Listen

Today is Saturday, the thirtieth of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,424

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

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)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the wonderful day that we had yesterday
2. for the prediction of a pretty day today
3. that the journey I am on is a marathon not a sprint; I don't know how long I have, but I do know that I cannot accomplish everything that I'm supposed to accomplish in a short amount of time; I must have endurance
4. for the conviction that I need to do better at listening
5. for the boldness to proclaim that a) humanity is terribly broken, and b) that God is working mightily to fix that

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’”
(Acts 13:38-41 NLT)

Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
(Joshua 21:45 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “listen.” This is a pretty important word. Our culture, in general, has forgotten how to listen.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~ Stephen Covey

It is my opinion that most people who claim to be followers of Christ think that prayer is asking God for stuff. Primarily, that means that they talk to God for a few minutes, then “close the door” and go on about their day.

Trust me, I have been guilty of that.

And, while most of the definitions of prayer that you can find only seem to indicate our part of outward expression, it also includes listening to what God says back to us. And, in some ways, it could be said that, even in prayer, God initiates, not us.

I kind of like the Wikipedia definition of prayer. “Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified ancestor. More generally, prayer can also have the purpose of thanksgiving or praise, and in comparative religion is closely associated with more abstract forms of meditation and with charms or spells.”

The writer of today’s reading, Evan, speaks of being assigned to a specific ministry where his job was to listen, not talk. “It occurred to me, that’s what I’d been doing with God. I’d been talking up a storm to Him, but listening, really quieting my mind and hearing Him speak? Not so much. The difference was amazing, as if an entire world had been opened up to me, simply by learning to listen.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

If you were to listen in on a conversation in my family, you might surmise that not a single one of us knows how to listen, because we constantly interrupt each other. I catch myself doing it all the time. We don’t intend to be rude to one another. It’s just a habit that has been developed in our society.

I have, for many years, now, been captivated by what God said to the three disciples, upon Jesus’s transfiguration.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
(Mark 9:7 NLT, emphasis mine)

Ever since I took note of that little three-word command, I began to try to pay more attention to the words of Jesus, recorded in Scripture. But I need to carry that even farther. I need to work more at listening to the Holy Trinity in my spirit. And this is the intent of meditation and contemplation.

Father, help me to be a better listener. Today, in my conversations, help me to stop and listen with intent to understand. And, when my tongue revs up to speak, help me to stop it, especially if the other person is not through speaking. Moreover, help me to listen better to You, the Son, and the Spirit, as I walk through my days. And in moments like these, help me to be in a more meditative state, fully concentrating on what You would say to me.

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
(Psalms 37:5 NLT)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.
(Proverbs 16:9 NLT)

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
(Proverbs 21:5 NLT)

"You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last"
(Rush, Marathon)

We live in a culture where everything is instant. Everything has been “instant,” now, for decades. We get so impatient when we have to wait for things. Yesterday, on our trip back from Mineral Wells, we were delayed in traffic at least four times. Two of those times were because of accidents on the freeway.

But I can truthfully tell you that we never once got impatient or stressed. If you knew me, you would know how huge that is. We enjoyed our time together and it simply didn’t bother us. Although I did joke, a time or two, about what the Waze app told me would be our ETA if I had avoided freeways (I was thinking about that, because we would be hitting Fort Worth in the thick of rush hour).

In todays’ Daily Guidposts article, Tia McCollors remembers a time when one of her kids told her, “Big things take time.” Our lives are “big things,” although in the scope of eternity, they are but a speck of dust. They are big things to us. And the Christian life, this journey that we are on, is a marathon, not a sprint. We cannot accomplish everything in a few days or weeks.

Every one of those passages up there is applicable. Trust is the most important thing in living the Christian life. We must trust that our God knows what He is doing, and that He will, in fact, direct our steps. We can make plans, yes. But we must be prepared for the times when God has other ideas.

Father, I believe I have gotten better at trusting You, but there is always room for improvement. I still get frustrated with myself when I don’t progress as quickly or as much as I believe I should have. Help me to trust You more in everyday things. Help me to believe that You are directing my steps, and that You will work all things out for good in my life. Give me endurance; help me last and not “burn out.” Honestly, Father, I believe with all my heart that there is no excuse for a Christian to ever burn out.

There are two things that the Psalms tell us, both of which are astonishingly accurate. Peterson calls them “the most accurate mirrors of the human heart we have.” But they tell us these two things: “humanity is involved deeply in unhappiness and wrongdoing, and God is cosmically involved in both a glorious creation and a gracious redemption.”

There is a boldness in which we must live, based on these two truths. First, “we must be bold in admitting who we are: people who fall far short of God’s will and who often are active accomplices in plans to thwart or destroy his will. If at any time we fail to do this, we become self-righteous, arrogant, pontifical, and almost insufferable to those outside the church.”

I want everyone to read those last two sentences again. And then I want to point out that it’s not just “those outside the church” who find those to be insufferable. I am constantly saddened by the rampant self-righteousness of those who claim to be Christ-followers who can’t seem to admit the truth of those two sentences.

There is a reason that confession is included in the early part of the Christian worship service. It is not to make us feel bad about ourselves. That is not the point at all. It is to “get the whole human affair into perspective and have a base from which to work.” It’s a good starting point.

We must also, however, be bold in “proclaiming God’s mighty acts.” One of the primary reasons we exist is “to tell a world already full of doubt, skepticism, contradictory evidence, hopelessness, sorrow, and death that God is the creator and redeemer, that God loves his creatures and will redeem and restore them to full health and fellowship with himself. This is the boldness that our time, more than most, needs us to proclaim.” (Emphasis mine)

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

Father, I know my condition, because I believe the things that Your Word tells me about us. But I also know what You are doing and have done to fix that condition. The work of Christ on the Cross was the primary means of fixing our condition. And after that was completed, You sent the Holy Spirit to continue the work in sanctifying us, daily.

I am broken. We are all broken. This world is terribly broken, and it is sin that has done this. The Cross of Christ has done its work to erase sin in our lives. It has not simply covered it up like the OT sacrifices, but has effectively washed us clean. You have tossed our sins as far as the east is from the west, and have promised that You remember them no more. This astonished me to a degree that I cannot comprehend, because I, as a human, am incapable of intentionally forgetting things. I still remember sins from my adolescence, even though, in Jesus Christ, it is as though they never happened.

Thank You, Father, for all the might works that You have done and continue to do. I look forward, with great anticipation, to the day when all of this is completely restored and we will dwell in peace and safety with You for all eternity.

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

Grace and peace, friends.

Looking for the Good Stuff

Good morning. Today is Saturday, the ninth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,403

Yesterday was a pretty good day, over all. There was a period of tenseness, at one point, because I made a bad decision about when to go pick up Freebirds for dinner. I foolishly decided to go between 4:30 and 5:00. Not only was the restaurant behind, but traffic was horrible, as I tried to get home. Lesson learned.

Otherwise, the day was great. Well, hold on. The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox both lost their opening day games. The Sox went extra innings to lose to the Yankees, and the Rangers’ bullpen blew a 7-0 lead against the Blue Jays. It’s just one game, though. One out of 162.

The cake was very delicious. Did I mention that C made a strawberry cake?

The cats want to eat the flowers

Those are the flowers that I went out and bought before I even started my morning routine, yesterday. And that’s Rocky on the left and Luna on the right.

Fortunately, in spite of the difficulty in obtaining it, the food from Freebirds was delicious. And we enjoyed watching the Rangers game together.

Today, we plan to go out for lunch in a little while, and then head over to a gift shop in Keller, where a relative of mine is autographing copies of her newest children’s book. She’s the sister of my aunt-by-marriage, so I’m not sure what you call that. I suppose she’s sort of my aunt, as well, but only by marriage . . . there is no blood relation. So far, the Internet has been no help in answering that question.

Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Minerals Wells, to FBC, for their Easter music presentation, as it is Palm Sunday. We plan to pick up something and have lunch at the home place, and Mama will probably pick out a few more things to bring back to Fort Worth. At some point, there’s set of chairs and a table on the back deck, that we want to bring over and put on our back porch. But I don’t think we will be able to fit that tomorrow.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

The Answer Is Yes,” by Daryl Madden

The question from our God
Of our life to bless
Will you accept my love?
Let our answer be yes!

The precious gift of grace
A humble soul, confess
Will you receive my mercy?
Let our answer be yes!

With your gifts bestowed
Our purpose to profess
Will you live my calling?
Let our answer be yes!

Of our life’s unknowns
In times of fear and stress
Will you trust in Me?
Let our answer be yes!

For life is a practice
So, we don’t have to guess
With Me to dwell, forever?
With joy, we answer, yes!
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for another day to celebrate with my family
2. for the ability to sing praises to God
3. for the therapeutic value of humming a happy tune
4. to be a sheep of Jesus Christ
5. that the "good stuff" is found far beyond "the crowd"

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is interesting. It is “hum.” You know, as in when you don’t know the words, you just hum?

“There’s no better way to calm your mind and boost your spirits than by humming a happy tune.” ~ Psychology Today

The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of exhortation to sing praises to God. But what if you can’t sing? I know people who couldn’t carry a tune in an iron-clad safe! What are they supposed to do? Well, I know . . . the Bible also says, “Make a joyful noise.”

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

I once knew a man who would whistle during the hymns at church.

Jennie, today’s writer, brings up the idea of kazoos. If there is anyone out there who does not know what that is (and I’m not talking about the little green guy that troubled Fred Flintstone), it’s a musical instrument through which sound is created by humming! There is a mouthpiece, followed by a piece of thin paper of some kind, a membrane that vibrates when you hum through it, making a buzzing noise.

Of course, if you can’t really sing in tune, I don’t know that you could hum in tune, either.

In all seriousness, though, our writer for today has a good point. Even if one has a decent singing voice (I’ve been told that I do), humming can be therapeutic, and even cathartic.

It can also annoy people, though, so discretion is advised.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 28:2 ESV)

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
(Deuteronomy 28:6 ESV)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
(Psalms 32:8 ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(John 10:27 ESV)

These are some good verses. Especially the bit in John 10, which is one of my favorite chapters.

Daily Guideposts 2022 writer, Tia McCollors, uses her son’s Easter egg hunt experience to illustrate a great concept, that of not going along with, or going beyond, “the crowd.” I would like to think that I fall into that category.

You see, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I am an only child. No brothers and sisters to play with. One would think that this would cause me to grow up not knowing how to share. I don’t think that is true. I like to think I’m pretty generous, these days.

And, while I did have friends, it never bothered me to play alone. And it still doesn’t. In fact, I struggle, sometimes, with playing with others. The phrase “does not play well with others” comes to mind.

I even wrote a song, once upon a time, in honor of my mother (it was called “Mama Won’t You Hold Me Just A Little Longer”) that talked about being left out a lot. The bridge went something like this:

I'm still the one who gets left out 
because I don't like to play their games.
But now I run to a different One
Because my Mama taught me well
To the One who knows all my pain
To Him my sorrows I can tell

There are actually a couple of lines up there that I can’t remember, and the song lyrics, sadly, have been lost, I’m afraid. There may be a recording of it somewhere, but it’s likely on a cassette. Also, the last chorus shifts from “Mama, won’t you hold me” to “Jesus, won’t You hold me.” I thought it was clever.

The point is, though, that I don’t tend to “follow the crowd.” Yet, I would gladly consider myself a “sheep” for Jesus’s sake. I am one of His sheep. I like to think I know His voice, and follow Him. And it is exactly those truths that make me tend to not follow even the “religious” crowd.

Like Tia McCollors’s son in the Easter egg hunt, I realize that all the “good stuff” is beyond where the crowd tends to be.

Continuing to speak of Jesus, Eugene Peterson reminds us that His parables often make us look beyond what we call our “real world.” We tend to reduce His words to make them fit into our own preconceived ideas about what life should be like.

But, says Peterson, “Jesus’s words bring us the news of an expanded world, a bright world, a full-dimensional world – a world in which God rules, mercy is a common experience, and love is the daily working agenda, not an occasional romantic interlude. Jesus’s words orient us to the world that is changed from the inside out by his arrival and rule.”

That is the world I want to be part of. I don’t want to be part of a world where people who claim to be following Jesus spew hatred and meanness to anyone who looks different from them or thinks different from them. And that’s why I look beyond the crowd for the “good stuff.”

That is not “Christianity.” That is a cult.

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

Father, first, I thank You for the ability to sing Your praises. You have blessed me with that ability, and I strive to use it for Your praise and glory. I am also grateful for the concept of humming. Sometimes it makes one feel better just to hum a happy tune.

I am also grateful to be considered one of Your sheep. Some people use the term derogatorily, but it doesn’t offend me. I’m glad to know Your voice, at least I hope I do, and follow Jesus as He leads.

Help me to always be looking for the “good stuff,” far beyond the crowd. Help me to never try to water down Your words by trying to make them fit into our concept of what reality is. I know that reality is what I bump into when I am wrong about something, or when I make a bad decision. Reality doesn’t always fit where I want it to be. But You are the true Reality and Jesus is the Truth and the Life, and my Way to reach You.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Times of Refreshing

Today is Wednesday (Hump Day), November 18, 2020. Peace be with you!

Day 22,896

Eight days until Thanksgiving

Yesterday saw 157,261 new Coronavirus cases in the U.S., down a few thousand from Monday. Illinois led the states, with 12,601. Texas was right behind them, with 10,678.

Yesterday was somewhat better, emotionally. By the end of the day, I was feeling much better. There are times, especially times like this week, that I truly believe that I ought to get some kind of therapy. I’ll probably be fine for the rest of the week, but days like Monday just hit me, without warning, and without any identifiable reason.

I did fall out of my high chair on my head when I was a child. Mwahahahaha!!!

Okay. That’s a joke that only true crime fans would understand.

Okay. Time to move on . . .

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

O, Lord, please make this true in my life!

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Traditional Doxology)

Today I am grateful:

  1. For a better mental and emotional state
  2. That I am alive and awake
  3. That with You, all things are possible
  4. That the people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light
  5. That “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
(Psalms 43:3-4 ESV)

“Splendor and honor and kingly power are Yours by right,
O Lord our God,
For You created everything that is,
and by Your will they were created and have their being.”
(A Song to the Lamb)

“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.”
(Psalms 81:11 ESV)

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:23-26 ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.
O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!
(Psalms 99:5-9 ESV)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

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)

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

“In Him is where I’ve always been refreshed. In Him is where I can cast my cares and trust that no matter the day, His grace is sufficient.”
(Tia McCollors, Daily Guideposts 2020)

For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
(Jeremiah 31:25 ESV)

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

Qoph.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law.
But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.
(Psalms 119:145-152 ESV)

In this stanza, we see a recap of the day of this man of God. He gets up before dawn to pray and meditate and cry out to God for help. Late at night, he also meditates on God’s Word. Later, in verse 164, we will see him say that he praises God seven times a day.

“Many monastic orders follow this literally and have seven set daily times for prayer and reading. But since the number seven signifies completeness or totality, we learn that we should make the prayerful study of the Word one of the top priorities for our time, something that is never squeezed out by other things.”

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

Those seven times are, essentially, starting at 6:00 AM and happening very three hours until midnight.

I believe that set times are important. I don’t follow them exactly, but each day I have several times of prayer and meditation. This is one of them, and begins roughly at 6:00 AM. On my drive to work, each day, I listen to the day’s episode of “Pray As You Go,” and app by Jesuits in the UK (Irish, I think, but not certain). Then I also listen to a selection of Scripture on the YouVersion app. After that, either silence for the remainder of the trip or another meditation from another source.

Then, at my 10:00 AM break (give or take a few minutes), I read, meditate, and pray from the second day’s reading in The Divine Hours.

I don’t share this in a boasting way. I share this as evidence of what it takes to keep me going every day. Without these tools, without this constant attention to God’s Word, prayer, and meditation, my life would be just another typical human life, with no spiritual strength or power.

I keep meaning to finish the day with the evening DH reading, but frequently forget. I would also like to start a habit of “Examen,” wherein I think back over the day and look at victories and failures, as I get ready to rest for the next day.

Father, I thank You that You have put it in my heart to thirst for You as the deer thirsts for streams of water. O, lead me to that still water and those green pastures; make me lie down, from time to time, to rest in You. I heard a song lyric, yesterday . . . something like, “I can rest; it’s all in Your hands.” Make that so in my life, every day, as I refresh my life with You. Don’t ever let me fall into the trap of thinking that I can live without these times of refreshing!

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!

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.