Birth and Growth

Today is Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Day 21,642.

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791
The Quotations Page

Today’s word of the day is humblebrag, a noun meaning, “a statement intended as a boast or brag but disguised by a humble apology, complaint, etc.”

Today is International Axe Throwing Day. Watch out!

I got back to work, yesterday, and was greeted by the news that we officially have to wear safety glasses out on the warehouse floor. This is nothing more than a “suck-up” move by management, because our client’s employees have always had to wear them, but we haven’t had to. As far as I know, the client never asked management to make us do it, either. So I have a pair of generic safety glasses, as well as some side guards for my prescription glasses, which I only need when I’m reading. So I’m constantly having to change back and forth. Anything to slow us down, right?

Other than that, the first day back was fine. I got to describe Oregon to several people, who seemed fascinated by how pretty it was. Then, after work, the girl behind the counter at McAlister’s Deli loved my t-shirt, which has the phrase, “The ocean is calling and I must go,” along with a nice picture of Twin Rocks. She was wondering if the phrase was from “The Old Man and the Sea.” I didn’t know. I looked it up. It seems to be a rendering of John Muir’s statement, “The mountains are calling me and I must go.” But it does have a bit of a Hemingway vibe, doesn’t it?

At band practice, I sounded like I hadn’t played in three weeks. Heh.

Nothing big happening today. We bowl again tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to that.

The Rangers are on another winning streak, having won four in a row, the fourth being last night against the first place Astros. The Red Sox pulled off a win against the Phillies in the eleventh inning. They are still in second place, four games out. The Rangers are in a virtual three-way tie for second, twelve games out.

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

(From The Divine Hours)

Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!
Psalm 9:11
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
Psalm 65:5
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Luke 1:48-49
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138
O God, from whom all good proceeds:
Grant that by your inspiration I may think those things that are right,
and by your merciful guiding may do them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

(From Practice Resurrection)

Birth had to come before growth. On the other hand, growth must come after birth, or life does not go on. Peterson queries, “Is it an exaggeration to say that birth has received far more attention in the American church than growth?” As one who grew up in the evangelical culture, I can whole-heartedly agree. Evangelism always had much more focus than discipleship or growth. Winning souls always was, and still is, in some churches, the most important thing. As Peterson points out, the word “growth” is certainly used. We have “church growth” seminars and speak of “growing churches.” But guess what! Those are phrases that speak more of birth, of new Christians.

In biological life, birth is a joyous occasion. There are birth announcements, showers, and gifts. The details are always important: weight, length (for babies, it’s never how “tall” they are, but how “long” they are), the time of birth, the name, the sex. “The euphoria of birth lasts a few weeks.”

Although labor is sometimes long and painful, birth is generally relatively quick. but growth is “endless and complex.” The same is true for the Christian. Perhaps that is why so many churches only focus on birth.

I’m not much of an evangelist, myself. I’m terrible at talking to complete strangers about my faith. But I love talking to church members about growth, spiritual formation, and things like prayer. I mentioned yesterday that I have loved the Church for decades. My “ministry,” if you want to call it that, is to the Church, not the “world.” I have been given a desire to help the Christian grow, to, perhaps as Jesus truly commanded, “make disciples.”

Father, I pray that churches would become more balanced. I believe that the one we are currently gathering with has a better balance of birth and growth focus. We want to see new life in Christ for all people. We are also very interested in making disciples, in seeing people grow. Help me to develop my own work in this area. But first, help me to be a better disciple. Help me to grow.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Practicing the Presence of God

Good morning. Today is Saturday, April 13, 2013. We are up early, because we have a thing to go today. This “thing” is called a “Leader Learning Community.” It’s supposed to be a six hour intensive training session dealing with this “huddle” thing we have going on now at our church. Our huddle leader is very excited about it. I’m trying to be, but it’s taking up six hours of my only day off (Sunday doesn’t count, because I’m up at the same time as the rest of the week, and “work” for at least five hours at the church). So this better be good.

Houston beat the Angels. 5-0. Do I need to say anything more? 😀


Today is Scrabble Day. So drag out that old board game and play some Scrabble. NOT WORDS WITH FRIENDS! I said SCRABBLE! What’s the difference, you ask? Well, for starters, with Scrabble, you can’t just keep playing nonsense “words” that you know are not words until one of them actually works and you score a kabillion points.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born. He is the man who wrote these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Hey! That’s where I got the title of MY OTHER BLOG!) He was born in Shadwell, Virginia, and represented Virginia “during the forming of the United States. He also was the first Secretary of State, the second Vice President, and the third President. “Jefferson was America’s greatest political thinker, with a passion for liberty, freedom of religion, public education and the welfare of the common man.” He was also an inventory, being the inventor of, among other things, the dumb waiter. He was an architect, a musician, a scientist, and he founded the University of Virginia. In 1962, JFK paid tribute to him by welcoming 49 Nobel Prize winners as “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered in the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Lest we think him perfect, though, his view on women was that their role was “to soothe and calm the mind of their husbands.” In addition, at his date, at the age of 83, he still owned 250 slaves (all men created equal, eh?) and modern science has proved that one of them, Sally Hemings, bore him a child.

My favorite quote of his, however, has been pasted across a t-shirt that I have worn out two copies of. “I cannot live without books.” By 1814, Jefferson had acquired the largest collection of books in the U.S., and offered to sell them to Congress, to replace books burned by the British. Congress purchased his book collection in 1815, for $23,950, thus beginning what we know today as the Library of Congress.


Today’s birthday (besides Thomas Jefferson) is Don Adams, born on this date in 1923. He is probably best remembered for this:

Honorable mentions go to Guy Fawkes, 1570 (“Remember, remember, the 5th of November”), Butch Cassidy, 1866, Alfred Mosher Butts (inventor of Scrabble), 1899, Samuel Beckett, 1906, Lyle Waggoner, 1935, Tony Dow, 1945, Ron Perlman, 1950, Garry Kasparov, 1963.


It is with great sadness that I report that I have just learned that Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel passed away, yesterday, at the age of 79. I also did not find out until yesterday that Annette Funicello passed away last Monday, April 8. That made me very sad. She was only 69, but MS finally won the battle.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Psalm 59:9
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13

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

Father, as I look into your word this morning, touch my heart with your words of peace, hope, and healing.


Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Practicing God’s Presence.” The scripture reading is Luke 2:36-38.

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

While not many of us may be called as a “prophetess,” there is an example in the life of Anna that we can surely draw from. She was committed to the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and worship, “a life focused in mind, body, and activity on engaging with God.” A seventeenth century monk named Brother Lawrence wrote that we can “pray and worship both in times of focused quiet and spiritual activity and in times of work and routine daily life.” The discipline of worship is one that can allow us to “practice God’s presence throughout all facets of our being, to live daily and hourly as a dwelling place of God.” Let us imagine what it would be like to live in this way, and then, beyond imagination, let us strive to do so.


Father, as we go about our activities during this day, may we remember to worship you throughout this day, focusing on you, practicing your presence. This is certainly a challenge, especially in this busy, mundane world. It is easy to focus on your presence when we are doing “spiritual” things. But it is not so easy when I am in the middle of the drudgery of daily work. I pray that you will help me, by the power of your Spirit, to remember that my life is to be a life of worship, lived looking to your face for all of my needs.

I pray for our day today. May we learn what we need to learn today during this conference. Keep us focused. And then may we get some much-needed rest in.

Your grace is sufficient.


Practice the presence of God during the most mundane activities today. He is always there. But are we?

Grace and peace, friends.

Don’t Fret

Good morning. It’s July 4, 2012. We have the day off today, as it’s a holiday in the U.S. This particular July Fourth is tainted by the loss, yesterday, of an actor/singer/entertainer that was one of the last of a dying breed. R.I.P., Andy Griffith. Your legacy will live on.

(Some of these illustrations seem to have come from MAD Magazine)

Of course, today is “Independence Day.” But did you know that today is also “Sidewalk Egg Frying Day?” So says the Hallmark Ultimate Holiday app. I’ve never tried that, myself, although I’m sure it has been hot enough a time or two.

It was on this date in 1776 that the United States declared independence from Great Britain. On this date in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died. On this date in 1927, playwright Neil Simon was born. On this date in 1855, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published. Reported by a different source, it is also on this date in 1845 that Henry David Thoreau moved to walden Pond in Concord, MA.

I’ve been there. At that time of my life, it was the most beautiful nature scene I had ever seen. It’s still right up there.


Christi is feeling much better. Thanks for the prayers. We are looking forward to enjoying this day with Stephanie, Rachel, and Justin. We’re planning to cook out later, sirloin steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus with mushrooms, onions, and garlic; all cooked on the grill. You wrap pour olive oil on the asparagus, onions, mushrooms and fresh garlic, wrap it in foil, then grill it. Delicious! After that, we will have our choice of strawberries with angel cake and cool whip, mini-cupcakes that Christi brought home from work yesterday, or whatever else happens to be around. Good times.


Father, I pray for some inspiration today to keep me focused on you for this day. Grace for today only, is all I seek.


Today, I’m reading Psalm 34. This Psalm is full of great verses, offering hope to those who seek refuge in the Lord. It gives promise of deliverance to all who fall into trouble. As previously noted, the Lord never promises that we will not have trouble. However, he does promise to deliver us from trouble.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
(6-7)

My favorite verse in Psalm 34 is verse 8. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! I challenge anyone who does not believe in the goodness of the Lord to “taste and see.”


My Utmost For His Highest

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. Psalm 37:8

“Fretting means getting out at elbows mentally or spiritually.” What?? For the life of me, I can’t find anything telling me what that means. The closest thing seemed to indicate a state where the shirt sleeves were so worn that the elbows were showing. I guess if we are fretting that much about something, then that condition would apply.
Of course, it is always easy to say things like, “Rest in the Lord,” or, “Fret not.” But then something happens. Something upsets the proverbial apple cart, and our lives get all topsy-turvy. We are suddenly thrown into tumult, and all we can seem to do is fret. I’ve been there. My apple cart has been shattered before. I’ve stood in my living room and declared that God had abandoned us. Praise his name, it was not true…I was wrong, so very wrong, and confessed the sinfulness of even thinking a thing like that. I tell you three times…God never abandons his children!
Somehow, I have to get myself into a state where I am not even able to fret. “Fret not” is one of “God’s great don’ts.” “This ‘don’t’ must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it will never work.” Here is an important statement: “Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all, but on your relationship to God Himself.” So, you see, when I was thinking that God had abandoned me, my relationship was a bit shoddy, wasn’t it? If my relationship to God is solid, I will find that I am not able to fret over anything.
“Fussing always ends in sin.” Yes. Anxiety and worry are indications of how wicked we truly are. “Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way.” Jesus never fretted over anything, because he was not here to get his own way. He was out to get his Father’s way. Here is another important statement: “Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.” Yes. Worry is always sinful! Always!! If we are truly resting in God and dwelling in his shadow, we can live our lives without fretting. There’s the challenge, isn’t it? “All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” And that phrase segues perfectly into tomorrow’s reading.


Father, I confess that my mind has been scattered this morning while I’ve been reading these things. But, nevertheless, you have reinforced in me the need to stop worrying about things. Why do we worry so much? It seems to be a curse of the human nature. Everyone I know worries about something. We just can’t seem to help it. Yet you tell us not to. I pray that you will so fill my spirit in the days ahead that I will find it utterly impossible to fret. May I be so immersed in your Spirit that there is no room for anxiety. I have no desire to be wicked, Father. Yet I find wickedness in me daily. The flesh battles against the spirit every day, and this will be the case until we are brought home with you. Therefore, I pray for the help of the Spirit to be prepared for the battle each day, having put on the “armor of God” each and every day.

I thank you for your very great and precious promises, Lord. Especially the ones that I find in places like Psalm 34. Yes, there will be troubles. But you promise to bring us through them, out the other side. I believe that there are certainly times that you do protect us from trouble; there have to be, otherwise, we would always be experiencing trouble. But when you do allow trials to come into our lives, we simply must rely on you to deliver us, rather than letting anxiety fill our lives. There is the challenge, and there is my commitment, to do my best to rely on you, trusting you for all things in my life.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray for safe travel for Rachel and Justin as they make their way to our house today. I pray that we will have a safe and joyful time this afternoon. I pray for safety for all people who travel today, and for the many fireworks displays that will be going on tonight, I pray for safety in those.

I pray for my parents today, too. Give them your grace and peace in whatever they find to do today. I also pray that we will find time to visit with them again, soon.

This morning, as I pray for our church, I pray that you continue to keep our young people safe at camp. I pray that they are experiencing you above all other things that they might experience at this camp. May they find you this week. I pray for those who don’t already know you, that they will be saved. I praise you for the report of Ava getting saved last night. For those who are there who are already in covenant relationship with you, I pray that their knowledge of you will deepen, and their relationships become more solid. May everyone there experience your peace this week.
I also pray for the leadership of our church, beginning with Zach Schroeder, the pastor of our youth. Give him extra grace this week, as he continues with the youth at camp. I praise you for his spirit and passion. This morning, I lift up Becca Bartlett, who is a leader in the children’s ministries. I know that Stephanie sometimes works with her in the preschool area during the worship celebrations. I pray that you give Becca your grace and peace as she serves. I thank you for her heart to work with children and teach them. I pray your blessings on her and her family.
May you give our leadership your clear vision on where our church is to go. I pray that they will follow only you.

I pray that the message of Christ will flourish in our world today.

Your grace is sufficient.


Today’s message is simple. Don’t fret. On the other hand, it’s not so simple, is it?

Grace and peace, friends.