Star of Wonder

Good morning! Today is Thursday, the sixth of January, 2022, in the second week of Christmas. Today is the day of Epiphany.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,310

Seventeen days until Hamilton!

As noticed above, today is “Epiphany,” the day when the church celebrates the arrival of the “wise men” to visit Jesus. The season of Epiphany lasts until the beginning of Lent, which occurs on Wednesday (always Wednesday), March 2, known as “Ash Wednesday,” which comes immediately “Fat Tuesday,” or “Mardi Gras.”

It was a nice day at the library, yesterday (when is it not). It was relatively quiet, but there was a flurry of activity during the last ten minutes that we were open. I got to register a new patron, and fielded a phone call from one who thought that a book she had turned in was still showing up on her account. This call happened at 5:57, and I was not looking forward to having to initiate a “claims returned” process with only three minutes left in the day. I’m not very familiar with that process, as I don’t believe I have ever had to do one on my own, yet. Fortunately, when I looked up her account, the book in question did not show as being checked out.

As noted, yesterday, I have agreed to work an extra shift today, from 10-2. That won’t be bad, even though it is supposed to be a day off for me. I don’t have to go in early, and I’ll get home in plenty of time to get a couple things accomplished.

It’s a cold day in DFW, today. currently 30 degrees (or 32, depending on who I listen to), and only getting up to just below 40 today. Tomorrow’s low is predicted to be in the low twenties. Egad. Fortunately, there is no precipitation predicted until Saturday when temps are supposed to remain well above freezing.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God,
by the leading of a star 
You manifested Your only Son 
to the peoples of the earth:
Lead us, who know You now by faith,
to Your presence,
where we may see Your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.
Amen."
(The Collect for Epiphany)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. 
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose 
went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, 
and they fell down and worshiped him.
 Then, opening their treasures,
 they offered him gifts, 
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9-11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing
2. that, because of Jesus, God holds me in His arms today
3. for the "star of wonder" that led the Magi to Jesus
4. for the admonition to love our enemies
5. for strength and courage that God gives us
6. for the awe I feel when I consider His holiness

In today’s final examination of Thomas More’s meditation (the text can be found at this link), I will include thought written by Richard J. Foster, in Spiritual Classics.

“This selection by Thomas More simply does me in. The breadth of it exhausts me. One line maybe I can enter into a little, but even then some single sentences contain a lifetime: ‘To think my most enemies my best friends.’ However, the prayer is not just one sentence, but sentence piled upon sentence, covering, as it seems, all thought, word, and deed. It is too much to take in, too much to expect, too much to hope for–in myself or anyone else.

“But then I realize that More is not telling me many things but only one thing. And what is that one thing? Simply to love God. When I see this it all becomes clear. Then I can read each line as another aspect of the call to love. And so, once again, I am struck by the unity of all these writers on contemplative prayer. They all keep calling us back to our first love. Their message, it seems, keeps tune to the beat of our heart . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God . . . love God.”

The main thing I want to present from Eugene H. Peterson’s Symphony of Salvation, today, from the book of Joshua, is that everything presented in that book is grounded in the reality of real people and places. Grand ideas have no life of their own apart from the people and places in which they occurred. Says Peterson, “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less–this continuation of the salvation story–Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families, name by name, assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.”

Just as GOD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn’t leave incomplete one thing that GOD had commanded Moses.
(Joshua 11:15 MSG)

A favorite verse in Joshua is 1:9. Oddly enough, when I was in school, I memorized verse 8, but never verse 9.

Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(Joshua 1:9 MSG)

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
(Revelation 4:8 NIV)

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
(Psalms 33:8 NIV)

Today’s prayer word in Pray a Word a Day is “persistence.” That’s a good word.

He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
(Luke 11:8 CEV)

I’ve often wondered at this teaching of Jesus. He seems to be saying that we should “pester” God with our requests. For some reason, I’ve never felt comfortable doing that. But here Jesus seems to be telling us exactly that. There is another story that He tells, in another place, about a widow seeking justice from an ungodly ruler.

Persistence is a good trait to have. We don’t give up, or we should not give up. The book tells a story of a pianist who lost his right arm during WWI. He refused to stop playing, and began commissioning pieces written for just the left hand. That is definitely persistence.

But our persistence should be in doing good things, having good desires. As we remember that “nothing is impossible” with God, we persist, we persevere. I am persisting in my quest to have a “love revolution” in our culture. And I persist in my prayers to have that come about.

Father, I thank You for the record of the “wise men” visiting Jesus and giving Him gifts that seemed to point toward His burial preparation. I thank You for that “star of wonder.” I am also grateful for this persistent command to love each other, and more specifically, to love our enemies. Help me to do that today and every day. I pray for a Love Revolution to take hold in our country, in our world. That is only possible when people hold Jesus dear to their hearts and allow You to hold them in Your might arms.

Give us strength from the message of the book of Joshua, helping us to be grounded in its reality. I have no desire to “escape” reality. When I want to do that, I play games or watch movies. But then I return to the true reality, knowing that You exist there and that You give us mundane tasks to complete, which help us get down in the dirt with people.

Thank You for the sense of awe I have when I consider Your holiness. And thank You for Jesus’s stories, encouraging us to be persistent and never give up on praying.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pattern of Christ

Here we go! Today is Monday, the third of January, 2022. It’s the tenth day of Christmas. It is also considered “The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus” on the Church calendar.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,307

Twenty days until Hamilton!

I don’t really have much to write about, this morning. No news, really. C is at work, and things are moving back into more of a normalized schedule. This is my week to work four days. Or three and a half, I guess. I work tomorrow evening for four hours, Wednesday all day, Friday all day, and Saturday all day. The floor has been swept (by the new Robot Vac we got for Christmas), and a grocery order has been placed, for delivery this afternoon.

We’ll be back to having our Monday night chili for dinner, and I’m back to tracking my food intake on the WW app. I gained roughly twenty pounds between Thanksgiving and now, but have actually dropped a couple in the past week, so we are back on track.

I have some laundry to do today, and, at some point, I need to get some go-juice in my car. But, honestly, that could even wait until tomorrow, if I don’t have to go anywhere today.

I decided on January 1 to do a whole Bible reading plan on the Youversion app. My plan, this year, is to listen to the entire Bible in those readings, as it will read some versions out loud. I’m listening to the ESV, which is still my favorite version.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

We give You praise, adoration
Love and affection
In awe of Your glory
The wonder of who You are
We give You praise, adoration
Love and affection
In awe of Your glory
The wonder of who You are

We're building You a throne upon our praise
We're building You a throne upon our praise
(Building You A Throne, by Maximilian)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 
but also to the interests of others. 
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the awe of the glory of God and the wonder of who He is
2. for the ability to count others as more significant than myself (and the struggle that goes along with that)
3. for the holiness of God, and that this holiness affects every part of my life, because He is present with me (Leviticus)
4. that I can place every part of this life before God as an offering (Romans 12:1-2)
5. that, even though I am just one, when we work together, we can do wonderful things
Have this mind among yourselves, 
which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, 
though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, 
by taking the form of a servant,
 being born in the likeness of men. 
And being found in human form, 
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, 
even death on a cross. 
Therefore God has highly exalted him 
and bestowed on him 
the name that is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

How is my mind similar to the mind of Christ? How is it different? To be honest, I don’t see that many similarities. I see a lot of differences. Sure, I am working on that bit about considering others more significant than myself. I’m struggling with the part about doing nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. But I live in a society that does nothing but try to train me to do otherwise. Everything in this culture points to ME, ME, ME!

I suppose I do try to look out for the interests of others, but even that is a challenge. So how, exactly, is my mind similar to that of Jesus Christ? That’s a good question, and I will be reflecting on that more, during this day. There are major differences, the most obvious being that I am not God; I am not perfect, therefore, my mind is not perfect. But I am striving, at the beginning of this new year, to bring everything about my being into subjection to Jesus. I know, there are people who would cringe at that language. But here’s the thing. God is my Creator; He is the Center of everything; He is the reason we exist! So, it is my duty to live for Him, not for myself.

The question, then, is what do I need to let go of in order to make more space for God to act within me? The answer is in those Scriptures, in the second chapter of Philippians. I need to let go of those selfish ambitions; that conceit; I need to let go of think of myself as the most significant, and begin to think of others as more significant than myself.

I listen to this Scripture reading again, imagining myself approaching the manger that holds the infant Jesus. What words do I find on my lips and in my heart?

Lord Jesus, I worship You. I cannot imagine what words would have been on my heart, had I been present at Your manger. I thank You for the fact that You emptied Yourself in order to identify with us. I cannot begin to imagine what pain this was for You, how alienated You must have felt. I pray for the ability to empty myself, this year, today, this moment. Help me to consider others more significant than me. Help me to ditch the arrogance of my culture and begin to live for You and for the benefit of others. Help me to empty myself. Help me to align my life with Yours.

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.

(From Pray As You Go)

Today, I consider a reflection question from Spiritual Classics. To view the reading click back to yesterday’s edition. It was an excerpt on Godly meditation, by Thomas More. The question today is, “How can I be more single-hearted in my attachment to God?” This is an excellent question for meditation, and hearkens me back to my life verse, which is Psalm 86:11.

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

As I consider that verse and the question, I look back at More’s meditation. The beginning of it says:

"Give me thy grace, good Lord, 
To set the world at nought, 
To set my mind fast upon thee. 
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths."

This is one way I can be more single-hearted. As I pray for my divided heart to be united, I can strive to “set the world at nought,” and to set my mind fast upon Him. I love the phrase that More uses, “the blast of men’s mouths.” That is truly what it is. Nothing but a blast of hot air, coming from most humans, especially those in any kind of authority or leadership position.

It helps, as well, to look back up there at that passage from Philippians. I cannot have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus if I am hanging on “the blast of men’s mouths.” In order to be single-hearted toward God, I must shut them out, completely. Even if I agree with them! Do you see that? The last thing I need, in the midst of this struggle, is to have my human opinions validated! My opinions need to be squashed! Only the truth of God matters. Unfortunately, this “truth” is not always as clear as some folks would make you believe. This is the reason for meditation and contemplation.

Father, I pray Psalm 86:11 again. Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth, and only Your truth. Unite my divided, selfishly conceited heart, to fear Your name! Show me the way of love and peace, the way of Christ. Teach me to walk in His steps and in His words, that I might live this life in love, love for You and love for my neighbor, considering them to be more significant than myself. Help me to not hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.

As I move on into the reading from Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson, today’s reading focuses on what is probably the least popular book of the Bible, Leviticus. Tell me I’m wrong. If you are person who loves Leviticus, more power to you.

The opening paragraph of the reading says, “One of the stubbornly enduring habits of the human race is to insist on domesticating God. We are determined to tame him. We figure out ways to harness God to our projects. We try to reduce God to a size that conveniently fits our plans and ambitions and tastes.”

Oh, yes! Isn’t this the truth??

But “God cannot be fit into our plans; we must fit into his.” He is not a tool; He is not an appliance; He is not a blank check or credit card, regardless of what some TV evangelists might try to tell you.

"Do what I tell you; live what I tell you.
 I am GOD. 
"Don't desecrate my holy name. 
I insist on being treated with holy reverence 
among the People of Israel.
 I am GOD who makes you holy 
and brought you out of Egypt to be your God. 
I am GOD." 
(Leviticus 22:31-33 MSG)

There is a recurring word in that passage that tells us that God is set apart from us. He is “other.” He is “above our attempts to enlist him in our wish-fulfillment fantasies or our utopian schemes for making our mark in the world.” He is alive on HIS terms, not ours.

What we can learn from reading Leviticus in a different light (not just a list of rules) is “that this holy God is actually present with us and virtually every detail of our lives is affected by the presence of this holy God.” We stand in His presence at every moment. Just read Psalm 139, one of my favorites.

Paul even helps us with this a little, in Romans.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: 
Take your everyday, ordinary life—
your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—
and place it before God as an offering. 
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 
Instead, fix your attention on God. 
You'll be changed from the inside out. 
Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. 
Unlike the culture around you, 
always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, 
God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
(Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
"I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood;
 I won't avoid or shun you; 
I'll stroll through your streets.
 I'll be your God; you'll be my people." 
(Leviticus 26:11-12 MSG)

Father, I am grateful for Your presence in my life, Your holy presence! I am so thankful for the effects that Your presence and Your holiness has on every aspect of my life. Help me to be more cognizant of this, as I walk through each day.

“I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.”
(John 13:15 MSG)

But the fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, 
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; 
against such things there is no law. 
And those who belong to Christ Jesus 
have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(Galatians 5:22-24 ESV)
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, 
not busy at work, but busybodies. 
Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, 
take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him,
 that he may be ashamed.
 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. 
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 
(2 Thessalonians 3:11-16 ESV)

Today’s word, in Pray a Word a Day, is “together.”

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” ~ Mother Teresa

I am only one person. You are only one person. Sometimes, I feel like my prayers are like little mosquitos around God’s head, just puny little annoyances. But that’s just our enemy talking, and he talks through a lot of different sources.

Consider the humility of Mother Teresa. She said that she never does great things. But most of the world knows who Mother Teresa was. Only a handful of people know who I am. But it doesn’t matter who knows who I am. What matters is that I do my part in trying to bless those around me.

Very seldom does it feel like all of my devotional materials line up the way they have today. When it happens, it is mind-blowing. And I’m going to end where I started, in Philippians. Back to Philippians 2:3-4.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
(Philippians 2:3-4 MSG)

Can you imagine what this world would be like if we all did this? Heck, even if, say, ten percent of us did this??

Father, I pray for the pattern of Jesus Christ to become evident in all of our lives. I pray that, as I live in this world, as I walk around in this world, that people would be able to tell, by my actions and attitudes, that I have been with Jesus. Open our eyes, Lord, to the damage we do when we do things out of selfish ambition or conceit. Open our eyes to the harm we do to the Gospel of Christ when we act selfishly. Take our ears and diver them from the blasts of men’s mouths! Help us to hear only You. Thank You for Your holy presence in our lives and in our world. And help us to do more good in this world, “together!” All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Change My Heart, Oh God

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the second of January, 2022, the ninth day of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,306

Twenty-one days until Hamilton!

It is currently 18 degrees outside, here in DFW (depending on which app I look at), and feels like 1 degree. It’s supposed to be fairly windy, today, with a high of 39. Looks like it will be well below freezing again, tomorrow morning. But there is little to no precipitation forecast over the next ten days. I suppose winter is here. It came quite quickly, considering what a warm December we had.

Yesterday was an easy day, for the most part. We didn’t do much. I cooked eggs and bacon for a late lunch, and then, while I went to get Sonic drinks, C made banana bread, because we had a bunch of over-ripe bananas. It was really good. Still is, actually, as there is a whole loaf left.

We are not having our church gathering, this morning, and will resume next Sunday. I was thinking about visiting a nearby church, this morning, but I’m thinking I may not venture out in this cold. I don’t know, yet.

Otherwise, there are, as far as I know, no plans for this day. I suppose someone will venture out for lunch from Applebee’s and drinks from Sonic. I don’t know, though . . . it’s not supposed to be above freezing until around 2:00 PM. Hahaha!

In other news, as most already are aware, we lost Betty White on New Year’s Eve. There are a few speculative posts on Facebook, ranging from “And we shall all remember that on the final day of a bleak 2021, the great Betty White gave herself to drive the darkness back and give hope to all humanity for the coming new year,” to “Should we be concerned that Betty White was just like, ‘No thanks 2022.'”

Personally, I’m leaning more toward the latter.

And then, to begin the new year, Dan Reeves, former halfback and fan favorite of the Dallas Cowboys, back in the good years of Tom Landry, passed away.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Praying With Feeling, by Daryl Madden

An intimate bond
When we reveal
To a close friend
Just how we feel

But what better friend
Could there ever be
Than our Lord Jesus
Of how He loves me

To sit side by side
Rather than kneeling
In Presence of love
To pray with feelings

Lord I feel nervous
I’m hurt or I’m mad
Lord I feel grateful
I’m happy or sad

And with time to listen
I believe we will start
That we will grow
To share the same heart

I love the sentiment portrayed in this poem. Truly, we can share as much and more with Jesus as we would with a human friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

What has been is what will be,
 and what has been done is what will be done, 
and there is nothing new under the sun. 
Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? 
It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the friendship of Jesus, in which I can share anything I am feeling
2. for the comfort I get from these verses in Ecclesiastes; I know that seems weird, but there is a consistency to life that seems to lurk under the surface of things
3. for the promise of God's presence in Exodus 33:14; He will see our journey through to the end
4. for the ways that God can change me and my willingness to be changed
5. for the salvation that God has provided, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves

I’m going to start listening to Pray As You Go again, this year. I have not listened to them in a while, but since I finished the book, Seeking God’s Face, I feel the need to have something in my daily routine that keeps me connected with the liturgy of the Church. Today’s session begins with this music, from the Monks of Glenstal Abbey.

“Sing to the Lord, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day, alleluia.  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

There follows a reflection on how the new year is beginning for me. “How do you begin the New Year? With intentions, hopes, commitments to a ‘better’ you?” Yes, to all the above. I spoke of my “intentions” yesterday, only I referred to them as “aspirations.” More prayer, more reading, more music, less gaming. There is, as well, I suppose, a sort of commitment towards being a “better” me. I want to be the best me that I can be, and I must rely on Christ to get me there, by way of the Holy Spirit. I hope for more wisdom in the coming year, a year of “fullness of life, toward goodness and flourishing.” And remember, yesterday’s word from Pray a Word a Day, was “goodness,” springing from Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Father, as this new year begins, realizing the truth of the verses above, from Ecclesiastes, that there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” I desire to know You more in 2022. I desire to accomplish more in this life for You, even though I don’t really know what that looks like. Give me grace for goodness and fullness of life, the kind of life that Jesus came to give us, abundant life. Help me to live up to my intentions, both spiritual and otherwise. Help me to be the best me that I can be for You.

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.

I’m still thinking on how to best incorporate Spiritual Classics, as it doesn’t have the kind of structure that I’m used to. Since there is, essentially, a reading per week, it is up to me to decide how to work that. The first week’s selection is on meditation, and the devotional work is from Thomas More (1478-1535), called “A Godly Meditation.” I’m not going to copy the entire thing, but just the parts that speak most to me.

"Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought,
To set my mind fast upon thee.
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths.

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.

To be joyful of tribulations,
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.
To bear the cross with Christ,
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand,
To make death no stranger to me,

To have continually in mind the passion that 
Christ suffered for me,
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks.

To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred."

The following Scripture reading is then offered:

This is what the LORD says:
 “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, 
who rely on human strength 
and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, 
with no hope for the future. 
They will live in the barren wilderness, 
in an uninhabited salty land. 

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD 
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, 
with roots that reach deep into the water. 
Such trees are not bothered by the heat 
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, 
and they never stop producing fruit. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, 
and desperately wicked. 
Who really knows how bad it is? 
But I, the LORD, search all hearts 
and examine secret motives. 
I give all people their due rewards,
 according to what their actions deserve.” 
(Jeremiah 17:5-10 NLT)

There are discussion and reflection questions that will be considered during the rest of this week.

Lord, as I work through this meditation in the coming week, open my heart to be completely truthful with both You and myself. May I especially work on that bit about enemies and friends. While I don’t truly have “enemies,” there are people that I need to display more love toward.

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

“The human race is in trouble.” So begins the reading concerning the book of Exodus. “We’ve been in trouble for a long time.” Peterson goes on to talk about the people who have spent their lives working to get us out of trouble. “Parents and teachers, healers and counselors, rulers and politicians, writers and pastors.”

But at the core of this work, he says, “is God.” And the word that best describes what God is doing to “get us out of the mess we are in is salvation. Salvation is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.” There is hardly a better picture of this work than what we see in the book of Exodus.

"I am GOD. 
I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I will rescue you from slavery. 
I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. 
I'll take you as my own people and I'll be God to you. 
You'll know that I am GOD, 
your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. 
I'll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. 
I AM GOD." 
(Exodus 6:6-8 MSG)

GOD said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14 MSG)

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
 to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 
(Psalms 27:4 NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, 
or have already arrived at my goal, 
but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
Brothers and sisters, 
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 
But one thing I do:
 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s word for prayer is “change.” This could work its way into my prayers in a variety of different ways. The most common, and probably most obvious, is a prayer for God to change my heart. Immediately my thoughts were drawn to an old Maranatha (I think) song, called “Change My Heart, Oh God.” I’ve heard it recorded by a lot of different people.

Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You

You are the Potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

It’s a simple song, a simple prayer. I have also heard the second line changed to end with the word “new,” rather than “true.” Here is a fascinating clip, featuring a video of a potter creating a jar.

Another way that “change” can work its way into our lives (maybe not so much, these days, though) is in the idea of “loose change.” I don’t get very much of that any more, because I rarely pay for anything with cash. In fact, about the only reason I keep cash on hand, any more, is to tip my Sonic carhop if I’m at a Sonic that doesn’t allow mobile tipping. Oddly enough, that seems to be left up to the individual Sonic store. Nevertheless, the author of today’s reading, known only as “Bob,” suggests a prayer for the “wise use of ‘loose change.'”

What about unexpected schedule changes? Don’t those annoy us or get on our nerves? There is an opportunity for prayer.

So, Father, change my heart, as the song prays. Make it both “ever true” and “ever new.” I pray that You would constantly be changing my heart so that I am more like You. And, as a piece of clay, mold me into whatever You desire me to be. You don’t need my permission, or even my acceptance. You are the Potter, and I am the clay. And the beauty of this is that, should I happen to make a “wrong turn,” somewhere along the way, You can remold me into something new. And help me to always be willing to change my thoughts and opinions, especially as new information is brought to my knowledge. Let me never get too attached to my own thoughts and opinions. Help me to set my mind and thoughts on You, through the meditations You bring me.

Father, thank You for Your great salvation, You doing for us what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. I pray for the salvation of all the world, that all would see Your beauty and majesty and begin to follow and worship You. I continue to pray for the eradication of Covid in our world. I pray for unity within our nation, but more importantly, unity within Your people. May we, as Thomas More writes, may we set our minds upon You and not “hang upon the blasts of men’s mouths.” All glory to You through the Son and by the Spirit!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

The Tent of Meeting

Good morning. Today is Saturday, July 6, 2013. I’m up at 545am to get this done before I go to work today. I’ll be going in at the usual 800am time, hoping I don’t have to work past noon. We’ll see how long it takes. The real bummer is that I won’t get overtime pay for today, because we had a holiday on Thursday. All companies are different. Some pay overtime if you have more than 8 hours in a given day, or work on a day when you wouldn’t normally work. This one only pays overtime if you work more than 40 hours in a week. Oh, well. Moving on.


Today is “Take Your Webmaster to Lunch Day.” I like that. IT people are lonely, sometimes. They should get out more often. Take one to lunch today.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 1535, Sir Thomas More, “writer, humanist philosopher and one-time Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII,” was beheaded in the Tower of London. His crimes? “He refused to support Henry’s claim to supremacy over the Pope, and he refused to attend the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, with the implication that Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon.” The trial was stacked, of course. “Three of the judges were Anne Boleyn’s father, uncle and brother.” The prosecution’s testimony was perjured. More refused to speak, and Sir Richard Riche said this: “Even though we should have no word or deed to charge against you, yet we have your silence, and that is a sign of your evil intention and a sure proof of malice.” Really?? But the true cause of the conviction was that Henry VIII desired it to be so. It is said that More pushed his beard aside before the axe fell, saying, “it has never committed treason.” His last words, spoken to the executioner: “Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office; my neck is very short; take heed therefore thou strike not awry, for saving of thine honesty.” Four hundred years later, Thomas More was declared a saint.


Today’s birthday is, has to be, Burt Ward, born on this date in 1945. Yes, I picked him over a Buffy person. But let’s face it, Warren was nowhere close to my favorite Buffy character. He was my least favorite of The Troika (Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew), and may have been my least favorite recurring character (yes, even more than Dawn). Anyway, back to Burt Ward. His claim to fame was playing Robin, the Boy Wonder, on the TV show, Batman. I had a “boy crush” on Robin. He was my favorite person on the show (can’t really call Robin a “superhero” can we?) and I couldn’t wait to see what kind of trap he and Batman were going to fall into the next week. Here is a clever fan-made video of all of Robin’s “Holy . . . ” from the first season of Batman.

Honorable mentions go to Tia and Tamera Mowry, 35, Dalai Lama, 78, John Paul Jones, 1747-1792, Della Reese, 82, Geoffrey Rush, 62, Bill Haley, 1925-1981, Kate Nash, 26, Janet Leigh, 1927-2004, Laverne Andrews, 1911-1967, Pat Paulsen, 1927-1997, Allyce Beasley, 59, and Adam Busch, 35.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Psalm 107:8-9
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:1-3
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:10-12

“O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.” (The Divine Hours)

Father, while it is true that the majority of our lives is “but toil and trouble,” I still praise you for the life that you have granted me. I ask you this morning, as I “prepare a sacrifice for you and watch,” that you reveal yourself to me in your Word. Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, I ask you to grant me your peace today.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is called “The Tent of Meeting.” The scripture reading is Exodus 33:7-11a.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

“With Moses God chose to be present and not distant, to show his glory, to get up close and personal as when one speaks with a friend.” Moses met with God “face to face” in the tent of meeting. But the amazing thing here, is that all of the Israelites apparently had the same access via that same tent! There is great advantage in developing “individual communion” with God; seeking his direct presence. We find direction when God is present with us (I realize that God is actually present with us at all times, but there are times when that presence is more felt than other times); we have no direction without him. “Intimate, individual communication with God is something that cannot be overlooked in spiritual formation.” We must seek this divine presence. The assurance of God’s greatness and goodness comes from this kind of direct contact with God and is very difficult to find elsewhere. (I say “very difficult” where the author said it “cannot be derived from any other source” because I have experienced this assurance in the corporate worship setting.)

Do you have a favorite location to meet God that serves as your “tent of meeting?” Where is your favorite place to seek communion with God? Does prayer differ in that place than in other places? I have experience several such places in my lifetime. And I can say that, yes, prayer seems to be more powerful in those places. The presence of God seems stronger when I am in a quiet, isolated place, free from distractions. Try to find such a spot for your prayers, not that you have to go there every time you pray, but one you can visit occasionally, to seek that “direct presence” of God.


Father, I thank you for that “direct presence,” that divine communion that is available to any of us who call your name. Just like Israel, we don’t have to be “Moses” to have “face to face” communication with you. You are available, accessible to any of us, and I thank you and praise you for that. We need not see you as some distant deity, who cares little for his creation. You are still directly involved with your creation, caring for us and loving us like we cannot even imagine. I pray that you will help me show people your crazy, overwhelming, steadfast love. I also pray that you help me find some place that I can call my “tent of meeting.” I currently don’t have a good place for that kind of communion with you. This study is fine, and typically pretty isolated. But I crave something better, something outside somewhere.

I pray for this day. I pray that we will be able to get everything done at work quickly, so that we don’t have to stay long. I pray that the audit coming up on Monday will be successful and that we will greatly impress our client. After the work time, I pray for a restful afternoon/evening with Christi and Stephanie.


Look for your “tent of meeting;” that place where you can achieve direct communion with God, without distraction.

Grace and peace, friends.