Overlooking God

Today is Monday, the fourth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,398

Lent is beginning to wind down, as this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday (April 10). April 8 is my mother’s birthday, and as part of the celebration, we plan to visit her and S’s home church in Mineral Wells, for their Easter music. Also, there will be cake. The cake is not a lie. (Bonus points if you get that reference.)

There’s not a lot going on today, so I will get on into the devotional for the day.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Sense of Three,” by Daryl Madden

Sight and sound and taste and more
What are our senses really for?

To open eyes and truly see
The Spirit here surrounding me

To hear His voice, adoringly
The Word of love calling to me

To feel with heart so gratefully
For all the gifts God’s blessing me

A greater view consuming me
The sense within, the Trinity

Please check out more of Daryl’s poetry at the link provided.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:17-20 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit; music from the heart to the Lord
2. that we have water, clean water to drink
3. for flexibility in life, and the willingness to shift direction, when called upon
4. for the presence of God in my life, that I can see and hear and touch; may I not become so used to Him that I forget to notice
5. for places that are away from the hustle of life, places where we can truly rest

Today’s prayer word is “shift.” That’s interesting. Let’s see what they mean by this.

Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward . . .’
(Deuteronomy 2:2-3 ESV)

Ironically, I just read that chapter in the reading plan for today, from my Bible app. The idea here is a “shift” in life direction. I did that last year, myself. At the end of July, I retired and began drawing Social Security. I made the decision a few years early, so I’m not getting the full payment, but it was a good move for me, as I am now working as a part time library aide to supplement the SS.

In my spiritual life, I frequently “shift” directions. Not, of course, the ultimate direction which is always (at least I hope) “God-ward.” But there are times in my life when I must examine the things I have habitually believed and practiced, to make sure that I am still really following in the words and steps of Jesus, as I walk in His kingdom.

We should never be afraid to “shift” our direction. We should never be so comfortable in our beliefs and practices that we refuse to heed better instruction, more scholarly teaching, or even warnings. I don’t know everything. No one knows everything. But there are many who know things better than I, and it would be foolish for me to not at least consider what they have to say, and, then, perhaps, “shift.”

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
(Mark 6:31 ESV)

How often do we need to do exactly this? It is, I firmly believe, one of the reasons that C and I love to get away to Glen Rose, often. It is a secluded place where we can rest. God’s creation has wondrous restorative powers. After all, if we remember, He called it “very good.”

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:31 ESV)

“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.”
(Job 14:7 ESV)

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

Even Jesus, God incarnate, needed to withdraw away from everything and everyone, in order to pray and refresh. By the way, the essential meaning of that word that is translated “desolate” is simply to be alone. It could be translated as “loneliness,” or “solitary.” I think “desolate” conveys a bit of a negative idea there. But I’m not well-versed in the terrain of ancient Israel, so maybe it really was “desolate.”

The point, though, is that we all need rest. And sometimes, it is very good to get out in the midst of God’s creation, alone, to do so.

Eugene Peterson, in a reading called “On the Overlook,” discusses the possibility of overlooking the presence of God in our lives. He brings it home by considering someone who might live at the base of an awesomely majestic mountain. After living there for so long, they might no longer look at the mountain, and almost forget it is there, even though it is the “most significant geographical feature in their lives.”

So it goes in a life with God. He is “obvious, essential, inescapable,” but, over time, we get used to Him, along with His “personal and passionate and gracious and merciful” character. We get caught up in the “urgent” business of life, as we struggle to make ends meet and avoid crises and disasters.

“That is why we work together as a community to have awareness of the great presence of God in our lives. We seek to wake ourselves up, to make sure that the roar of the vacuum cleaner doesn’t drown out the knock of the treasured Guest at the door, to deliberately step out of the fast lane so that we can see and hear and touch the God who is around and within us and can shut up long enough so that we hear and truly listen to the story of God coming to us, born in Jesus. Born in us.”

Have I mentioned how much I love the way that guy could put words together?

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

Father, I am in awe of how close You can be, at times. I mean, You’re always here, just as You are always everywhere. But there are times when I feel it more closely than others. I do confess that there are also times when I forget that You are near me, and I am sorry for that. Life is so much better when I am aware of Your constant presence. The thought that I can almost literally see, hear, and touch You is amazing. Certainly, I can do none of those things, in reality. But I can see, hear, and touch You when I am in the presence of other saints, because we all contain You in our lives. So when I am with my brothers and sisters, like on Sunday mornings, You are present in them, and we can see, hear, and touch one another. May we never grow used to this to the point that we forget just how awesome and amazing You are.

I pray for some time to get away soon, some time when we can go “hide away” in the midst of Your creation, in a lonely place, or a “desolate” place. I sense the need for some refreshing, soon. I thank You that there are places where we can do just that. In the meantime, please make sure that we rest enough.

Thank You that I have the willingness to constantly be shifting my life direction, whenever I sense You leading me differently. I thank You for the major shift that happened last year, and I pray for more direction as I continue to suss out what that looks like.

Thank You, Father, for all Your blessings in our life.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

I Just Want to Celebrate

Today is Thursday, the thirty-first of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,394

This will be my last Thursday to be off from work, as my schedule will officially change, beginning tomorrow. Going forward, I will be off on Fridays and be working from 11:15-8:15 on Thursdays, in the Computer Center. This is all happening because one of our CC aides got a second job, which is being rather uncooperative in regard to his schedule in Hurst, and the other CC aide really didn’t want to work on Thursdays. She is very grateful that I was able to step in and work on Thursdays.

For me, it’s only a mild inconvenience to switch, as it means I will be working two evening shifts a week, and three consecutive days, every other week. This mild inconvenience is offset by having a four-day-weekend every other week. Actually, it is virtually five days, because I don’t go to work until 4:15 on Tuesdays.

I have my vein clinic doctor appointment, this morning, at 10:15. I got an email from them, yesterday (actually Tuesday evening, I think), that outlined what this visit will cost. I’m not sharing it here, but I almost canceled the appointment when I saw it. However, my wife (have I mentioned she’s an angel?) said I should go ahead and do it, because it seems necessary for my health and well-being.

After the appointment, I plan to have lunch with C, since the doctor’s office is in Arlington, which is also where C works. We will probably go to Fred’s Downtown Philly.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
In the light of His glory and grace

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
(Luke 9:35 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the many blessings in my life, too numerous to count
2. for the preeminence of Christ in all things
3. for celebrations that call to remembrance the things that God has done in our lives
4. for the "chutzpah" of the woman in Matthew 15, that shows us that we don't always need to be prim and proper when we pray
5. that God listens

Today’s word for prayer is “celebrate.” There is a lot of that in Scripture, actually. While the word, itself, only occurs in the Bible about a dozen times, the sentiment is there more frequently, especially in the Old Testament, as the people of Israel are commanded to observe various festivals throughout the year.

“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.”
(Exodus 12:14 NIV)

Of course, the number of occurrences of the English word depends on which translation you are reading. It occurs more in the NIV than in the ESV, and only three times in the KJV. The writer of today’s reading, known only as “Michelle,” claims it appears sixty-eight times. I’m not sure which version she is reading, because the NIV only shows it around fifty-five.

All of that is irrelevant, of course.

Celebration is even considered one of the classic spiritual disciplines. The reason for celebration is remembrance. All of the festivals that the ancient Hebrews were expected to observe were to commemorate something that God had done for them. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas (which is commanded, nor even suggested, nowhere in the Bible, by the way). We celebrate His resurrection at Easter (also not commanded or suggested, but the first century Christians shifted their day of worship to the first day of the week, because of Jesus’s resurrection). When we celebrate birthdays, we remember the day that a loved one was born.

Michelle suggests celebrating God’s abundance in our lives, “in a way that would strengthen my journey of faith.” And, while the discipline is considered a “corporate” discipline (one observed by a group or gathering), I believe we can easily celebrate on our own. All that is needed is to have a little “Thank You, God” party.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
(Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
(Isaiah 49:13 ESV)

That sounds like a celebration to me! And here’s the ultimate celebration, one that I cannot wait to participate in.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Revelation 5:11-14 ESV)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." 
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 
But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 
And he answered, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 
She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 
Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." 
And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28 ESV)

Eugene Peterson says, “the woman had chutzpah.” I like that. That is a word that means, “extreme self-confidence or audacity.” She got Jesus’s attention.

“Maybe we don’t have to compose ourselves into postures of reverence before we pray. Maybe we don’t have to know very much about the strategies of salvation before we appeal for help. [Remember yesterday’s prayer word?] Maybe when we feel excluded from the rich banquet of life that everyone else seems to have such easy access to, we need to push our way into the room – elbow our way to the head table and demand at least a portion of the leftovers.

“This is not the polite approach to Jesus that we are taught by our pastors and parents, but it worked once.

“Maybe it will work again.”

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

Father, I thank You for these words today, especially “celebrate.” I know I need to celebrate more. All of Your children (well, most, anyway) need to celebrate more. There is too much whining and complaining going on in the midst of Your people. One looking in from the outside might question whether we have any faith in You at all! Help us to celebrate, to remember the great and marvelous works You have done in, through, and for Your people, throughout history.

You parted the Red Sea as You delivered Your people from Egypt. You split the Jordan River in half so that Your people could enter the Promised Land. You made water come from a rock, and manna appear out of nowhere. You dropped the walls of Jericho like they were made out of paper mâché. You made an axe-head float. I could go on and on and on, and that’s what celebration is all about; remembering those things.

Most importantly, You gave us Jesus, and You displayed the most awesomely wonderful power ever when You raised Him from the dead and lifted Him up to heaven, right in front of His disciples.

Celebrate. I just want to celebrate. Help me to do that today. And I pray for things in my life that will remind me to celebrate. Should I go walking outside, in the midst of nature, put something in front of my eyes that will cause me to remember and celebrate. But also keep my eyes open so that, when You do that, I will see it.

I look forward to joining those multitudes depicted in Revelation and shouting/singing glory to You for all of eternity. That’s the ultimate celebration.

And Father, please give me the “chutzpah” of that woman from Matthew 15. Not that I want to ever be rude or presumptuous in prayer, but also to know that, sometimes, all I have to do is cry out, “help!” Thank You for listening.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Morning Collect for Daily Devotions)

Grace and peace, friends.

“Come Quickly, Lord, to Help Me”

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-third of March, 2022, in the third week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your heart today.

Day 23,386

Yesterday turned out to be a very good day. We got S to her appointment early, and the doctor was ready, so we started early. The setting was a bit unexpected, being in an old office building in The Stockyards of Fort Worth. He had a single room office on the second floor, down a narrow hallway from the elevator. However, the man was charmingly friendly, and upbeat, reassuring us from the start that there would likely be no change in S’s status with the SSA.

There was a brief “interview,” for which C and I were allowed to stay and help with answers. After that, though, there was some testing, for which we had to leave the office. He said it would be a couple of hours, so we set off walking back to Main St., to see if we could find some coffee and breakfast. It was windy and cold, and C didn’t wear a jacket. She was in long sleeves, but it was still chilly. We found a place called The Biscuit Bar. The first place we went into was just a coffee shop, with no real food offerings. It smelled really nice, though.

The Biscuit Bar was just okay. The menu looked good (although a bit pricey), but their coffee machine was on the fritz, so they only had plain black coffee (which was all we wanted, but still not a good thing), and they only had one kind of soda available. There were a lot of “out of order” signs on their self-serve devices. The food was just okay. It wasn’t hot at all, and my tots were practically room temperature. We definitely would not go back there.

After breakfast, we looked for a place to shop, but none of the shops opened until 11:00 AM, and it was just after 10:00. So we headed back to the office building and sat in chairs across the hall from the office. We hadn’t been there long when I got a text from the doctor saying that they were almost finished. He gave us a verbal report when we went back in, and not much had changed. S’s IQ was actually a few points lower, but that is because, he explained, she is older than the last test. The level didn’t actually declined, there is just a bigger gap between her age and the level at which she is performing. Ironically, she spells at a collegiate level, and can read words at an eleventh grade level. However, her comprehension and math skills are at about fifth grade.

He saw no reason for her status to change, going forward. That is good news. So, hopefully, she will begin receiving her SS benefits from my record soon, and we will get her on Medicare.

We had a late lunch, and then I went to my evening shift at the library, which was pretty nice. I’m off today, and not planning to do much at all. I even slept until almost 8:00, this morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

A Holy Invitation,” by Daryl Madden

It’s so beautiful
A Holy invitation
Of us to reflect
On our Lord’s creation

A practice so important
To be aware and find
Precious little moments
To draw unto divine

For its these little moments
As rain drops fill the sea
That prepare the soul
For greater ones to be

So draw close to Him
Through nature of a prayer
With vision of His view
A taste of heaven here

Please check out Daryl’s other poems at the link provided.

And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
(Matthew 20:32-33 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for good results from S's evaluation, yesterday
2. for a day with no real "agenda" today
3. for that question from Jesus, "What do you want me to do for you?"
4. for the constant presence of God in my life
5. for the knowledge that I can be "strong and courageous" when I am doing the work that He has set forth for me, knowing full well that He will never leave nor forsake me

Today’s prayer word is “come.” The thought is a prayer for Jesus to come help us.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
(Psalms 22:19 NIV)

This is not the only place where that phrase occurs.

Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
(Psalms 40:13 NIV)

You probably have noticed that I close out every day’s prayer with these words.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

We know that God is not removed from us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, we do not always feel that presence. It is not unthinkable nor unacceptable to need to pray that prayer, “Come quickly, Lord, to help me.” And, in fact, simply taking a deep breath, closing one’s eyes and whispering, “Come,” can be helpful.

This is good to remember when circumstances become overwhelming. I have been also known to breathe the “Jesus prayer,” multiple times a day.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

While it does not contain the word or request to “come,” it has, in my opinion, the same effect.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
(1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV)

Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.
(Proverbs 19:15 NIV)

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

After we pray for the Lord to come quickly and help us, our typical response should not be to just sit and wait. There are times when that is acceptable, when we need to simply “be still and know.” But most of the time, we should either get busy working or keep working on whatever it is we are doing. David reminds Solomon to be strong and courageous, but also adds the phrase “do the work.” And it is possibly Solomon who tells us later,

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
(Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ESV)

You may say, “that’s easy for you to say, you’re retired!” True, but I still “work.” I have work to do, around the house, and I have my wonderful part-time job at the library, which, as delightful as it is, is still “work.” But I also have the “work” of being faithful to God and proclaiming my gratitude each day. This, too, is “work” that we need to be about. Each of us has different “work” to do, and it isn’t always about the nine-to-five that gets you your paycheck.

So, after you pray to God to come quickly and help you, get busy doing the work that He has for you to do. And be “strong and courageous” about it, because He is with you.

I love what Eugene Peterson says in the short reading called “The Unspeakable Ordinary.” And, once again, this hearkens back to the mention of Brother Laurence, the other day, and his pots and pans.

“We do not become more spiritual by becoming less material. The life of faith takes place where there are rocks and water.” Our lives of faith are mixed in with everything else in our lives: “violence and sex and greed and commerce and government.” Life is unspeakably ordinary, for most of us, and this is where we meet God. We do not become more spiritual by trying to extricate ourselves from this life. The life of faith is quite ordinary.

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

I haven’t taken a look, yet, this week, at the selection on Fasting in Spiritual Classics. This segment is from William Law (1686-1761), and Anglican Priest who lived during the Enlightenment. His most famous writing is called A Serious Call To A Devout and Holy Life.

In this book, Law makes a distinction, in the idea of “private prayer,” to say that “Private prayer . . . does not suppose that no one is to have any witness of it.” He strongly encourages that we should allow near relations to witness our devotion. Then he uses the same word that Augustine used, “ostentation.” Let me look that up again. It means, “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” I have added the emphasis.

We are not to “make public ostentation to the world of our fasting,” says Law. So, the idea of “private prayer” or “private fasting” has more to do with the motivation and heart behind it than it does to do with who witnesses it.

Law brings up the record of Cornelius, from the book of Acts. “Now that this fasting was sufficiently private and acceptable to God appears from the vision of an angel with which the holy man was blessed at that time.” Yet, Cornelius’s family and household servants must have been aware of this fasting, “and were made devout themselves by continually waiting upon him, that is, by seeing and partaking of his good works.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'”
(Acts 10:30-31 ESV)

We must not allow legalism to turn Jesus’s words into absurdity. Law even adds what seems to be a bit of humor (in my opinion) when he says, “For if no one was to fast in private or could be said to fast in private but he that had no witnesses of it, no one could keep a private fast but he that lived by himself.”

Oddly, it may be the case that Law used the Gentile Cornelius as his example because the legalists of his day might be inclined to not accept Cornelius as acceptable to God. This might cause Law’s modern readers (you and me) to take a step back and examine our own tendency to legalism. .

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

Father, I rejoice in the truth that You will never leave nor forsake me, and that I can be “strong and courageous” as I tend to the tasks that You have placed in my life, be they as mundane as sweeping floors and washing pots and pans. Nevertheless, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by anything at all, remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, that all I need to do is whisper “come quickly to help me” and You are right there with me.

I thank You for the example that William Law has given us, in regard to private prayer and fasting, because it sheds “new” light on the subject. Help me to not ever be ostentatious in my prayer or fasting. May it never be for the vulgar purpose of impressing or attracting notice. Keep me humble, Father.

As I walk through the rest of this day, may I find myself resting in Your love and mercy, rejoicing that Your mercies are “new every morning,” and that Your faithfulness is great. I love You, Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Turn, Turn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Today is Wednesday, the ninth of March, 2022, in the first week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts today.

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Paul Militaru, from Romania. Please check out his awesome photography at the link provided.

Day 23,372

The A/C and heater people are supposed to arrive, this morning, between 9 and 10. The work should take most of the day. It is currently pretty cool outside, at 36 degrees, but should get up to around 60 by mid-afternoon.

An update on my computer situation. I finally got all of the files moved to Dropbox, but when I opened up the PC, I couldn’t tell which part was which. I’m also not 100% sure which part is making the noise, so I’m not going to try to swap out the hard drive myself. I have talked to the Computer Center manager at the library, so when I go to work Friday, I will take it with me, and he has agreed to look at it. I’ll take the new hard drive with me, as well.

There’s not much else to talk about, this morning. I’m starting a new devotional book, as I finished Symphony of Salvation, yesterday. The new one is also by Eugene Peterson, called On Living Well.

You might notice that I have not addressed world events that are going on. That is intentional. There are plenty of places you can read/hear about that. My purpose here is to present the Word of God in the best way I can, as positively as I can. My goal is encouragement, not discouragement. I know that I occasionally point out issues and shortcomings in the Church. But that is because I love the Church and I want to see her flourish.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place -
the Most High, who is my refuge -
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
(Psalm 91:9-10)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the Church, the community of saints, faithful and true 
2. for angels who minister to the saints
3. for Salt of the Sound and their beautiful, inspiring music
4. for the way God works in my devotionals
5. for those times when the things of earth go strangely dim

John Henry Newman speaks of Daniel’s two recorded fasts. The first one, I believe was for ten days, in which neither Daniel nor the three Hebrews we know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ate any meat or any of the king’s delicacies. The second was for three weeks.

The result of the first fast was that Daniel and his three friends were all stronger and healthier than the king’s people. On the second fast, Daniel was visited by an angel.

Newman keys in on the angel visit, and notes that, when Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, He was visited and helped by angels. “And so we too may well believe, and take comfort in the thought, that even now, Angels are especially sent to those who thus seek God.” Newman then takes note that Elijah, as well, was strengthened by an angel. We also have record of Cornelius, the Gentile, being visited by an angel when he was fasting.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
(Psalm 91:11-12)

The devil is well-aware of this promise, says Newman, “for he used it in that very hour of temptation. He knows full well what our power is, and what is his own weakness. So we have nothing to fear while we remain within the shadow of the throne of the Almighty.”

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
(Psalm 91:7)

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

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands."
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“The Word was first. The Word was previous to everything else. Before we were conceived and took shape in our mothers’ wombs, before we were born, before anything happened, there was the Word.”

Before anything else existed, sun, moon, stars, trees, flowers, fish, governments, hospitals, schools, “there was the Word.”

I can’t paraphrase this stuff . . . it’s too good.

“If the Word were not first, everything else would have gone awry. If the Word were second – or third or fourth – we would have lost touch with the deep, divine rhythms of creation. If the Word were pushed out of the way and made to be a servant to the action and program, we would have lost connection with the vast interior springs of redemption that flow out of our Lord, the Word made flesh.

“When the Word is treated casually or carelessly, we wander away from the essential personal intimacies that God creates . . . by his Word.” (Emphasis mine)

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

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

It is the season of Lent. We are “supposed” to give up something. I did see a TikTok by a reverend that I respect and follow, suggesting that, maybe, instead of trying to force ourselves to give up something, perhaps we should try to add something positive, such as trying to pray for a person every day.

But this is a “season,” as indicated in Ecclesiastes 3. Almost everyone is familiar with the next ten verses or so of that chapter. Pete Seeger helped us all with that. The Byrds probably made it more famous than Pete, but he wrote the song.

I’ve read over this many, many times, in my life, but it is always “time” to look them over again. The many “times” or “seasons” that the writer of Ecclesiastes notes are as follows:

A time to for birth and a time for death
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to destroy and a time to construct
A time to cry and a time to laugh
A time to lament and at time to cheer
A time to make love and a time to abstain
A time to embrace and a time to part
A time to search and a time to count your losses
A time to hold on and a time to let go (there's a whole bunch of us who need to learn that one)
A time to rip out and a time to mend
A time to shut up and a time to speak up
A time to love and a time to hate
A time to wage war and a time to make peace
(I used The Message for these)

And, as we work our way through the season of Lent, perhaps giving things up and perhaps adding things, there is one thing that we need to do. We need to “Turn” our eyes upon Jesus. It is always time for that.

Today’s prayer word is “ponder.” Isn’t that fitting, based on what I’ve just written?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Ponder,” of course, means “to think about.” To think about carefully, to chew over, to meditate. Unfortunately, we tend to ponder over the wrong things, sometimes.

I have to interrupt myself and simply be awestruck over how my Father works these things out, how all of this works together, this morning. The writer of today’s reading, identified only as “Becky,” writes about trying to go to sleep at night, but as soon as her head hits the pillow, she starts pondering her day, her family members, and then the world and the future and . . . well, you get the picture.

In her case, “ponder” is more like “worry.” And I have most certainly been there. But the writer of Philippians would have us ponder different things. And I’m sure, if he were around today, he would agree with the song above the purple line, and say that all of the things in that verse are summed up by saying, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Because, most assuredly, when you do that, the things of earth grow strangely dim.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help us all to turn our eyes upon Jesus, during these times, so that the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Not that we stop caring, may it never be! But that we stop worrying, fretting, fearing. We are Your children . . . have mercy on us . . . teach us how to obey Your commands to “fear not.” Help us to live Isaiah 41:10 every day, ever minute, throughout all of those many “seasons” listed above. There is NEVER any reason for us to fear, Father!

NOTHING can separate me from Your love in Christ Jesus. None of the things mentioned in those two verse, nor anything else that we could possibly imagine. And, most beautifully, not even my sin can separate me, because of the powerful and efficacious work of my savior Jesus Christ, my Lord! Your Word made flesh, existing before there was anything else, and who will come again to make all things right.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Fixers

The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.”

Good morning. Today is Monday, the seventeenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,321

Six days until Hamilton!

We had a nice gathering, yesterday, for our house church. There were six of us in person, and two on Zoom. We only managed to get through one Psalm (52), but had some good discussion, and great fellowship. I really feel that we are closer to what the first century church did at their gatherings, anyway. We talk about our lives, read some Scripture, and pray together. Occasionally, we also break bread together. One thing I’m missing, though . . . we haven’t taken the supper in a while. I need to bring that up.

C is working from home, this week. She still doesn’t feel great, but feels better than yesterday. We feel like that terrible wind on Saturday blew in some junk or stirred it up in the air. Not even a hint of fever, for any of us, though. I’m sneezing and sniffling a bit, this morning, but have felt pretty much fine for a few days.

There is nothing much on today’s agenda. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to pick up my new CPAP machine, at 11:00 AM. Once I get that and get it set up, I may be looking at changing doctors. C’s doctor has moved from the clinic he was at, along with a couple other associates. I may be switching over to them. I haven’t decided, yet. It’s a lot easier for me to find time to visit a doctor’s office, these days, so they don’t have to be real close. Their new office is on South Main in Fort Worth, close to the “hospital district,” about twelve miles from my house. That’s not too bad, and is about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the time of day.

All the wrong teams won, yesterday. The Buccaneers blew out the Eagles, the 49ers beat the ‘boys, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers. I’ll probably be rooting for the Bills from this point on. It feels like rooting for the end of the world, though, so I don’t know. The Cardinals and Rams play tonight, and I literally could not possibly care less who wins that game.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 
And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." 
(Mark 2:18-22 ESV)

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are being criticized for not doing “religious things,” such as fasting. They are being compared to two different groups, neither of which had much in common. It is worth noting that Jesus, in His response, refers to Himself as “the bridegroom,” and seems to indicate that his “taking away” will be of a violent nature.

As I read this, I consider the idea of “religious things,” and how I feel about them. There is certainly nothing wrong with ritual. I’m somewhat a fan of it, actually. I am drawn toward church settings that employ ritual and liturgy, even though the current setting that I attend does not. I have not, however, ever been able to get a firm grip on the ritual of fasting. I have fasted before, but not on a regular basis.

But when ritualistic things are done “religiously,” without focus on the object (i.e., the “bridegroom”), they are meaningless. Ritual for the sake of ritual is worthless.

I will confess that I have never quite understood the examples of the cloth and the wineskins. I get the technical descriptions and understand the truth that, if you patch and old garment with a piece of new material, and then wash it, the new material will shrink, and destroy the work that was done. And I understand that fermenting wine swells, which would burst a wineskin that had already been stretched out.

What I’m not sure of is how this applies to people and their relationship to Jesus and the Father. I’m looking at some commentary at the moment, in particular by Alexander MacLaren, and it says that, “The attempt was made to keep Christianity within the limits of Judaism; it failed, but not before much harm had been done to Christianity. Over and over again the effort has been made in the Church, and it has always ended disastrously,-and it always will.” This makes sense, and I can see, as the New Testament progresses, that similar disagreements arose, especially concerning things like circumcision.

I would welcome any other thoughts or suggestions regarding this. And as we, as the opening song suggests, turn our eyes upon Jesus, may the things of the earth truly grow strangely dim.

(From Pray As You Go)

I find it interesting that, in Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson takes four chapters to go through the book of Job. Today, I’m in the third of the four, which deals with Job’s “friends” who come try to “fix” him, during his suffering.

And who among us has not experienced something similar to Job? The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.” I actually love that last sentence!

And, you might notice, these people are usually full of “advice” from God’s Word! They tend to play “fast and loose” with biblical quotations. The question is, though, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they’ve said their piece?”

Many of the things that Job’s “friends” said were “technically true.” But it is that “technical” part that spoils them. “They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And here is how Job defended himself:

Then Job defended himself:
 "I've had all I can take of your talk. 
What a bunch of miserable comforters! 
Is there no end to your windbag speeches? 
What's your problem that you go on and on like this?
 If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. 
I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. 
But I'd never do that. 
I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse!
(Job 16:1-5 MSG)

“The book of Job does not reject answers as such. There is content to biblical religion. It is the secularization of answers that is rejected – answers severed from their Source, the living God, the Word that both batters us and heals us. We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.”

And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, 
holding everything in common. 
They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
(Acts 2:44-45 MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: 
Love one another. 
In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 
This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other."
(John 13:34-35 MSG)
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives 
and splashes over on everyone around you, 
just as it does from us to you.
(1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG)

Father, as I turn my eyes toward Jesus, this morning, I pray that my focus may stay sharp. By this point in my life, I am surely an “old wineskin,” but have I been fully stretched to my maximum capacity? I think not. I believe there is still room for me to be stretched, and You continue to do so, as each year goes by. I pray to You, constantly, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. And just when I think I’ve got Your way figured out, You take me a little deeper and show me something that, while it may not be “new,” it is new to me. I pray that I will continue to be receptive to that wisdom and knowledge, as it comes.

I also pray that I would never fall prey to the temptation to be like Job’s friends. We all think we’ve got all the answers, and it is very easy to sit around and instruct someone who is suffering, to tell them why they’re suffering, and what they did wrong to get there. When, truthfully, we have no idea whatsoever. I pray that, when I encounter suffering in others, I would have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it. I also pray that I might have the wisdom to not “say” at all, but to merely sit and listen, or simply be with the person, sitting in silent support. May we not be guilty of citing chapter and verse without having Your mind and heart on the matter.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Father, I pray for continued work in the area of racial reconciliation. We seem to have moved tremendously backward in recent years, and, sadly, driven largely by people claiming to be followers of Christ! May it never be, Lord! Help us, Your people, to be compassionate people who fight for the equality of all men, especially considering how we have been graciously given the salvation that began with Israel! Were it not for Your compassion and Your equal treatment of all people, we “Gentiles” would be permanently lost! Oh, how we seem to have forgotten this. God have mercy on us and help us!

Finally, in the spirit of yesterday’s readings, I invited Jesus to intervene and intercede in our world today. Jesus, please bring forth healing. We beg You to eradicate this plague from our world, and I pray that Your people would demonstrate more willingness to stop thinking selfishly and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Today I am grateful:

1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation
2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them
3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people
4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts
5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, 
standing tall in his bright presence, 
fresh and celebrating— 
to our one God, 
our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master,
 be glory, 
majesty, 
strength, 
and rule before all time, and now,
 and to the end of all time. 
YES. 
(Jude 1:24-25 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

To Which I Can Always Run

Today is Saturday, the tenth of April, 2021. Easter Saturday in the first week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,039

Forty days until our Glen Rose weekend

It’s a chilly morning, currently 52 degrees, but with a projected high of 74. With sunny skies, it promises to be a lovely day.

We made it to the weekend! It will be a bit busier than our normal weekend, as it will include a trip to Mineral Wells for some overdue birthday celebrations. We must remember to bring all of the accumulated gifts. There will be lunch, although the prospective venue has not been identified, as of yet. There will also be, as usual, a trip to the Crazy Water store to stock up on Crazy Water #4.

Tomorrow, our church will not be gathering, as the other two “elders” are going to be out. I am considering returning to St. Barnabas Anglican Church, but have not decided, yet.

We have our usual WW Workshop at 10:30, this morning. Our regular coach will be out this week, which is a bummer, but that’s okay. I’m thinking that I might lose a couple more pounds, on this weigh-in. I’ve had a good week in that area, it seems. Immediately after WW, we will head to the grocery store to pick up our order. And, I believe, we will be getting a Subway sandwich for S, who will not be accompanying us to Mineral Wells.

The Texas Rangers not only lost 3-0 last night, apparently, they were the victims of a no-hitter. Joe Musgrove of the Padres narrowly missed a perfect game, as the only batter to reach base was Joey Gallo on a HBP. Don’t you know Musgrove regrets that pitch? The two teams will play again, tonight, at 6:05 CDT, with Jordan Lyles taking the mound for Texas. He had a good outing for his last start. The Rangers are tied for third place in the AL West, with Seattle, at 3-4.

The Red Sox remain tied for first, at 4-3, with the Orioles, as neither team played last night, and the Rays pounded the Yankees 10-5, which put both of those teams at 3-4, for a second place tie. Toronto brings up the rear at 3-5. The Sox and O’s will play this evening, in Baltimore, with Garrett Richards starting for the Sox.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

This new day You give to me
From Your great eternity
This new day now enfold
Me in Your loving hold

You are the star of the morn
You are the day newly born
You are the light of our night
You are the Savior by Your might

God be in me this day
God ever with me stay
God be in the night
Keep us by Thy light
God be in my heart
God abide, never depart.
(David Adam)

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
(Psalms 71:17-19 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  • that You have been teaching me since my youth (and even before)
  • for Your promise that You will never leave or forsake Your children
  • that You are a rock, a refuge, and a fortress to which I can always run
  • for the forgiveness of sin, made possible by the blood of Jesus, poured out by the Cross
  • for the Living Water

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

EASTER – DAY 7

INVITATION

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1 Peter 1:3 NIV)

I pause, at this point, to quietly reflect on what the Lord has done for me, through the years.

BIBLE SONG

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
(Psalms 71:1-6 NIV)

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.
(Psalms 71:22-24 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I sit in His presence, this morning, I reread these passages, pondering and meditating, asking His Spirit to direct my thoughts.

I begin with Psalm 71:3.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
(Psalms 71:3 NIV)

There are several words that speak to me, in this verse. Words like “rock,” “refuge,” and “fortress” always speak to me in these psalms. Then there’s the phrase, “to which I can always go.”

Here is an important principle for our lives, one I believe we fail to implement enough. Our God is, indeed, a rock, our solid ground. When our feet are planted on the Solid Rock, we cannot be shaken. Our God is also an impenetrable fortress and refuge.

And the truth of that phrase cannot be overestimated. We can always go to this rock, this refuge, this fortress.

When I am having a bad day, when things aren’t going the way I think they should be; when my mental state is spiraling downward, and my emotions are running amok; these are times in which I need to avail myself of the infinite availability of the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my God.

But the thing is, I have to make the effort to do this. It has to be something that I intentionally set out to do. I have made the mistake, in the past, of letting those emotions have their way with me, and that never ends well. This morning, though, when I felt the negativity creeping in on me, I saw this verse. I moved myself, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, into the rock, refuge, and fortress that is my Father in Heaven.

When I am firmly planted in there, nothing can reach me that He does not want to reach me.

And, to link the passages, when I am firmly planted in there, the admonition in Colossians comes to fruition. When I run to the refuge of the Lord, it is much easier to keep my mind set on things above. This prepares me for when I have to deal with “worldly” things, like work and whatnot.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
(Colossians 3:2 NIV)

Father, I praise You for being my rock, my refuge, and my fortress, to which I can always go, to which I can always run. Please remind me, by Your Holy Spirit, when I feel the pressures of life closing in on me, when I feel the negative emotions crowding me, to run to this refuge, where Your loving arms will enfold me and protect me. How I love this feeling, Father, the feeling of Your arms around me, holding me close, keeping “bad” things away from me, at least for a moment or two. And in this, I ask that You also help me to focus on things above, rather than things of the earth.

Lord God,
I pray that my capacity to know and experience life might be magnified in Christ.
By your grace set the eyes of my heart on Jesus,
giving me a widened imagination to see everything from your perspective,
to live in faith,
and to love my Savior.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.13)

BLESSING

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:7-14 ESV)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
(Psalms 103:11-12 ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Father, I praise You for the forgiveness that is ours. I thank You for the “new creation,” both that which has already happened, and that for which we wait. Thank You for the Living Water of Jesus Christ. May I, along with all of Your children, drink deeply today.

Lord, I pray that Your Spirit will grow Your Church and cause her to flourish, throughout the world. May we all experience worship that glorifies You and that gathers, unites, and blesses Your people. May we all have a positive and helpful witness in our communities, spreading Your light as we walk.

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!

Grace and peace, friends.

Focus

Today is Thursday, December 10, 2020, in the second week of Advent.

Peace be with you.

Day 22,918

Fifteen days until Christmas

I don’t have much to write about today. Yesterday was a busy, challenging day, again full of opportunities to “lose it,” so to speak. I did not go down that path, but there were a few moments during the afternoon when I felt somewhat defeated, as my email inbox continued to grow faster than I could respond to them. It felt like all I did was respond to emails, yesterday. I’m sure my wife can relate.

I have my second (and perhaps first “real”) therapy session today at noon. I feel like I have some “ammunition” for the session, as I have taken some notes about my feelings and mindset throughout the past week. I need to add to them the fact that, when I got up at 4:00 this morning to use the bathroom, I never really went back to sleep.

Moving toward the weekend, I don’t know of any plans that we have. We are looking forward to getting away for a few days next week, as we have Thursday and Friday off, booked at our favorite cabin in Glen Rose. No better place to isolate ourselves. We plan to do something similar to what we did in Oklahoma, food-wise. We will pack our cooler with breakfast food and cook our own, each morning. I doubt we will “eat in” at any restaurants on this trip. And we may not have, even if there weren’t a pandemic going on. Since we are trying to eat more healthy, we don’t want to mess that up, you know. There is a Subway store down there, so we may order out from there, and we may also take something else that we can cook down there. Mostly, we are looking forward to the deck, rocking chairs, and hot tub. At this point, the weather forecast looks very nice.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

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

Scriptures and Prayers from The Divine Hours

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
(Psalms 96:9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. The peace in my soul, in spite of everything else
  2. For the light of Your countenance, shining upon us
  3. That if I delight myself in You, You will give me the desires of my heart
  4. For Salt of the Sound and their delightful music
  5. That You hold my hand

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

Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
(Psalms 119:164 ESV)

May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
(Psalms 25:21 ESV)

One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
(Luke 20:1-8 ESV)

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
(Psalms 37:1-7 ESV)

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, 
have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace.
(Agnus Dei)

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)

Advent: Prepare For The Coming Of The Word

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
(Isaiah 41:13-20 ESV)

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
(Matthew 11:11-15 ESV)

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)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:2-3 ESV)

This is, perhaps, the best advice one could get during these days. We keep talking about how horrible 2020 has been, and, yes, it is one of the worst years that I can ever remember. It even surpasses 2016 (the celebrity apocalypse year, also the year my mother-in-law passed, I think). Between the pandemic and the circus that has been the political arena this year, it has just been a terrible year.

And still there are people vainly hoping that everything will somehow magically get better on January 1.

But if we follow Paul’s advice in Colossians 3, none of this really matters. Oh, sure, it matters that we try to take good care of ourselves during this pandemic, and, in doing so, also try to protect the health and safety of others, most especially those who are more susceptible.

But here’s a shocker. The politics, in the long run, truly don’t matter at all. My life is not going to change very much, if at all, because of who occupies the White House over the next four years. And even if it did, if I’ve got my eyes on “things above,” or “heavenly things,” it won’t matter.

Followers of Jesus have a true edge on non-believers, here. And while they might consider us to be oblivious, I’m anything but oblivious. I can see what’s going on around me. Apparently, I see other things than a lot of my friends. Nevertheless, I am aware. But I choose to hang the hat of my hope on something more durable and eternal. I will keep my eyes on things above, not on things of the earth.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace."

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:4-5 ESV)

Father, keep my eyes on You! It is tempting, so very tempting, to let the things that are going on in our world and our country, right now, occupy my thoughts and get me depressed, disturbed, and cause me to lose hope. But I will not do those things. I will, I WILL, keep my eyes on things above, that the things of the earth will grow strangely dim. Thank You that Your face shines on us. Thank You that if I delight myself in You, You will give me the desires of my heart. Hallelujah!

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!

Grace and peace, friends.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

“For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.”~~Jesus Christ to Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is a lazy Sunday morning, May 4, 2014. (Took a break for lunch, so it’s afternoon now.)

Today is Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you. If you don’t get it, read it out loud. Maybe that will help. Unless you’ve never seen any Star Wars movies, in which case you can celebrate Petite and Proud Day, or Firefighters’ Day.


I succeeded in getting the oil changed in my car yesterday, and Christi spent more time with her mom and step-dad, helping them get the car they bought. Yes, they bought a used Hyundai (pronounced like “Sunday”) Sonata. 2012, I believe. Low mileage, too. Anyway, they are planning to move out of the “senior living” place where they are and move into a normal (but handicapped access) apartment. The reason they don’t like the “senior living” place is that there are too many “old people” there. Um. . . never mind.

We had our church service yesterday evening, as usual, and after that, Christi went out with the “huddle girls” (plus one lady who is not in our huddle), and they had dinner at Cotton Patch. She said that she had a fantastic time. Stephanie and I went home (after stopping at Whataburger) and I watched Thirteen Ghosts (the modern remake of the William Castle classic). I really wanted to watch O, Brother Where Art Thou?, but my DVD of that movie seems to be missing. Perhaps I loaned it to someone. Anyway, Thirteen Ghosts is great fun (somewhat gory and stuff, but still fun).

Today is pretty much wide open. A nice restful Sunday before going back to . . . hey, wait! I’m off tomorrow, because I have to so to a doctor’s appointment to get meds refilled. Huzzah!

This word just in! Christi is going up to the store to get some bacon, biscuits, and eggs to make breakfast! Double Huzzah!!!

huzzah


(Source: Christian History Institute)

On this date in 1856, Dwight L. Moody, was granted membership at Mount Vernon Church in Boston, after having been previously rejected due to “complete ignorance of Christian truth.” Moody would eventually become a world-renowned preacher.


It’s the birthday of Audrey Hepburn, Robin Cook, and George Will. It’s also the birthday of Maynard Ferguson, famous jazz trumpeter. We were all completely awe-struck by Maynard, when I was in high school. In fact, I think our stage band played his arrangement of “MacArthur Park.” Maynard passed in 2006.

Does anyone else think he looks like Tim Robbins?


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.

Psalm 47:5-8
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Psalm 67:3
Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
Psalm 96:10a
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4
Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111

“For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.”


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33


When a great army was coming against Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, instead of cowering in fear, he turned to the one source of his strength, God Almighty. In doing so, he recounted the great works that God had done for them. The final words of his prayer were, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (2 Chronicles 20:12) How many times have we been in situations where we knew not what to do? We may not have a great horde coming against us, but there are many times in our lives when we simply do not know what the answer is. In those times, we need to echo the prayer of Jehoshaphat. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Later, Jehoshaphat said these words to the people of Judah: Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. (20:15) And then, in verse 17: You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.

How many times do we fight when we don’t need to? The Lord is with us. The battle is not ours, but his.


Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Experiencing His Love.”

During the winter of 1968-9, Brennan Manning lived in a cave in the mountains of the Zaragosa Desert in Spain. How many of us can make a claim like that?? On Decmeber 13, he writes about a “long and lonely hour of prayer.” This is what he heard Jesus say to him: “For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.”

Brennan says these words are burned on his life. Regardless of the condition he is in; regardless of his current emotional state, “that night of fire burns on.” The wounds of Jesus cry out to us: “This isn’t a joke. It is not a laughing matter to me that I have loved you.” No one has ever loved us, no one will ever love us as Jesus has loved us. Brennan writes that, after a length of time, contemplating what he had heard Jesus say to him, he went out of the cave, stood at the edge of the mountain, and shouted “into the darkness, ‘Jesus, are you crazy? Are you out of your mind to have loved me so much?'”

Only those who have experienced the love of Jesus Christ can know what it truly is. Once we have experienced it, “nothing else in the world will seem more beautiful or desirable.”

He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me
was love.

Song of Solomon 2:4


“My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, My Jesus ’tis now.

“I love thee because thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, My Jesus ’tis now.

“I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

“In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”

My Jesus, I cannot thank you enough for loving me the way you do. I can easily understand my brother Brennan’s response to that momentary realization of the magnitude of your love for us. The ugliness of my sin makes it that much more incredible, because you already knew all of this before you went to the cross. My brain cannot comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth” of your love! But I love you for it, nevertheless. I pray that you would take this love and permeate my soul with it. May the love that you showed me overflow into everyone that comes close to me. Take away my negative spirit. Take away the cynical, sarcastic side of me. Oh, sure, it’s funny, at times. But I don’t care if I’m funny. I don’t care if people laugh at me. My desire is to be a serious channel of your crazy, overwhelming love. I want to be crazy right along with you.

I pray for the rest of this day. It will be mostly a day of rest, in preparation for the week ahead. I pray that Christi will get some job news tomorrow, hopefully good news. May we work from our rest. I also pray for help in getting my rhythm of life back. I understand that it cannot be the same as it was before. But a new rhythm needs to be established. I need your wisdom in order to accomplish this. I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are upon you.

Your grace is sufficient.


When you don’t know what to do, simply turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.

Grace and peace, friends.