, to the Blue Jays, 1-0. They are now 8-12 for the season, in fourth place, 5.5 games out of first, and only 1.5 ahead of last place Baltimore, where they will be playing tonight at 7:05 EDT. Surely, they can beat Baltimore?

The NY Mets continue to hold the best MLB record, at 14-6, with their nearby AL rivals, the Yankees, having the second best record, at 13-6. The LA Dodgers have dropped to fourth best. The Cincinnati Reds (3-16) continue to hold down the worst record, having lost another three consecutive games. The Rangers are now tied with Baltimore for the third worst MLB record. Boston is tied with Arizona for eighth worst.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Forever We’re Bound, by Daryl Madden

My soul rejoices
To our great God above
For grace overwhelming
For this gift of His love

No words to describe
This feeling of finding
Of my soul to yours
The greatest of binding

A gift beyond treasure
Of beauty, amaze
For I am transfixed
Upon you to gaze

A taste here to be
Of eternal love found
A blessing so deep
Forever we’re bound

Beyond of the mortal
Of greatest affection
Through sense of the soul
A divine connection

Such a beautiful prayer to begin my morning! Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry, at the link provided above.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
(Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way my soul is bound to the Holy Trinity; a divine connection that is beyond description
2. for the centrality of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, which causes everything that I might complain about to pale, infinitely; only one thing matters
3. for places of silence in this world, where I can retreat
4. for attitudes of love and servanthood, displayed by Your people
5. for the ability to remain joyful and faithful, even through struggles and hard times

I am inspired by a quote that I found, yesterday, from Dallas Willard.

This statement brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to fall on my face in repentance and confession. I am grateful, however, that, even before reading this quote (I’ve read the book it is from, and maybe it spoke to me then, as well, but I don’t remember it), God has been moving me in this direction.

Truly, in the face of what Christ did for us on the Cross, there are some things in this world that simply do not matter. And, truly, as well, there is only one “cause” that I can support, and that is the cause of Christ. the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the kingdom of heaven is here, now, available for all of us to walk in. And we have those two jobs that I keep talking about, that I won’t shut up about; two commands . . . love God and love people. Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself, but love the community of saints, also known as the Church, with an even more intense love.

Today’s prayer word is “retreat.” I like this word. I light the idea behind this word. And, here, I am using the word as a noun, not a verb. It is not to be read in the context of running away. Well, maybe it is, actually, now that I think about it.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

That should be true, shouldn’t it? But is it always? Is your soul quiet and untroubled? Mine frequently is not. But we find that this is also the case with some of the biblical people, as well.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
(Psalms 42:5-6 NLT)

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
(John 12:27-28 NLT)

Even Jesus, at times, had a troubled soul. And what did He do in those times? He, essentially, went on a “retreat.”

It’s been a long time since I went on a “retreat.” I think the last one was more than a decade ago, when C and I went on a marriage retreat. It was okay. I mean, we had a good time, but did we learn anything? I’m not sure.

The writer of today’s reading, Meg, speaks of attending a ten-day meditation retreat. Ten days! And not just ten days away from all of the madness of society and culture. Ten days of total silence!! I would love to try something like this. I probably wouldn’t start with ten days. Maybe a weekend. My soul almost flutters in anticipation of such a thing. Perhaps I will begin to look into that.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You at least help me find some moments of solitude and silence, somewhere around me, somewhere outside of this room. I can, of course, have a small amount of solitude and silence in this room, but there is always someone else in the house, and always a chance of being interrupted. If not by people, at least by cats. I pray, as well, that You would direct me to some kind of retreat center, not too far away, where I can participate in some kind of guided spiritual retreat. In the meantime, I simply ask You to help me accomplish some quiet meditation within my own soul, in this place.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalms 19:3-4 NIV)

“While the writer of Psalm 19 extols the silent speech of the heavens, God’s people are ever learning a language for the ages, daily taught by His Spirit: the language of love and servanthood. Just as God set the moon and stars in their courses, He set His Spirit in the hearts of believers to nudge us toward righteousness–guiding, instructing, and inspiring us as we learn to give Him free course. The Comforter Jesus sent to us is not simply a lofty-sounding description on a page in Scripture but a Person of the Godhead Who cares so much that He is grieved each time we fail to respond in love.

“Whether it’s volunteering to rock a sick baby or quietly handing a hot meal to an exhausted new neighbor, gestures of caring often outstrip the most eloquent sermons and the most jaw-dropping scenes in nature, and the speak as clearly as a toddler’s smile.” ~ Jacqueline F. Wheelock

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Ah, my Lord, You are speaking softly to my soul, this morning, yet it sounds like shouting. My soul is quieted as I ponder Your grace and mercy; the work that was done on the Cross by Jesus has, once again, captivated me, and drawn me in. I acknowledge the love that went into that event; Your everlasting love, Your infinite love, love that will never die or fade away. It is steadfast and it is merciful. The grip that You have on my soul is indescribable. But I desire it to be even more so; I desire that the grip that You have on my soul would be so strong that I cannot pry myself out of it. I’m not even sure that makes sense, but I’m betting You know what I mean.

Father, please help me to display this love to others around me; please help me to have this attitude of servanthood in my heart. I’ve been raised in a culture that embraces self-centeredness (in case there is any doubt, my parents did NOT raise me that way), and it is hard to shed that coil, that skin. But I want to, Lord, and it is You that has caused this to be true. I praise You for this desire that You have placed in my heart.

There are some who would have us believe that the Christian life is all puppies and rainbows. Eugene Peterson cautions us against this kind of naiveté. While our relationship with the Word of God (both written and mystically lived) brings us into a most wonderful transformation, there are also dark forces that will protest; dark forces both within and without us.

It’s true. My own soul rebels, at times, against what I know to be true. But there will also be people around us who will not like the things we say or believe. And, truthfully, if we are really attempting to follow in the words and steps of Jesus, there will even be other “Christians” who will throw stones at us. That, to me, is one of the most tragic of occurrences.

Says Peterson, “When that happens, I don’t want you to be disheartened. I don’t want you to quit. I don’t want you to conclude that you are doing this all wrong and that if you were just a better person, things would go better for you.”

I would add to that, that I don’t want you to think, for even a nanosecond, that your faith isn’t strong enough. Because there are also “believers” who will throw that in your face.

In truth, none of our faith is strong enough, is it? If it were, we would all be moving mountains, right?

Maybe everything is puppies and rainbows for you, right now, and if it is, I certainly pray that it will stay that way for you. But it won’t stay that way. Even Jesus told us this truth, and proclaimed that those who suffer are “blessed.”

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
(Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)

“While we should celebrate good news, we must not be naive about evil. If we do this right, we are going to be as cheerful and faithful in the hard times as we are in the good times–cheerful and faithful like Paul and Barnabas, refusing to let anything difficult or discouraging deter us from living for the glory of God.”

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

Lord, I embrace these words, and am grateful that You have placed this very attitude in my heart. However, just as my prayers above indicate, my soul doesn’t always agree. Or maybe it’s my mind that’s not agreeing. I’m not wise enough to know the difference. Either way, when “hard times” (have I truly ever known any??) come, my instinct is to complain or get angry or frustrated or discouraged. But when I read that quote from Dallas Willard again, I remember that those “hard times” pale in comparison (infinitely pale) to the work of Christ on the Cross. So, thank You, Father, that You continue to grow this attitude within me.

And now, Father, I pray for the day ahead of us. Give us safety, please, watching over us as we travel to Mineral Wells and back. I pray for grace to fill our hearts as we do whatever our hands find to do today, and may we display Your love to all we encounter, no matter what the circumstance.

Grace and peace, friends.

I Still Believe

Today is Saturday, September 19, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,836

22 days until our Broken Bow vacation; 23 days until our 35th wedding anniversary!

23 years ago, today, we lost the lyric, musical, and spiritual genius of Rich Mullins.

Overall, this past week was pretty good. And I get to testify that I did a pretty good job of remembering what I was supposed to remember, yesterday, after my morning blog. I made it through the day pretty well, with a constant attitude of “it is well with my soul.” I was able, I hope, to express love in some way to everyone. I will confess, however, that the one person I find it hardest to love was not there.

The weekend has no unusual plans, that I know of. We have our in-person WW Workshop at 10:30. We did remember to sign up for it. I think I might lose a couple pounds. I think we will, just like last week, head over to Sprouts for our fruit/produce right afterward, and pick up Sonic drinks in that area, as well.

C is feeling well, this weekend, so she will probably get the groceries after we have our brunch.

Tomorrow, we will have our in-person meeting of The Church at Brandon and Kristin’s, at 10:15. That’s about it. We’re reading the book The Acts of the Apostles, now, and only got through chapter one last week.

One last thing. C has notified me that she is scheduled to return to full time work at the office on September 28, just under two weeks from now. You can bet she’s not looking forward to that. I believe the department heads have already returned. People with offices will return on September 28, and people who share cubicle spaces will continue to work from home.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

God, my Father,
You have promised to remain forever with those
who do what is just and right.
Help me to live in Your presence.
The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when
Jesus, your Son, became man like us.
I want to obey His commandment of love
and bring Your peace and joy to others.
Keep before me the wisdom and love
You have made known in Your Son.
Help me to be like Him in word and deed.


(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

So bless GOD, you angels, ready and able to fly at his bidding, quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless GOD, all you armies of angels, alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless GOD, all creatures, wherever you are— everything and everyone made by GOD. And you, O my soul, bless GOD!
(Psalms 103:20-22 MSG)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For the weekend, to rest up for the coming work week
  2. That through all of this pandemic, the Lord has protected us, and that we still have our jobs (and, unlike many, we have managed to lose weight)
  3. For the body and blood of Jesus Christ, celebrated weekly in the Supper
  4. That through it all, I still believe
  5. THAT YOU WILL NEVER LET ME GO!!

Show me the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to me.
(based on Psalm 67:1)

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
(Psalms 42:1 ESV)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
(Psalms 118:22-23 ESV)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:53-58 ESV)

Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said: “I have granted help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him,
so that my hand shall be established with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not outwit him; the wicked shall not humble him.
I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.
My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.
(Psalms 89:19-29 ESV)

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

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

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

And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
(Acts 3:2-8 ESV)

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
(Acts 3:16 ESV)

What makes us strong? According to this passage, it is faith; faith in the Name of Jesus.

I continue to struggle with the fact that we do not see miracles such as this in our day. I understand that, in the book of Acts, the Gospel is forging into the frontier. It is new. And many of the miracles that happened served to advance this new Gospel.

But I also sincerely believe that we have lost something along the way. I’m still sussing that out, though. I believe that prayer has a lot to do with it. But I also believe that belief has much to do with it. When we pray, do we really believe that God will do what we ask? Or are we just hoping?

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:23-24 ESV)

I have found myself crying out to God as the father of that child did: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalms 27:1 ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

Father, You have kept my faith alive, through all of these years. As I have watched friends fall by the wayside, for some reason that I can’t fathom, You have held me in Your strong hand of love. I praise You for this, Lord, as I can hold my head up and proclaim, “I Still Believe!” Help my unbelief, my God! I want to see Your power work in this world, as it did in the book of Acts. I don’t want power for myself. If I have power, I will begin to believe it is mine. I want to see YOUR power. I want to channel Your power. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

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’ll march this road, I’ll climb this hill
Upon on my knees if I have to
I’ll take my place up on this stage
I’ll wait ’til the end of time for you like everybody else”

“For people like us in places like this
We need all the hope that we can get”
(James Paul Goodwin, Michael Been)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Love of God

Today is Saturday, August 22, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,808

Sixteen days until Labor Day

It’s the weekend. I’ve got my first cup of coffee (Cake Boss Chocolate Fudge Cake). There will be at least one more, perhaps two, this morning. Weekdays, I only have time for one cup, but on weekends, I can indulge a little more. My current stock includes the above-mentioned, as well as Green Mountain Southern Pecan, and Granite Peak Cinnamon Cannoli. I’ve never tried Granite Peak brand before, but it’s pretty good. I would have preferred Guy Fieri’s Cinnamon Hazelnut, but they were out of stock. All of these are K-cups.

C is working a little bit, this morning. She has something she has to have ready by Monday morning. I may or may not wind up doing the grocery shopping later. Of course, it’s okay if I do. The only other thing planned for this day is our regular WW Workshop, virtual, still, on Zoom. At some point, though, we need to at least go to the studio to weigh in, if for no other reason than to collect all of our reward trinkets.

My “official” weigh-in for today has me losing another 1.2 pounds over the past week. What’s really impressive about that is the amount of Smart Points I used Wednesday, which, as best as I could calculate, was 60! That’s almost two days’ worth. But it was planned for, and not done out of a lack of control. It was a celebration. I have now lost a total of 67.4 pounds since the first of February.

If I go all the way back to 2010, I have lost 115 pounds from my highest weight ever. I’m not really tracking from that, though, so I’m sticking with 67.4 for this journey. Based on all the charts, as well as my doctor’s recommendation, I still have right at 100 pounds to go. They base their recommendations on BMI (Body Mass Index). So, at my current weight, my BMI is 40.7, which is still Obese. In fact, I am barely still in the category of “morbidly obese.” But I am almost out of that category. A healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. For my height, that puts my normal weight range at 122-164. My wife says I’ll be a bag of bones if I get that low. Hahaha!!!

Okay. Enough of that stuff.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Amen.
(St. Teresa of Avila)

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
(Psalms 95:2-3 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. As always, for the weekend, to rest and relax for the upcoming work week
  2. For the grace of God that helps me not grow weary of trying to follow the commands of Jesus
  3. For Your great love, O Your great love, that words cannot begin to describe
  4. That this love was displayed toward us while we were yet sinners
  5. For the demonstration of this love on the Cross of Christ

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
(Psalms 67:1 ESV)

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
(Psalms 119:18-20 ESV)

The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
(Psalms 147:11 ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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.”
(Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalms 8:1-9 ESV)

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

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

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

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:7-10 ESV)

What does it mean to “sow to the flesh?” I believe it means to allow the desires of the flesh to hold sway over our lives.

I also believe that I am definitely guilty of this, from time to time.

And I believe that it is most definitely possible for a person to both sow to his flesh and sow to the Spirit. I don’t believe that this Scripture teaches otherwise, either. The best times in my life are when I am sowing more to the Spirit than the flesh.

I think another way to look at this is to ask which one I am feeding more? Am I feeding the flesh more or feeding the Spirit more?

I honestly believe that the way I react to certain situations will be the evidence of which is true.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
(Luke 12:6 ESV)

Is there ever any doubt in your mind/heart concerning your worth to your heavenly Father? I struggle with that, sometimes. But there’s this:

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Luke 12:7 ESV)

Sometimes I think that we, His children, the “Children of Time,” need to just sit there for a bit. We hustle and bustle about, worrying about this, that, and the other thing. Sometimes, we need to simply . . .

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
(Psalms 46:10 ESV)

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
(Matthew 6:26 ESV)

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Matthew 10:31 ESV)

I think the fact that Jesus repeats this thought multiple times should tell us something. Our Father loves us so very much.

And I can never forget the words of this marvelous verse from the old Gospel song, “The Love of God.”

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were very stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

And the proof of this great love?

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8 ESV)

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(1 John 4:10 ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16 ESV)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

I could go on. But I’ll stop here. Is it enough proof for you? It’s more than enough for me, especially when combined with the great grace that He has lavished on me during my lifetime.

Because of these things, I have the utmost confidence that, no matter what my circumstances, this grace will continue on me until the day that step over the threshold from this plane of existence to the next. And, as Dallas Willard suggests, maybe, just maybe, I won’t even know the difference by that time.

O my Father, thank You for Your great love, lavished on us, the Children of time. I pray that we can only begin to fathom this love. I pray that Your Spirit would help us. I pray that we would have strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Help us, O God, to know that which is unknowable!!

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!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends. And love.

The Reckless Raging Fury

Today is Saturday, March 3, 2018. Day 21,905.

SEVEN days until Glen Rose!

The word for today is tzimmes, a noun which means, “fuss; uproar; hullabaloo.”

We’ve had a change of plans. C is not feeling well, this morning, so we won’t be going to visit Mama today. I’ve had all the obligatory phone conversations, and everyone agrees that we should just postpone until the next available weekend, which will be March 24. We’re going to Glen Rose next weekend, and then we have our Night of Worship on the 17th, so the 24th is the next free weekend.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

A Psalm of Asaph.
The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. 
Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. 
He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: 
“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” 
The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah. 
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. 
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. 
I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 
I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. 
Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? 
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, 
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Psalm 50:1-15

God does not need our sacrifices. He does not need our money. If he were hungry, he wouldn’t tell us about it, because “the world and its fullness” belong to him. What does God desire from us? “A sacrifice of thanksgiving.” And for us to call upon him in our “day of trouble.” Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.
1 John 3:1
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Have I ever mentioned that God loves us? I know. Silly question. But seriously, this is a topic that, in my opinion, we all need constant reminder about. On a daily basis, I feel unworthy of God’s love. But his love is not based on my worthiness (or lack thereof). It is based on . . . well, it is based on God. It is his good pleasure to love us. And there is nothing I can do to either make him love me more, or make him love me less.

The New International Version translates “given,” in 1 John 3:1, as “lavished.” I like that world God has “lavished” his love on us. In verb form, “lavished” means, “to expend or give in great amounts or without limit” (Dictionary.com). Follow that up with Zephaniah 3:17, which has been a favorite verse of mine ever since I heard Dennis Jernigan’s paraphrase of it. “The eternal self-existent God: The God who is three in one. He who dwells in the center of your being is a powerful valiant warrior. He has come to set you free, to keep you safe and to bring you victory. He is cheered and He beams with exceeding joy and takes pleasure in your presence. He has engraved a place for Himself in you and there He quietly rests in His love and affection for you. He cannot contain Himself at the thought of you and with the greatest of joy spins around wildly in anticipation over you . . . and has placed you above all other creations and in the highest place in His priorities. In fact, He shouts and sings in triumph joyfully proclaiming the gladness of His heart in a song of rejoicing! All because of you!”

Have you ever been able to imagine God spinning around wildly and exulting over you with loud singing?

Romans 8:28 is one of those verses that people love to quote. They especially love to quote the part about all things working together for our good. Sometimes, they tend to forget the conditional parts of the verse, you know, that we love God and are called according to his purpose. But, coupled with verses that tell us about the overwhelming love of God, Romans 8:28 is a basket overflowing with hope. I am only able to love God because he first loved me. In fact, I can only manage to love others because God first loved me. And because of his great love for me, and the fact that I do love him (even though I don’t always manage to act like it), I can rest assured that all things are working together for my good.

But the over-riding point of this, today, is his love. When I think of God’s love, one of my favorite songs to remember is Rich Mullins’s song, “The Love of God.”

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

Now I’ve seen no band of angels
But I’ve heard the soldiers’ songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it’s never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love

Oh the love of God
And oh, the love of God
The love of God

Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I’m tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

“. . . the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God . . .”

Father, I can never be thankful enough for this reckless raging fury. I don’t deserve your love. I can’t deserve your love. Ever. But you give it to me, to us, anyway. This thought that you exult over me with loud singing. I look forward to the day when I can hear that singing. I figure my ears (not to mention my heart) couldn’t handle it here on earth. But I will listen for it, anyway. And that’s another thing. Help me to be silent long enough to listen. To listen for your singing; to listen for you speaking; to listen for your love.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Psalm 32:10

Grace and peace, friends.

The Love of God

Today is Wednesday, October 12, 2016. 31 years ago, C and I were married! TWO days until Galveston!!!!

In honor of 31 years, here is “our song.”

Quote of the Day

“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” – Ann Landers

Word of the Day

Opuscule – a small or minor work.

Today is Old Farmers Day. Seriously, is there any other kind? My deepest apologies to any young farmers out there, who might stumble across this. In all seriousness, farmers, especially older ones, don’t have it easy these days. So we should express our gratitude to them, whenever possible.

Yes, today is the 31st anniversary of our wedding! C and I were married on October 12, 1985, not quite a year after we started dating. C would say that has been 29 of the best years of her life. True, there were a couple of rocky years, in there. But, by the grace of God, we got through them, and remain strong. I can easily say that my love for her has grown through all of these years. Do we still look, enraptured, into each others eyes like silly young lovers? No. But I believe with all of my heart that our love for each other is a million times stronger than the love we had during those days. I thank God for bringing her into my life, and I thank God for keeping her here.

We decided, last night (and by “we” I mean “C”), that I needed to take one more day off to heal this stuff. It was still pretty red last night. This morning, though, it looks much better. It still hurts a little, and is still somewhat touch-sensitive, but it’s better. I think one more day of keeping the legs propped up will help. I’m only scheduled to work a half-day tomorrow. My boss was okay with it, when I called him last night. He didn’t complain at all, in fact. Should that worry me?

Yesterday, I stayed propped up in the corner chair pretty much all day, only getting up to use the bathroom and get more water or something to eat. I watched six and a half hours of Stranger Things, on Netflix, getting caught up with season one. It was a bittersweet ending, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and am looking forward to another season, whenever they release it. When C asked me if she would like it, I said, “Not at all.” After that, I watched a supernatural/scary movie called Beneath. The acting wasn’t great, and the story wasn’t super interesting, but the last twenty minutes or so changed everything, and it suddenly got rather exciting. Talk about a plot twist!

What will I watch today? Not sure. I might get caught up on The Walking Dead, or I might watch Game of Thrones. I also might read some. I didn’t do much of that yesterday.

In baseball that I don’t care about anymore, the Cubs clinched their spot in the NLDS, beating the Giants 6-5. The Dodgers beat the Nats, tying the series 2-2. No game today. The Dodgers and Nats will face off tomorrow for the final game, in Washington. Yes, they are playing hockey. No, they’re not. That’s a joke.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.
Psalm 66:8-9
But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! Psalm 70:5
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.
Psalm 71:5-6
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:11

(From Praying With the Psalms)

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law.
All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Psalm 119:81-88

Unlike human parents, God does not need to interrupt what he is doing to explain himself to us every time we lose our way or lose sight of his ways. When we grow impatient, he does not have to take “time out to demonstrate the truth of his word.” This sometimes causes us to fall into doubt and dryness. During these times, we fear that we will not make it. “Nevertheless, because God is, we can.” 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. (Psalm 63:1)

“Help me, God, to trust you even when I can’t see clearly what you are doing. Help me to hope even when I cannot feel the conviction of your triumph. In the strong name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(From Daily Guideposts 2016)

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139:2-3

(This was, I believe, my father’s favorite Psalm, and it is also one of my favorites.)

Jim Hinsch writes of an evening with his daughter, Frances, seven years old, at bedtime prayer time. He first noticed that she was about to outgrow her bed, and commented on how tall she had gotten. Disregarding any potential of embarrassing her, he continued expressing memories, memories of when she was born, holding her in one arm, talking to her, and how easily he could make her fall asleep each night. He was surprised to find, when he finished, that she wasn’t embarrassed at all. Rather, she sat up, threw her arms around him, squeezed him tight, and said, “I love you, Daddy!”

As he reflected, he thought of Psalm 139, and realized that, just maybe, his memories were not simply nostalgia, but also served as a glimpse “of the immensity of [his] love for her.” Perhaps, even a glimpse of a great love that embraces and knows us all.

I think of memories of my own daughters; the memory of R, confidently walking up the sidewalk to her first pre-school, Barney lunch box in hand. The thought of S, riding home from Children’s Palace, excitedly talking about being “student of the week.” R’s graduation ceremony (I declared that she “won graduation” because she had more extra letters beside her name); S actually getting a high school diploma. I also think of memories with my own parents. That banana seat bicycle I got for Christmas; playing photo-electric football with Daddy; Mama making popcorn on the stove . . . so many memories, so much love.

And then I think . . . none of this even begins to compare with the love that our Father has for us. Think about that today. Rest in that love. Let it wash over you. Never doubt it.

Father, I am almost overwhelmed, this morning, as I meditate on your steadfast love for us. I pray that I would never doubt it again. And whenever I do, simply point me back to the examples that I have listed today. Your grace is sufficient; your love everlasting. You will never leave us, nor forsake us, thought the mountains fall and the sea disappear. Thank you, Father! Thank you!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

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

-Frederick Lehman

Grace and peace, friends.

Constant

Good morning. It is post-Monday, November 18, 2014.

Today is National Entrepreneurs’ Day. Hats off to those clever enough and brave enough to be successful at starting their own businesses.

Baby, it’s cold outside! 27 degrees this morning. Shut up, that’s cold for this part of Texas, especially in mid-November! I realize I have occasional readers in Canada, and even Norway, so I don’t really know “cold.” Nevertheless . . . Anyway, it’s supposed to be 22 tomorrow morning! Gah! I’m grateful for the feature I have for my Hyundai Sonata, which allows me to start my car with my smartphone! Yes sir! I used that during the hot part of the summer, too. When I got to work, I would set the A/C as low as it goes and turn the fan on full blast, and then start the car from the break room about five minutes before I would be outside.

Not much going on, this week, other than preparations for Thanksgiving, which is next week in the U.S. I have my Huddle group tonight, so I’ll be busy this evening. Christi has said she might go do her Thanksgiving grocery shopping tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
Psalm 66:16
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

Psalm 67:1-2
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
Psalm 119:54
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah.
Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:1, 4-8

Today’s Gospel Reading

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:51-52

What does this little passage mean? Jesus was probably not referring to the “scribes” that he so often criticized for their hypocrisy. Rather, he was probably referring to the fact that this handful of men, unlearned as they were, would be prepared to teach others, as he (Jesus) is training or instructing them “for the kingdom of heaven.” He compares them to a “master of the house,” and the old and new treasure would be things from the Old Testament (or in their case, the “Law”) and things from the new, that which Jesus is in the process of teaching them. “In bringing forth, things new and old do best together; old truths, but new methods and expressions, especially new affections.” (Matthew Henry)

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “God’s Constancy with His Rebellious People.”

When God raised up his prophets, he “burned into their consciousness a lively awareness of his presence, and sent them to his people to reveal him in a warmer, more passionate manner.” These prophets, in the face of Israel’s unfaithfulness, declared “the constancy of God” in spite of man’s infidelity. Image after image is brought forth to describe the frustration of God as he deals with the rebelliousness of his people. The amazing thing is, time after time, right when a human being would have given up, right when you or I would have said, “I cannot forgive you any longer,” “the overwhelming hesed, the steadfast, enduring love of Yahweh, sweeps forward and the triumphant line rings out, ‘I am God, not man!'”

The overwhelming love of God cannot fail. He will never leave us or forsake us.

. . . what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:4

Father, I thank you, no I praise you with great exaltation! I praise you for your constancy, your overwhelming love, even in the face of our rebelliousness and unfaithfulness to you! As humans, we can’t comprehend how you are able to do this! I have failed you so many times in my life, yet you are always right there, with open arms, forgiving and accepting, strengthening me further in my walk with you. I praise you, Father, for this! My gratefulness cannot be adequately expressed! Help me to learn, to be instructed in the kingdom of heaven, that I might, like your original disciples, be like the master of the house “who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth, and then that I may teach others to walk with you, as well.

I pray for this day, that our travel to work will be smooth and safe. May our work day go smoothly, as well, today. Christi is having some pain this morning, in her knee, as well as her stomach not feeling well. I pray for your healing hand on her body. I pray that both of us may be successful in bringing your kingdom to the people around us. May we love you, follow Christ, and share your kingdom successfully. I pray for Stephanie today, and we are very proud of her for getting back on her workouts that she does at home. I pray that she will be motivated to continue. Teach her your ways, Lord, as she is able to understand them. Give her wisdom for her life and future.

The love of God . . . constant, unfailing. Praise him today!

Grace and peace, friends.

“You Don’t Have To Pay For It, and You Can’t Deserve It”

“You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it, and you can’t deserve it.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Tuesday post-Monday, August 26, 2014.

Today is Women’s Equality Day. I’m all for that. Have been for a long time.

Only three more 6:30 AM conference calls for Christi! Woot! “New Job Day” is getting closer!

Tonight, we have Huddle, and Christi is supposed to lead it. I know she’s not looking forward to this. I’ll support her as much as I can.

Going in early today, so I’ve gotta hurry on.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Psalm 95:1
Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Psalm 144:5
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 89:1

Today’s Gospel reading

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8

Holiness and happiness are put together in this promise from Jesus. True “religion,” or Christianity is of the heart. If our hearts are pure, we have communion with God. The psalmist prays for a clean heart in Psalm 51:10, which gives some insight on the “how” of becoming pure in heart. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. The key is to realize that only God can purify our hearts. All of my efforts to become holy will be for naught if God does not work in my heart. As for seeing God, that little phrase is so full of meaning. I think Matthew Henry sums it up very well. “To see him as he is, face to face, and no longer through a glass darkly; to see him as ours, and to see him and enjoy him; to see him and be like him, and be satisfied with that likeness; and to see him for ever, and never lose the sight of him; this is heaven’s happiness.” It is also true that we “see” God with our faith, as long as we inhabit this earth.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Just Receive.”

One of the most fundamental questions we can ask ourselves is: “Do I really believe the Good News of Jesus Christ?” On the surface, it seems so simple. But if we dig deeper, is it really? Do we really “believe?” Do we hear the voice of God as he speaks to us: “Shalom, be at peace. I understand your fears, your failures, your brokenness. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I have been there. All is well. You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it, and you can’t deserve it. You only have to open and receive it. You only have to say yes to my love–a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine.”

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:15

Father, I do believe! Help my unbelief!! I pray that you continue to create in me a clean heart, every day, that I might see you, both now, and later, when your kingdom comes, on earth, as it is in heaven. I pray that you help me to hear your voice speaking peace into my life daily. I didn’t hear you very well yesterday afternoon, toward the end of my work shift. Open my ears that I may hear your voice. Help us to all realize that we have your love, and that there is nothing we can do to deserve it or pay for it. May we just be still and receive your love.

I pray for this day. As Christi’s job winds down, may her days go smoothly, and the transition be smooth to the new job responsibilities. I pray that it turns out to be as great as it looks like it will be. I pray that our drive to work will be safe today. I pray for our Huddle meeting tonight, that your presence will be strong with us. Give us all wisdom as we try to figure out what we’re doing next. I pray that Stephanie will have a good day today, and that your love will surround her, drawing her closer to you.

“You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it, and you can’t deserve it.”

Such beautiful words. Hear God saying that to you today!

Grace and peace, friends.

Consider

“. . . human desire with all its emotions cannot compare with the passionate yearning of Jesus Christ.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Saturday, July 12, 2014.

Today is Different Colored Eyes Day. If you are one of those rare people who have different colored eyes, this day is all yours! Mine are both green. We once had a cat that had different colored eyes.

Christi’s job seems to have taken a couple of steps backward. It seems they keep throwing more responsibility on her. She’s got a ton of work (not literally, but then who knows how much work weighs?) to do this weekend. I’m telling her she needs to get away from that place (along with the person who hired her). Bless her heart, she hates to give up. “I’m not a quitter,” she says. But I’m afraid the situation cannot be “won.” We shall see, though. I keep praying for God to intervene and bring some peace, calm, and sense into the situation. Perhaps that will happen before it’s all said and done. Or before “the end of the day.” Or any other relatively meaningless cliche I can think of. On top of everything else, she apparently tore a calf muscle while hurrying between meetings yesterday. So, once again, she is in great pain.

Stephanie came home from Megan’s last night. Without Megan. There was much rejoicing. At least between Christi and me. We’re a little weary of the sleepover that wouldn’t end.

The Red Sox won their third straight game last night, while the Rangers lost their sixth straight. The Rangers are currently the worst team in baseball by ten percentage points. The Red Sox are no longer in last place! The Tampa Bay Rays are in last place. There is no way to convey how happy that makes me. I am very close to a point where I dislike the Rays as much as or worse than I dislike the Evil Empire.

Today, we have a few chores that need to get done, then we have church this evening. I now lead the “Anchor” pray time before our service, so I need to do some preparation for that. Tomorrow will probably be the day when Christi tries to get all her work done that she needs to do.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

On this date in 1739, “As David Brainerd is walking through a dark grove to his secret place of prayer, God speaks to him and he has a glorious salvation experience. The twenty-one-year-old will live only eight more years but inspire many others through the diary he pens.” Indeed, his diary was so inspirational that Jonathan Edwards wrote a biography on his life. In fact, Brainerd died at Edwards’s house, after suffering for months from “incurable consumption” (Wikipedia).

Sharing a birthday on July 12 are Bill Cosby, George Washington Carver, Topher Grace, Richard Simmons, Cheryl Ladd, Kristi Yamaguchi, Christine Mcvie, John Petrucci, Henrey David Thoreau, Oscar Hammerstein II, Milton Berle, Andrew Wyeth, Van Cliburn, Kirsten Flagstad, and Curly Joe Derita.

Christine McVie is a singer, most famous for her time as one of the lead singers for Fleetwood Mac. She has returned to the band, and, at the age of 71, is actually touring with them this year. Here is their song, “You Make Loving Fun.”

Van Cliburn was known as one of the world’s greatest piano players for much of his life. He passed away in 2013, and would have been 80 years old today. Here is a clip of him playing some Rachmaninoff Preludes.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD.
Psalm 135:1
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
Psalm 71:2
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.
Psalm 116:16
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:10-14

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

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Philippians 1:21-23
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Philippians 3:20-21
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:13

Give thanks today for the hope and promise of the Resurrection!

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “A Consuming Fire.”

Most of us have been sexually aroused at many points in our lives. Otherwise, a lot of us wouldn’t be here, right? We know the intense passion of what this feels like. Well, “the Scripture and the liturgy of the Christian community say that human sexual arousal is but a pale imitation of God’s passion for his people.” Human love is the best image we have to illustrate the love of God, but it is still inadequate.

“. . . human desire with all its emotions cannot compare with the passionate yearning of Jesus Christ.” The saints “can only stutter and stammer about the reality;” Blaise Pascal had his famous “night of fire” on November 23, 1654, about which he could not speak, but wrote about it on a note, which was sewn into the lining of his clothes, and wasn’t discovered until after he died. Bede Griffiths wrote, “The love of Jesus Christ is not a mild benevolence: it is a consuming fire.”

“It is only the revelation that God is love that clarifies the happy irrationality of God’s conduct and his relentless pursuit.” Who among us has not experienced the irrationality of human love? Even in the face of infidelity, one who truly loves will continue to pursue. Even the anger of Jesus during the act of cleansing the Temple “reveals his keen interest, his frantic involvement in his brothers and sisters coming into right relationship with Abba God.”

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire,
a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24

Consuming Fire
Once again, I am drawn to the beautiful hymn, “The Love of God,” written by Frederick M. Lehman in 1917. The last verse is especially powerful:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Father, may we know and acknowledge your passionate love for us, that love which can not be satisfactorily described by human words or emotions. Help us to know that which is unknowable. I pray for more and more of an understanding of your love, that I might grow closer to you, more intimate with you, as I grow older. I pray that I may know you as I am known by you.

I pray for this day. I pray for Christi’s calf muscle to heal. I pray that you would relieve her pain. I pray that we can get the things done that need to be accomplished today. I also pray that this evening’s worship service would be exactly that. I pray that we would worship you and love you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give us grace, endurance, and power to serve you in the coming week.

Your grace is sufficient.

Consider the emotion that you feel for the person in your life whom you love the most. Then consider that that feeling doesn’t even come close to the passionate love God has for us.

Grace and peace, friends.