All Grace

Today is Saturday (right?), the ninth of October, 2021.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,221

Only three days until our 36th wedding anniversary!

I had another great day at the library, yesterday. I helped one patron with her employment application website, although “helped” may be stretching it. We were both confused when she left, as the site said she had submitted an application, but nothing was showing up when she clicked to review it. It was too close to closing to keep going, though. I had never used the particular site she was on, so I didn’t know much about it.

We have a regular patron who seems to be helping people with things like citizenship applications and what-not. I initially thought he was some kind of legal counsel, but the other librarians said no, that he is a pastor who is helping people with things, and doesn’t get any money from them. That’s pretty cool.

Then I helped several people with printing needs, from resumes to pay stubs. The young woman who printed her resume seemed somewhat desperate. That made me sad.

We had our homemade pizza with cauliflower crust for dinner last night. That’s always good. C and I watched one of the new episodes of Leverage: Redemption, via Prime Video. It’s featured on IMDB TV, but is available through Prime.

I got my first Interlibrary Loan, yesterday. It’s a collection of stories by one of the SF Grand Masters, Jack Williamson, called Spider Island, and includes a story called “The Blue Spot,” which was published in 1935. I have been unable to find that story, and the collection, even though published in 2002, is out of print and very hard to find. At least hard to find for less than $100, which I’m not willing to pay for a book. I just want to read it, not collect it. So one of my new friends at the Hurst Library found it for me. At the TCU Library, of all places! I was quite surprised at that. I have a couple weeks to get it finished, so I will get right on it as soon as I finish the book on the Hamilton musical. I’m about a third of the way through that one.

Today, C and I are going ahead with our plan to drive up to Oklahoma, to Winstar Casino. Between us, we have $100 of bonus play and $50 of meal vouchers, so that should be a good time. Tomorrow, we may go to a craft fair at the Hurst Conference Center. That, of course, depends on how C feels after going to Winstar today.

My next library shift is Tuesday evening 4:15-8:15, in shelving.

Oh! I almost forgot. Baseball! The big news (at least for me) is the Red Sox trouncing the Rays, 14-6. It started of with a bang (and the Sox being down 5-2 after one inning), and never let up. Home runs galore, on both sides. One thing for sure, Chris Sale is not up to snuff. Don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he never had control of that game. So the teams will head to Fenway for game three tomorrow, series tied 1-1.

The Astros beat the Other Sox, 9-4, to take a 2-0 lead in that series. Their next game will be in Chicago, tomorrow. The Brewers beat the Braves 2-1, to take 1-0 lead in that series, which will continue in Milwaukee today. And the Giants shut out the Dodgers 4-0, to also take a 1-0 lead in their series, which will also continue in San Francisco today. If I’m pulling for a NL team, it’s the Brewers. I have no reason to like the Braves, and plenty of reasons to not like LA or SF. And, frankly, if the Red Sox lose their series to the Rays, I’m out for the season, because I don’t want any of those AL teams to win.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Letting Soul, by Daryl Madden

Soaking of the morning
Of senses here to fill
To be fully present
Letting the soul still

Psalm of song in silence
Caress of a soft breeze
Fragrance to awaken
Setting soul at ease

Blessed within the light
A drifting of above
Receiving sacred gifts
To shower soul in love

Heart of preparation
Aware and fully here
So grateful is our being
To offer soul in prayer

With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.
(1 Chronicles 16:41 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for Twisted Pine Highlander Grogg coffee
2. for Heman and Jeduthun and "the rest of those chosen," who had one job, to give thanks to the LORD
3. for the call on my life to have a heart of gratitude and live a life of kindness (pray for me, because I don't always succeed in those tasks)
4. that I'm a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than what you think I am
5. that salvation is purely of grace, totally worked by the right hand and holy arm of God

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

ORDINARY TIME – WEEK TWENTY – DAY SEVEN

INVITATION

He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the loving kindness of Yahweh.
(Psalms 33:5 WEB)

As I pause for quiet reflection I wonder if the earth is really full of His loving kindness. I suppose it depends upon your perspective. You have to look beyond its inhabitants to see it.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm.

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
(Psalms 98:1-6 NIV)

BIBLE READING

“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me,
who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
“He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.”
(2 Samuel 22:47-51 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

Another quiet pause of reflection. What is the Holy Spirit saying to me, this morning?

In Psalm 98, another “orphan psalm” (it has a title, but no author), I take note of the line that says, “his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” As well as the next line, that says that He has made His salvation known, and that His righteousness has been revealed to the nations.

Paul the Apostle testifies to this truth in the first chapter of Romans.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
(Romans 1:20-21 NIV)

Who has worked salvation? God. Not man. Again, in Ephesians, Paul testifies to this truth.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

My salvation is in the hands of God and God alone. It has never been, nor will it ever be, in MY hands, nor is it in the hands of any other human being.

When I was an adolescent, there was a common myth being taught in “witnessing training” classes, that if I failed in my responsibility to “witness” to person X, person X might die and go to hell, so I’d better do my duty.

With all due respect to whomever respect is due, that’s a crock of you know what.

For one thing, we should never, EVER use guilt and/or shame to induce people to witness to others. There is no place for manipulation in the kingdom of God. And you can’t “manipulate” someone into the kingdom, anyway.

For another thing, why would anyone believe that God would leave our salvation in the hands of imperfect, totally fallible, humans?? If your salvation, your “ticket” for that “train” is in my hands, you’d better run, my friend. Because I’m a sinner, just like you. Probably worse than you. I’m reminded of a great line from one of my favorite Christian bands, The Choir. It’s in this song, “What You Think I Am.”

I'm a dedicated minister,
And a downright sinister man;
I'm a whole lot better
And a whole lot worse
Than what you think I am.

This has become my all time favorite song by The Choir, because I see myself in it. There’s a meme I’ve seen circulating on Facebook lately. It says something like “Everyone has chapters that they don’t want read out loud.” Yes, sir. That’s me.

I'm a good Samaritan,
And a very, very bad man;
I'm a whole lot better
And a whole lot worse
Than what you think I am.

And it is the right hand and holy arm of the Lord Almighty that has worked His salvation in me. In me, in you, in everyone who enjoys the great salvation of our God. I had nothing to do with it.

“But you accepted it!” some might object. “You had a choice!”

Even that ability to choose and accept was a gift from God. My salvation is not of works, lest I should boast. That’s a very important idea in that Galatians verse. Like Paul, the only thing I have to boast about is the grace and power of our God. The only thing, as Horatius Bonar said, that I can bring to God, is my sin, because I have nothing else that I can call my own.

I might preach kindness and love to you, and then turn around and judge you because of something you do or say. Hear me well . . . I despise that about myself, and am constantly on my knees (at least figuratively), asking the Father to grant me repentance and give me more kindness and compassion toward my neighbors and my brothers and sisters.

When I enter my eternal inheritance, my reward, it will not be because of anything I have done. It will be solely because of what Christ has done on the Cross, which was the right hand and holy arm of the Lord God Almighty, working His salvation and revealing His righteousness to the world.

I kind of went down a rabbit hole, there. But I was looking for what the Spirit was saying to me, and that line stood out immediately. What follows the full realization that salvation is of God, and God alone, is the verses that tell me to shout to the Lord, for joy, and burst into jubilant song. And why wouldn’t I?? What glorious truth! In spite of myself, God has saved me!

In the words of John Newton:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see!

And in the words of Isaac Watts:

Alas! and did my savior bleed,
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Well-meaning folks would later change “such a worm” to “sinners such as I.” I have long rejected that change. I am, and have been for many years, quite comfortable in recognizing my “worminess.” But glory, glory, Ralph Hudson came along later and added:

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away (rolled away).
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Yes, it’s true. I’m a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than you think I am. I’m a good Samaritan, and a very, very bad man. But Jesus saved me, thanks to the right hand and strong holy arm of God, and because of His grace, no thanks to me, no “work” on my part, my eternal inheritance is secured. And it was secured “At the cross,” not on that day when I was nine years old and walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas. That was just icing on the cake, my friends. The “cake” was already mine.

So I will sing along with David when he writes:

"The LORD lives, and blessed be my Rock, and exalted be my God, the Rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
You exalted me above those who rose against me;
You delivered me from men of violence.
For this I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to Your Name."

Most blessed Savior and Lord, I thank You and praise You for saving me. The work was done thousands of years ago on the Cross; work done by You; nothing was required of me, other than to give what You had given me and believe in Your work. The grace was all Yours; the work was all Yours; everything a gift from You, that I would have nothing about which to boast. Thank You, Jesus, for Your grace and mercy and compassion. Now work this salvation out in me, through Your Holy Spirit, as I grow in You, daily. Teach me the compassion that You showed to all people, that I might display Your love in this world, today. Take away the part of me; chisel it out; that part that judges others, that part that makes me a “very, very bad man.” Leave in me only the “good” parts, that goodness that comes only from You, Lord.

I pray for Your Church, that we would, collectively, work for the common good of all people while sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that “deep care, bold love, and rich community” would be experienced in Her. And I pray, specifically, for teachers, schools, students, and administrators during this difficult times.

"Father in heaven,
worship makes a missionary of me.
I worship You,
great God,
and long for Your goodness to be known in all the earth,
for all people to know Your glory.
Send me so that Your Name is honored and praised everywhere,
a life or praise for Your renown.
Amen."

BLESSING

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 WEB)

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
(Romans 15:14 ESV)

If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
(1 Corinthians 8:2-3 ESV)

I love that last verse. It really produces humility. If you think you know something, you don’t know anything. “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”

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!

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)

Grace and peace, friends.

Not Seen, and Yet Believed

Today is Monday, the twelfth of April, 2021, in the second week of Easter. (Oh, look, another word with four consecutive consonants.)

Peace be with you!

Day 23,041

38 days until our weekend stay at Glen Rose.

It is currently 62 degrees, with a projected high of 83 today. There is a 70% chance of precipitation. Beginning tomorrow, though, there is a cooling trend with a lot more rain chance over the next week. In fact, the projected highs through next Wednesday (ten days) are below 70, and one day below 60! My kind of weather, as long as the thunderstorms don’t get too raucous.

Yesterday was a good day, albeit a little strange for Sunday. We didn’t have our usual church gathering, and I wound up not going anywhere. C went out and about early, and picked up our lunch (Applebee’s) at the end of her excursion. They got my food wrong (not totally), as I had added grilled shrimp to my chicken Caesar salad, and the left it out. I called them, and they are allegedly putting my name down to get a free entrée next time. I’m not sure why they couldn’t just give me a $3.99 credit on my payment card. That seems to me to be the easier and more efficient thing to do. I’ll take the free food, but I really would have been just as happy with a credit for what I didn’t get.

I guess there are some folks who haven’t made into the twenty-first century, yet.

Otherwise, the day was spent just relaxing. My kind of Sunday.

The Texas Rangers lost their third consecutive game to the Padres, yesterday, 2-0. At least they got five hits. Folty was the losing pitcher, and they drop to a 3-6 record. They still aren’t in last place, though, as the Athletics have lost one more game than the Rangers. Today, they play in Tampa, against the Rays, with Dane Dunning taking the mound for Texas. He is 1-0 so far.

The Boston Red Sox won their sixth consecutive game, yesterday, beating the Orioles 14-9. This improves their record to 6-3, and they are all alone at the top of the AL East. Nick Pivetta (2-0) was the winning pitcher. They will take on the tough Twins of Minnesota tonight, in Minnesota. Martin Perez (sigh) will start for Boston.

I’m trying a new coffee this morning. Not a new brand, but a new flavor. It’s another Twisted Pine coffee, this time a mocha mint. I like it. Twisted Pine has become my favorite coffee brand.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
Amen."
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

Praise the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does such wonderful things.
Praise his glorious name forever!
Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and amen!
(Psalms 72:18-19 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • for Twisted Pine coffee, my new favorite brand
  • for a new week, full of opportunity (giving myself a “pep talk,” here)
  • for the Psalms, where I find so much encouragement and inspiration for my life
  • for Thomas, who doubted
  • that I have not seen, and yet believed

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

EASTER – DAY 9

INVITATION

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV)

I am pausing, quietly and briefly, to meditate on the victory provided by our Lord Jesus Christ.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalms 73:1-3 NIV)

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:21-26 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:24-29 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I enjoy the presence of the Lord, this morning, I read these passage through again, inviting the Holy Spirit to draw me in, closer, and point toward a word or phrase, giving me some new (or refreshing an old) insight.

The first thing I see is a warning against being envious of the perceived prosperity of the wicked. Isn’t that an easy thing to fall into? “Why aren’t those wicked people being punished??” we ask. When we do this, we place ourselves in the position of God, usurping His authority (or at least attempting to) to judge them. He will do so, in His own time. And, truly, only God decides who is truly “wicked,” right? We tend to think ourselves much more righteous than we truly are.

Verses 25-26 of that psalm have long been favorites of mine.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26 NIV)

I don’t even feel like I need to add anything to that.

I truly believe that, by the time the events in John 20 were taking place, this is how the disciples felt. I know it was how Mary Magdalene felt. Earth held no precious thing for them. All they had was Jesus; for a time, He had been taken away from them, but He had risen! He had returned, only to be taken away again, but this time, in a much more majestic fashion. I know . . . we haven’t gotten to that point in the story, yet. Ascension Day is May 13, by the way.

Father, my prayer today is that Jesus would be my all in all, and that, as I read the verses in Psalm 73, I would truly be able to say, “Whom have I in heaven by you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you!” Lord, it causes me to return to my favorite Psalm 86, where I read,

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

Yes, Lord. Unite my heart to fear Your name!

Father of mercies,
like Thomas,
I offer you my often skeptical and stumbling heart.
And like him,
I depend on you to give the gift of faith.
Though I do not touch your wounds,
let your Word and sacraments be faith's sense of touch,
which will quench my doubt and stir my faith.
Amen.
(Canons of Dort 3/4.14)

BLESSING

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29 ESV)

He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
(Daniel 2:21 NIV)

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(Ephesians 4:16 NIV)

Lord Jesus, I am numbered among those who have not seen and yet believed, because I have never “seen” You, at least not with physical eyes. My heart looks forward to that day when I will see You, finally. I cannot wait to look upon the face of the One who died for me, and to feel the embrace of the arms that stretched out in sacrifice to pay the price for my and the rest of the world’s sinfulness. All praise to You, Jesus! I worship You, this morning!

Lord, this morning, I pray that we would be good caretakers of Your creation and wise stewards of the physical resources which You have given us. We do not worship creation, we worship You. But we could do better at caring for it. Give us, Your children, a better commitment to caring for Your world.

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!

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.