Interior Silence, the Place of Strength and Power

Today is Wednesday, the fifteenth of June, 2022, in the eleventh week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,470

June is half over today. 2022 is almost half over. And even though we’ve already hit triple digits at least a couple times in the past week, Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, five days from now. That day is also known as Summer Solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight.

If I write anything that doesn’t make sense, today, it’s because I woke up too early. C gets up at 5:15 to get ready for work, and my brain had a lot of things to think about, so I wound up getting up around 6:00. What’s on my brain? Let’s see . . .

We switched mobile carriers, yesterday. We finally dumped ATT, because I’m tired of over-paying and under-getting. We have switched to Mint Mobile, for at least three months. If we like it, we will likely renew for twelve. Unlimited data for half the cost of ATT. The problem is, I still have an iPad I need to get set up, and I’m going to need some technical support today, because I made one wrong decision when I was trying to set it up yesterday afternoon.

I’m trying to reschedule my colonoscopy that is currently scheduled for Monday. I didn’t realize, when I scheduled it, that it was the day after Father’s Day! I was thinking about going ahead with it, but then I looked at the prep instructions. I can’t eat any solid food for a whole day before the procedure! I have called the scheduling number four times, and one of the facilities once, and can’t get any response. So I have to deal with that again today.

There’s more, but those are the two “big” things (first world problems, of course, or, as I have also called them, “footstool problems”). It will all work out fine.

This is my Wednesday off, at least. And I’m cooking a surprise for the family, tonight. Another dish that I got from Emily Bites, a wonderful recipe site that has tasty and relatively healthy recipes. I’ll post the recipe tomorrow morning, along with how it came out.

The Rangers blew a three-run lead, last night, to lose to the Astros, 4-3. It was almost the exact reverse of Monday night’s game, when the ‘stros blew a 3-0 lead. And the thing that ultimately led to the loss was a misplayed grounder that could have been an out (allowing a run to score), but wound up being no outs and a run scored. The next batter hit a two-run home run, and that wound up deciding the game. Oh, well. Tonight’s another night, and the Rangers could still win the series. We’re still in second place, though, because the Angels lost again. The Rangers are back to 8.5 out of first, and 3.5 out of the Wild Card race.

I learned yesterday that there will be three wild cards in each league, this year. This is getting ridiculous. Soon, MLB will be like the NBA, where more than half the teams make the playoffs. Might as well just start the season with the playoffs. Also, currently, all three wild card spots are held by AL East division teams. If the season ended today, the AL East would have four teams in the playoffs!

Anyway, the Rangers play the Astros again this afternoon at 1:05 CDT. We don’t know who is pitching for the Rangers, yet.

The Red Sox beat the Athletics (good for the Rangers), last night, 6-1. The Sox are now 33-29 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, 2.5 out of third, 12.5 out of first, but are currently in the third Wild Card spot. They play the Athletics again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

We all know who still has the best MLB record, now at 45-16. The KC Royals have the worst record, at 20-41. The Braves won again, increasing their win streak to 13! The Cubs must not have played last night, and the Pirates did, and lost, so the Pirates now have the longest losing streak, at nine games. You-know-who has a run differential of +129. The Pirates are now at -103. The Rangers are at +5 after last night’s loss, and the Red Sox are at +45. Oddly, the Sox are in sixth place in the run differential category.

The PWBA U.S. Women’s Open will carry on, today, with practice sessions for all four oil patterns.

Update on tasks. My colonoscopy is rescheduled for Monday, July 11, and my iPad appears to be set up, now. Things are looking up!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, help us who are allowed to hear your Word. Help us come with all our hearts to the Savior, who leads us into your arms. Hear our pleading and let your countenance shine over the world. Send a new age soon, a new salvation to the earth, to the glory of your name. Show us that what we have learned about you is the truth and that we may live in the truth and find the way through to heaven, to the glory of your name. Hear us, O Lord our God. Often it seems that you are far away. But we know that our voices still reach you and that those roused by your Holy Spirit will become your workers for the Lord Jesus. Send your Spirit soon, O Lord God. Send the Comforter, who leads us into all light and all truth. We entrust ourselves and our daily lives to you. We want to be faithful. Help us to be your children, to remember at every step that we belong to you, Lord God. No matter how dark it is on earth, help us remember that we are with you, your children in eternity. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
(John 1:14-16 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for one gracious blessing after another, received out of the abundance of the Father's unfailing love and faithfulness
2. that we are the tabernacle of God, as His Spirit dwells within us, but also that anywhere I can worship God can be my tabernacle
3. that God chooses to be with us always, an indication of how much He loves us; how then can we not also choose to love one another?
4. that we can know the strength and power of the Holy Spirit by entering into the silence of that inner tabernacle
5. for coffee

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
(Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

The prayer word for today, from Pray a Word a Day, is “tabernacle.”

Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34 NLT)

The tabernacle of the Old Testament was the place where the people of God met with Him. His presence dwelled within the tabernacle.

But now, ever since Christ came, God’s tabernacle is within us.

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

There are many verses of Scripture that tell us that we are the dwelling place of God, now.

All that being said, though, anywhere You meet God can be your “tabernacle.” This study is my “tabernacle” every morning. I have experienced “tabernacle” on the deck of a cabin in Glen Rose, as I looked out over the landscape, toward the river. I have worshiped God sitting in a canvas chair on a beach in Galveston, watching the waves of the mighty ocean go to and fro.

Anywhere you can worship God can be your tabernacle.

“I am with you always.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When Jesus makes this promise to His disciples, it is a choice that He makes. Our God chooses to always dwell with us and care for us. This is a minute indication of how much He loves us. This is something worth dwelling on, worth meditating on. And when we do dwell on this, and think rightly about God, there is no other option but worship.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Did you know that we do not have to create silence? On the contrary, it is the noise that we create, that which disrupts the silence that exists. I wonder at the silence before everything was created, before God spoke the words, “Let there be light.” That must have been the most profound silence that ever existed.

It is difficult, in our day, to encounter complete silence. Even as I sit in this room, when I am not typing, there is some kind of noise. I can hear the computer fan. I can hear the box fan in the bedroom. Occasionally, there is a noise in the room next to mine.

But it is as close to silence as I can get in the house. I have experienced a deeper silence in the Redwood forest of northern California.

As C and I walked around in the midst of those majestic trees, the ground was covered with their needles. The ground cover acted as a silencer. Our walking made no noise, and, when we didn’t speak to each other, there was the closest thing to total silence that I have ever experienced.

John Main speaks of the interior silence that is the “language of the Spirit.”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT)

“The words we use in trying to communicate the Christian message in the Christian experience have to be charged with strength and power, but they can only be charged with strength and power if they spring from the silence of the Spirit in our inner being. . . . Leaving behind all other words, ideas, imaginations and fantasies is learning to enter into the presence of the Spirit who dwells in your inner heart [your “tabernacle”], who dwells there in love. The Spirit of God dwells in our hearts in silence, and it is in humility and faith that we must enter into that silent presence. St. Paul ends that passage in Ephesians with the words, ‘So may you attain to the fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.’ That is our destiny.”

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

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
(Matthew 16:26 NLT)

Living the Godly life turns out to be the opposite of the world’s business mindset. “The bottom line in business shows how much you accumulate, but the bottom line in life shows how much you give away.”

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

Father, may we always be humble and never think of ourselves as more righteous than we ought. In comparison with You and Jesus, we are all the worst of sinners.

I thank You, Father, for the example of the Old Testament Tabernacle, where we get a glimpse of the power of Your holiness. But I am more thankful that we do not need that Tabernacle in our day, because we are Your “tabernacle,” as Your Spirit dwells within us. I am also thankful that anywhere I can worship You can be my temporary tabernacle.

Father, the way that You love us and choose to be with us at all times is inconceivable. It is, as the psalmist said, too much, too lofty. I cannot attain it. I cannot fathom it. But it is true. Help me to embrace this daily, Father, and help me to transform that into love for my fellow human beings. Yes, even the ones with which I do not agree, and even the ones who would abuse me or harm me or take advantage of me. Even the people who come, unbidden, to my front door, trying to sell me solar panels!

Father, I pray that I can know the silence of the Spirit in my inner being, so that the words that I must use, whether they be verbal or written, are charged with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit.

Finally, Father, I pray that I would continue to be generous with all that You have give me, that my life would be marked by how much I give away.

Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Speak. Listen. Understand.

Today is Wednesday, the first of June, 2022, in the seventh week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,456. Hah! I don’t imagine I will live long enough for that to happen again!! And, believe it or not, I did not see that coming.

C comes home today!! C comes home today!!! And we will do the dance of joy!

She is currently en route to the Chicago airport, to turn in her rental car and catch her flight home, which is due in at DFW at 3:28 PM. S and I will be there to joyfully pick her up.

I had a busy but good evening at the library, last night. There was plenty of work to do (and still was when I left). I shelved a full cart of DVDs and audio books, a few magazines, and some CDs, as well. And I had time to sort a full cart for the new book display, and then re-shelve a number of books that had been looked at, but not checked out.

The Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays again, behind another stellar outing from pitcher Martin Perez. All of the runs in the game were scored in the bottom of the fourth inning, on two Rangers home runs. Perez only gave up three hits in seven innings, and the Rangers won 3-0. John King and Joe Barlow were perfect in relief, and Barlow is nine for nine in save attempts.

The Rangers are finally at .500, 24-24 for the season. They remain in third place in the AL West, seven games out of first and only two out in the Wild Card race. They play Tampa again, tonight, at 7:05 CDT, in Arlington.

The Red Sox lost to the Reds. Seriously. I mean, what gives, here??? 2-1. The Sox are now 23-27 for the season, somehow still in fourth place in the AL East, 11.5 games out of first and four out in the Wild Card race. They play the Reds again, today, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees (34-15) took back the best MLB record spot. And, after beating the Red Sox, the Reds are no longer at the bottom of the pile. That now belongs to the KC Royals, 16-32. The Reds are actually third from the bottom, now. The Blue Jays continue to hold the longest win streak, at six games, now. And the LA Angels (more dance of joy) continue losing, now having reached a six-game losing streak. The Dodgers now have a run differential of +116, almost 40 better than the next team (Yankees), and the Pirates now have a run differential of -81. That seems slightly improved. They are only eight runs worse than the Royals, who seem determined to have last place in all categories. The Rangers are now at +13 (woohoo!!!), and the Red Sox have drifted to +16.

The only thing on our agenda today is getting C home. Nothing else matters today. I’ll probably get a load of laundry folded, but it’s not urgent.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Dear Father in heaven, in your Word we trust, in your Word of eternal life, given us in Jesus Christ our Savior. We build on this Word of life in these days when it seems that everything is losing strength and value, and yet there is so much longing in people’s hearts. You will not let our hope be disappointed. What you have spoken must be fulfilled. What is promised in Jesus Christ must come into being, not only for a few but for the whole world, for which he died and was raised from the dead. Be with us. Keep us so fully alive that our lives reflect all the goodness we are allowed to experience and we overcome all the evil which tries to attack us. We thank you for calling us to life and for renewing us again and again. May your name be praised among us forever. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
(John 6:33 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for that true bread of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ
2. that God will not allow our hope to be disappointed; what He has spoken will be fulfilled
3. that God never changes; Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever
4. for the awesome ways that God loves us
5. for words and language, may we do better at using them

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 
From the ends of the earth, 
I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. 
Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 
for you are my safe refuge, 
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 
Let me live forever in your sanctuary, 
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! 
For you have heard my vows, O God. 
You have given me an inheritance 
reserved for those who fear your name.
(Psalms 61:1-5 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “forever.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8 NLT)

Things change. People change. Places change. Change can be good; change can be bad. I’ve never liked change simply for the sake of change. For example, when the grocery store rearranges everything for no apparent reason.

I’ve changed. Physically, I’ve changed quite a bit over the years. I get heavier, I get lighter, then I get heavier again. I don’t have as much hair as I used to have, and it isn’t the vibrant auburn-red that it once was. Philosophically and politically, I have changed quite a bit, over the past few decades. Hopefully, I am leaning more toward Jesus, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. And I’ve changed theologically, multiple times in my life, as I reflect on God’s Word, what it says, and what it means.

But God doesn’t change. Jesus never changes. The Holy Trinity is constant. We can depend on God, especially when other people, places, and things disappoint us.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1 NLT)

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
(John 1:9-13 NLT)

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
(1 John 4:9-10 NLT)

Do you ever stop to consider what a miracle words and language is? The very fact that we have “capacity to speak words and make ourselves understood and capacity to listen to words and understand” each other is astonishing. I’ve seen the movie “Quest for Fire.” Nothing but grunts and moans and gestures. Who knows if that was really what it was like, but I still think language is a miracle.

The problem is that just because we can speak words and sentences doesn’t mean we will do it well. Or that we will speak truth. “We can, and do, speak nonsense. We can, and do, tell lies.”

Words delight us because “they bring us into understanding relations with the world and into intimate relations with people.” But words also dismay us, “even destroy us, as they misrepresent or falsify or manipulate.”

It is sad, tragic, to me, that sometimes “pastors” fall prey to the temptation to do the latter.

The church entrusts certain people to be preachers and teachers and sort of puts them “in charge of the words.” Not, of course, to the extent that the Catholic Church was in charge of them before Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation.

“Your task,” says the church to these people, “is to make sure we hear and listen to these words. If we forget or devalue these words, we are going to miss the point of everything. We are going to miss God. There is a lot going on. There are things to do and places to go and people to meet. There are babies to change and payrolls to meet, meals to prepare and cars to repair, wounds to heal and problems to solve. In the crises and the challenges, the noise and the frenzy of all this, we need someone who will faithfully and accurately say the Word, proclaim the Word, teach the Word – and stay with us as we listen and pray and believe it.”

May God have mercy on the “pastor” who strays from this path and begins teaching his own opinions as gospel.

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

Father, I am grateful that You are constant, that You never change or waver in Your ways. I praise You that You are always here, always challenging me to be better, and always drawing me back to the path when I stray from it. I praise You that You hear my cries and lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

I am also so very grateful for Your great love, love which is unimaginable, yet easy to know. Your great love for us is that which allows us, nay, calls us to be Your children, and then has procured for us a place in Your kingdom and an inheritance that can never diminish or be corrupted. What a great love!

And I thank You for words and language. Sometimes, I will speak a word and then speak it over and over, listening to it and thinking about what it means. Sometimes there are visual images that go along with those words, but sometimes there are not. When I say the word, love, though, I am filled with both visual and non-visual feelings. Some people say that “love’s not a feeling,” but I vehemently disagree. It is “more than a feeling,” yes. But it is definitely something that is felt. It becomes reality when actions accompany that feeling. Until we act upon it, it is nothing more than platitude.

And, Father, You acted on that love in the most supreme and magnificent way. You sacrificed Your Son to enable us to become Your children.

Help us to get our words better, Lord. The world is messed up, right now, especially parts of Your church in America, where “pastors” are preaching opinions, trying to manipulate people, and, in some cases, downright lying. I pray for Your intervention, that Your Church might be seen as whole and unified. I know in my heart that Your Church is alive and well, but it seems that we are having to look a little harder to see it in the midst of the mess. And maybe, just maybe, that’s Your Holy Spirit, doing some pruning. There seems to be a lot of pruning going on, right now.

But I cannot thank You enough . . . there aren’t enough words, as it turns out . . . for Your great love. And I pray for strength to continue walking that love and displaying that love to a hurting and suffering world.

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

How often do we miss the fainter note
Or fail to see the more exquisite hue,
Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet,
Eyes fixed upon some other, further view.
What chimes of harmonies escape our ears,
How many rainbows must elude our sight,
We see a field but do not see the grass,
Each blade a miracle of shade and light.
How then to keep the greater end in eye
And watch the sunlight on the distant peak,
And yet not tread on any leaf of love,
Nor miss a word the eager children speak?
Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart,
To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.
(Sonnet I, Philip Britts, 1947, Daily Dig from Plough.com)

Grace and peace, friends.

Little Is Much When God Is In It

Today is Wednesday, the eighteenth of May, 2022, in the fifth week of Easter.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,442

I had a pretty average evening at the library, last night. I had plenty of work, and shelved a pretty full cart of youth books, along with a partial cart of DVDs. That kept me busy for a little over three hours, and then I did my walk through the library, picking up stray books and marking them “used” in our system. We do that simply to indicate that someone at least showed some interest in the item, even if they didn’t wind up checking it out.

The Texas Rangers surprised the Angels in an eighth inning similar to what the Boston Red Sox are kind of famous for. The Rangers scored first in the bottom of the first. But the Angels answered with three in the top of the third. The Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, right after I got home. It was tied until the top of the seventh when the Angels scored on a Mike Trout solo homer. But then, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Rangers erupted for seven runs! They held on and wound up winning 10-5. Danny Santana got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 16-19 for the season, all alone in third place in the AL West. They are one game ahead of Seattle, two games ahead of Oakland, and seven games behind the first place Astros. The Rangers and Angels will play again tonight, at 7:05 CDT, facing the fearsome Shohei Ohtani. Dane Dunning will take the mound for the Rangers.

The Red Sox lost to the aforementioned Astros, 13-4. Egad. They are 14-22 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Orioles. They have another game against the ‘stros, tonight at 6:10 EDT.

The NY Yankees still have the best MLB record, 27-9, and still have not lost that tenth game. The Cincinatti Reds still have the worst record, 10-26, but finally won their tenth game. They are only one game below the Washington Nationals, though. The longest win streak is now a tie between the LA Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, both with a four-game win streak. The Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks are tied for the longest losing streak, both at five games. The Dodgers are back on top of the run differential chart, with +81. The Pittsburgh Pirates overtook the Reds for the worst differential, now with -72. The Rangers’ run differential, after last night, is down to -5.

I’m off work today, as this is my “light week.” I’m about to head to the store to grab a few things. The lawn guy is coming around noon, and I’m planning to cook Pecan-Crusted Chicken for dinner tonight. I’ll be at work tomorrow, 11-8, so we will likely have some crock pot soup for tomorrow’s dinner.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, Father of us all, grant that we may know something of you in our hearts. Each one of us is different, with his own particular needs, but we are all your children and should all become children of your Spirit. Then even in the difficulties of life, in the many struggles, temptations, and sorrows, we can keep up our courage and remain in the Spirit, who is victorious in every aspect of life. Protect and strengthen us on all our ways. We praise you for all you have done and for all the help you have given us. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)

And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:15b-17 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for my coffee
2. to be an heir of God and co-heir with Christ
3. that all I really need to be willing to do is small acts of daily kindness
4. that all of our small acts of daily kindness can add up in the community of saints
5. for the priesthood of all believers
6. for the availability of God's Word in my language (something many of us take for granted)
Sing praises to God, sing praises; 
sing praises to our King, sing praises! 
For God is the King over all the earth. 
Praise him with a psalm. 
God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne.
(Psalms 47:6-8 NLT)

The prayer word for today is “morsel.”

Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
(Proverbs 17:1 ESV)

I can attest to the truth of this Proverb. Not that I have ever been reduced to only being able to eat a “dry morsel.” But I have certainly feasted in a house full of strife, and the meal leaves much to be desired.

But, truthfully, that is not really the thrust of this word, today. The idea in today’s reading coincides with a song I have heard that says, “Little is much when God is in it.”

We all have this desire to do “big things” for God, right? I used to want to be a rock star, then I wanted to be a “Christian rock star.” I wanted to do great things for God. There is also a possibility that I really just wanted to be noticed and famous.

At this point in my life, having never been famous or a rock star, I simply want to be willing to do small things for God. “Little acts . . . in the Lord’s faith hands become precious morsels that go down sweet.” Simple acts of kindness are sometimes all that is needed in this world, today. Other people can handle the big stuff. I just want to be one who shows love and kindness in my own little corner of this world.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I pray that You would allow me to be a “precious morsel” in Your kingdom, showing small acts of kindness to people with whom I come in contact. Let me be willing to provide the simplest of acts, maybe nothing more than a friendly smile, a cup of water, or a generous tip to a server. You have given me this desire, so I pray for opportunities to live it out.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.
(Romans 16:1-4 NLT)

But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:17-18 NLT)

What happens when you have a bunch of morsels all together? You get a meal! Even Paul, that “giant” of faith, didn’t do things by himself. His work could hardly be called a “morsel,” but he collaborated with others, and he always was sure to give them credit in his greetings.

What was the first thing in creation about which God said it was “not good?”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
(Genesis 2:18 NLT)

As much as I enjoy being alone, we are not expected to be alone in our work for God. We need each other. We need community. There are some things that I can do alone, sure. Some of those “morsels” I mentioned above can be done by myself. But I could never have donated 1700 pairs of socks to a homeless ministry by myself.

Just something to ponder, this morning.

Father, I thank You for my brothers and sisters in Christ; the ones I know personally, and gather with regularly, as well as all the ones that I have never met and will never meet until the day we all stand in glory together. Together, we can do great things. May we spread Your love, mercy, and grace around the world!

One of the beautiful things about this community of saints is this thing that we call “the priesthood of all believers.” I have heard that phrase for most of my life, having grown up Southern Baptist. One of the things that this means, and probably the most important in Baptist life, is that we don’t need a priest (as in Catholic) to read and interpret Scripture for us. This was one of the big tenets of the Reformation, because, before Martin Luther came on the scene, the average parishioner did not have their own copy of the Bible. And it wasn’t available in their language, anyway, as all the copies were in Latin. So only the priest could read it.

One thing this does not mean, however, is that everyone’s interpretation is valid. That would be pure chaos. We still need people who are educated in biblical history and context. But, more importantly, we need the Holy Spirit. And it is my contention that no one can truly understand the Bible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. And no one who is not in Christ has the Holy Spirit.

The other piece of the priesthood of all believers is that we have the ability, in this community of saints, to be priests to one another, ‘with each of us mediating grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and with each of us capable of connecting with another in a way that brings God’s love home with personal force.” Eugene Peterson even goes so far as to word it “the leadership of all believers.”

“Leadership is that capacity everyone has for taking the first step, making it possible for others to follow–the capacity to connect with another so that others can get in on what we are in on. What we are ‘in on’ is Christ.”

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

My desire and hope in this is that I am taking those “first steps” by promoting the love of God through any forum I can access. If I can get just one or two people to follow in that, then maybe they can also be leaders in their own community, as well, and maybe we can have this “love revolution” that I’m praying for.

Father, I thank You for this idea of the priesthood of all believers. I thank You that, first of all, I have the access to read and understand Scripture in my own language. I also thank You that, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to be priests and leaders to one another, showing Your love, mercy, and grace to not only all other believers, but the rest of the world, as well. I pray that there would be more of a spirit of unity in Your Church, and that we would focus on the things that really matter, like walking in Your kingdom, and displaying the love of Christ in our world.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Clothed by God

Today is Wednesday, the eleventh of May, 2022, in the fourth week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,435

Today’s header photo is courtesy of Summer Guilliams, friend and sister in Christ.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, we thank you for making us into a community whose refuge and certainty is Jesus Christ. We thank you that he will not remain hidden from us forever; his life will be revealed, perhaps soon, in our times. Lord God, how long, how long have your children waited! Now a new time is coming, the end of this age, and we rejoice in this even if you must also judge and punish. No matter what happens, we are at peace. We live in your future, in the future of Jesus Christ, in the great day when humankind will receive the Spirit and their old works will come to an end. Be with us. Bless us this night and help us in what we have most on our hearts. We have so much on our hearts, but you see everything and you know our needs. Lord God, your grace will overcome all earthly troubles, and your name will be glorified on earth if only there is a church that believes and truly awaits your help. Praise to your name! You have done immeasurably much for us and you will do even more. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough)

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
(Colossians 3:3-4 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my life is hidden in Christ, who will soon reveal Himself to all
2. for people in my life that I have called "hero"
3. that God alone is who I worship
4. for the command to not pretend to love others, but to really love them (Romans 12:9)
5. that God will clothe me with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and, above all, love

And since no one dares to disturb [Leviathan], who then can stand up to me? Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine.”
(Job 41:10-11 NLT)

Side note. If you keep reading Job 41, beginning in verse 12, to the end, it is my humble opinion that what is described (called “Leviathan” in an earlier verse) is nothing other than a dragon! As a lover of the fantasy genre, it gives me great pleasure to believe that they did, in fact, once exist.

Today’s prayer word is “hero.” There are a lot of ways in which this word is used. For most people, it is someone who has had a significant impact on their lives, and is, the majority of the time, a human. For example, I have a couple of people that I call “heroes.” One is Carl Yastrzemski, former MLB player for the Boston Red Sox. He has always been my favorite baseball player, since I began loving baseball in 1967. Yaz won the coveted Triple Crown of batting in 1967, having the most home runs, highest average, and most RBIs for the season. That feat was not accomplished again until 2012, when Miguel Cabrera finally did it. The Red Sox also won the AL pennant, that season, and were known as The Impossible Dream Team.

I also have a musical hero. His name is Terry Scott Taylor. Terry is the “front man” for alt-Christian rock group Daniel Amos, as well as a couple of other side projects, The Swirling Eddies, and The Lost Dogs, which is a sort of “Christian Supergroup.” I have been following his music since the early eighties, when a seminary friend introduced me to the Daniel Amos album called “Alarma.” I have met Terry, along with other members of The Lost Dogs. I have not met Yaz.

Do I refer to Jesus as a “hero?” Lola Garcia (I’m not sure who this is, but there is an actress by that name) is quoted as saying, “God has my admiration. I admire all He has done, is doing and will do. He is my Hero!” That’s all well and good, but I think God wants more than our admiration. He wants our worship; He commands our worship. In fact, He wants our all.

I struggle with the idea of giving God the same characterization that I give a couple of mere humans. “Hero.” I looked up “hero,” and here is what I found. The first definition most definitely does not fit God. “A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.” The second could, I suppose, “an illustrious warrior.” The third, though, “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities,” doesn’t exactly fit. And “one who shows great courage?” Maybe. However, I do not believe that God has “courage,” because when is He ever afraid?

There are a few other definitions, most of which involve literature. One of those is, “the central figure in an event, period, or movement.” I suppose Jesus would fit in that category. Then there is the odd one out, which involves submarines. And finally, “an object of extreme admiration and devotion : IDOL.”

I’ll let you decide for yourself. Is Jesus or God your hero? As I said, my only hesitation in calling Jesus “hero” is the fact that I also call a couple of humans by that designation. I will note, however, that I do not engage in “hero worship.” I realize that both of my “heroes” are but dust. I do not worship them. I do admire them, though, for their accomplishments, probably Terry Scott Taylor more so than Yaz, as Taylor has had much more of an impact on my life than a baseball player whom I have never met.

Father, at this point, I cannot, in good conscience refer to You as my “hero.” However, You are my God, and You, alone, are the One whom I worship. I will not give that worship to a human “hero,” as only You are worthy of that. I cannot flippantly refer to You in the same way that I use that word for any human being, or any cartoon comic book character. [I neglected to mention my love of Spiderman when I was a young lad.] I do pray that Your Spirit will continue to work within me that I might ascribe all glory and strength to You, and give You the full amount of my devotion and worship. Let my heart not be drawn to another, Father, at least in terms of worship and adoration. May I truly love You with my whole heart, Lord, as I walk in Your kingdom.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 NLT)

This verse comes up a lot in my devotions. I have to assume it’s because I haven’t perfected it, yet. In fact, I know very few people who have even come close.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
(Romans 12:9-13 NLT)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:12-14 NLT)

Wow. That passage from Romans in the New Living Translation! “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” That sends shivers down my spine, my brothers and sisters. We do an awful lot of pretending, in this culture, these days. There is a lot of “posturing” or “posing.” But when the proverbial rubber meets the road, what happens? Are we really caring for the oppressed and downtrodden? Are we taking care of the widows and orphans? Or are we too concerned about ourselves and our own “freedoms” and “rights?”

Father, I pray that You help me to obey the commands in these verses. I pray that I am not a pretender, but that I really love people. And there doesn’t need to be a reason to love someone, other than the fact that we are supposed to love them. Love is supposed to be the primary identification of someone who calls the name of Jesus. The old youth song says it, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I find that to be laughable, today, Lord, because I don’t see a lot of love coming out of the “Christian camp.” God help us! God forgive us! Make us lovers, not fighters, Father!

I pray that You clothe me with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Let those be qualities in me that people can see right when the meet me. And let Your grace and mercy shine through me, so that the world can see You in me. Let me not do anything out of “selfish ambition,” but help me to be last; help me to consider others as more significant than myself, in all things. In short, I am nothing without You, and in the words of John the Baptizer, “He must increase; I must decrease. Above all, clothe me with love!”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

Grace and peace, friends.

Open Heart; Open Hands

Today is Wednesday, the fourth of May, 2022, in the third week of Easter. May the fourth be with you.

More importantly, peace be with you.

Day 23,428

I had a good evening at the library, last night. There were no carts left for me to shelve, so I began working on a project for one of the Adult Services librarians. This involved pulling books from the New Bookshelf. Our “new books” have red dots on the spine label, and the number of the month that they were acquired is written on them. So I pulled any books that were marked from last December or earlier. These were all placed on carts, which wound up back in that librarian’s work area. (This area is affectionately known as “The Pit.” It’s like a large cubicle at the back of the library, shared by four of the most wonderful people I know.)

I was able to peel off the red dots from all the books on one of the carts, so that was also helpful. The librarian will get the rest of them done, and then all of those books will wind up in our regular stacks, later this week.

My “To Be Read” list increased by at least twenty books while I was doing this. Hahaha!

The Texas Rangers pulled off a good win against the Phillies last night (is there such a thing as a “bad” win?), 6-4. The Rangers did score first again, but fell behind just as quickly when the Phillies scored three in the bottom of the first. The Rangers came back, though, tying the game in the top of the fourth (on a solo home run by new dad Jonah Heim), and then going ahead in the top of the sixth. Brock Burke (3-0) got the win in relief.

The Rangers are now 9-14 for the season (this is their second three-game win streak, by the way), and are still in last place in the AL West. However, they are only a half game behind the struggling Athletics, who have lost five consecutive games. The Rangers and Phillies will play the last game of this series tonight, at 5:45 CDT (in Philadelphia).

The Boston Red Sox shut out the LA Angels, last night, 4-0, behind a strong start by Michael Wacha (3-0). The Sox are 10-14 for the season, still in fourth place in the AL East. They are eight games behind the Evil Empire, who has won eleven consecutive games. The Sox will play the Angels again tonight, at 7:10 EDT.

The Yankees continue to hold the best MLB record, but only one game ahead of the Mets, who have lost two more than the Yanks. The sad Cincinnati Reds have now lost seven straight games and only won three for the year. They are the first team to lose 20 games, this season. The Rangers have improved a little, and are tied for sixth worst in MLB, and the Sox are tied at eighth from the bottom.

There are almost 140 games left, so there is still a lot of season left.

I’m off work today, and plan to get in some serious reading, today, and maybe a little music, as well. Hopefully, our lawn guy will be able to get the lawn mowed before the afternoon storms roll in.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, 'Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:' Regard not our sins, but the faith of Your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Daily Devotions)

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:17-18 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this new day, with new opportunities; may I make heavenly choices, rather than selfish choices
2. for the fruit of the Spirit; may it be evident in me today
3. for the ability to be honest and transparent, and, therefore, vulnerable
4. for a generous spirit; may all followers of Christ share all things, as opportunities arise
5. for the testimonies of saints that inspire me to live a better life

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
(Acts 16:13-15 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD.
(Judges 2:11-12 NLT)

The Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They forgot about the LORD their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.
(Judges 3:7 NLT)

Once again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight, and the LORD gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil.
(Judges 3:12 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “honesty.” That’s a word that brings fear into the hearts of some men.

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” ~ Mother Teresa

I believe that this is a valuable admonition. I like to think that I’m an honest person; most of the time. I know that I’m pretty transparent, as my wife constantly reminds me that my feelings are written all over my face, even when I don’t express them verbally. It’s like I exude this aura that screams out that I don’t like something.

I don’t know if it’s true that “honesty is the best policy.” At least not always. There are definitely times when we should keep our feelings and opinions to ourselves. Especially when those opinions would create more division than already exists. I have lots of opinions about things. I lean away from sharing them here, because, as you already know if you are a faithful reader, my opinions about things are not in my job description. In the long run, in the big picture, they simply don’t matter.

Where you will see me being honest is in my imperfections; my humanity; my shortcomings. Because everyone needs to know that I don’t think I’m superman. Far from it. My understanding of things is very limited. While I like to think I’m a relatively intelligent person, I am also well aware that I don’t know it all. As is true for all of us, the amount of stuff that I don’t know is exponentially greater than what I do know. So, in areas like this, I choose to be honest and transparent, which, yes, make me vulnerable, and that’s okay.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, help me to make the right choices daily, when it comes to honesty and transparency. I believe that vulnerability is akin to meekness and eliminates any chance of being arrogant. I don’t want to be seen as arrogant, so help me to be more vulnerable and humble. I know how dangerous it is to pray for humility. It’s kind of like praying for patience. It always brings a testing, almost as if You say, “Okay, you asked for it, here it is!” Be that as it may, I’m still praying for those characteristics to be evident in my life. But I also pray for the ability to keep my mouth shut when my opinion is not needed or helpful.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

Daily Guideposts writer Carol Knapp points out that this verse is not so much a “to-do” list to be checked off, but more of a way of living. It is not as if I should get out of bed every morning and think, “Okay, today I have to love someone; I have to be joyful; I have to display peace; I must exhibit patience,” and so on.

Rather, Paul is simply stating a fact, here. If we are in Christ, we have “nailed the passions and desires” of our “sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24). And, if we are, therefore, living by the Spirit, this fruit will be evident in our lives. In addition, if you look carefully, you will see that this mirrors the characteristics of our Savior.

One other thing that Ms. Knapp said that I like. One of her daily priorities is to ask herself, “Did I benefit someone today?” I like this thought, although I might word it differently. Did I help someone today? Did I make someone feel better today? Did I leave something positive with them? Twice, recently, I have simply thanked restaurant employees for being there. You might be surprised at how much difference something that simple can make.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
(John 15:5, 8 NLT)

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
(Romans 14:17-19 NLT)

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I pray that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident in me, today. As I do whatever I do, today, go wherever I go, may my countenance reflect the characteristics of Jesus Christ, and may I spread love all around. I also pray that I might find an opportunity to truly help someone today, even in a small, simple way.

As we attempt to work out these things, this “fruit,” we sometimes fall into a bad habit of trying to keep God to ourselves. But we cannot do that. “He is not a private acquisition.” God is a generous God. Only a fool would not know this, because all you have to do is look around you to see how generous God is. I mean, look at all He has given us!

And, if we are truly related to Him, truly His children, “we participate in the sharing. We join in the giving.” This truth speaks volumes, when we stop and consider the people who are not sharing and giving, who hoard God’s blessings and refuse to share because they deem the needy to be unworthy or even unclean. (My honesty is showing.)

“The Christian is not a person who hides in a bunker but a person who explores all reality. When Christians keep to themselves what they ought to generously give, they deny the spirit and command of their Lord.”

Dorothy Day once wrote, “I did not see anyone taking off his coat and giving it to the poor. I didn’t see anyone having a banquet and calling in the lame, the halt, and the blind . . . I wanted, though I did not know it then, a synthesis. I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too.”

Dorothy found this life, became a Christian. “She went on to become one of the most effect apostles to the poor and oppressed that America has seen. She did it as an act of faith, through prayer and in love. She experienced the gift. In response, she gave. Will we?”

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

I pray, Lord, that I will never be found to be one who hoards Your blessings. You have created a generous heart within me, over time. You have chiseled away the tendency to look at things and consider them “mine.” You have blessed us with plenty, with an abundance, and given us the willingness to share this abundant life with others. I pray that this may grow even more. May we glorify You through our generosity and sharing.

I pray even more so that Your Church would live in the same way. I pray for Your intervention in the hearts of those who claim to follow Christ but hold on to everything with a tight fist, instead of an open hand. May You soften the hearts of those who would love country more than people.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

The Pretender

Today is Wednesday, the twenty-seventh of April, 2022, in the second week of Easter.

May the peace of God be with you today!

Day 23,421

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Ordinary Day Becomes,” by Daryl Madden

An ordinary morning
As light comes to this day
A breath of fresh air
Clouds drift on their way

Flowers come to blossom
Branches of trees sway
Colors here awaken
Of vision to portray

Between the birdsong calling
Of silence to convey
Listen here dear soul
What Spirit has to say

And through our connection
Of binding here to pray
This journey now becomes
An extraordinary way

Father, I pray that this “ordinary morning” helps my journey to become an “extraordinary way.” Help me to listen to what the Spirit has to say to me, today.

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

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” 
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: 
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
And the four living beings said,
 “Amen!” 
And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
(Revelation 5:11-14 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for this ordinary morning, and hopes that it will become extraordinary
2. for the vision of worship in Revelation 5
3. for the belief that God has placed in my heart; may I embrace it fully
4. for the command to really love others, and to not just pretend (Romans 12:9)
5. for the ability to embrace change in my life
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. 

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! 
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
(Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Today’s prayer word is “believe.” The opening quote is from positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

I almost stopped typing in the middle of that and erased it. Because why? Because, here’s the thing: Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded or called upon to believe in ourselves. That is simply not a biblical concept.

There are, however, plenty of Scriptures to tell us that we are loved by God. And we are called upon and commanded to believe in Him. So, in obeying the command to believe in God, we must believe that we are beloved of God. The danger is that somehow we have to do that without becoming prideful.

So, yes. Believe. But not in yourself; not in your own ability. Believe in God. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He who watches over you never slumbers or sleeps. Believe that He watches over your life.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Father, I am constantly praying the prayer that that father prayed in the New Testament. You know the one. “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Yes, that one. Help me to believe. Help me to believe in Your constant, never-fading love for me. Help me to believe in Your mercy and grace and forgiveness, because every time I sin, that belief wavers. How could you possibly still be forgiving me for that same sin?? But You do, because You already have, and that is a mystery that I still cannot fully fathom.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9 NLT)

I don’t believe I’ve ever read that version of that verse before. The ESV is more succinct, saying, “Let love be genuine.” But I like the idea presented in the NLT. It takes more words, but I think it says it better. The KJV uses the word “dissimulation.” I’m 64 years old, and I’m pretty sure I have never heard that word before. I guess I have read it, because I grew up with the King James Version. But I sure don’t remember it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation.

The Greek word could also be translated “hypocrisy.” The dictionary says it means “pretense.” So, it looks like the NLT nails it. And, oddly enough, the human-added subheading at the beginning of that paragraph says, “Marks of the True Christian.

Indeed . . .

One way to love someone is to care for them or care about them. And the way we care about or for others is to get to know them. What makes them click? What “floats their boat?” What do they like? What do they dislike? What do they need?

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, help me. I’ve not done a good job at this. I’ve certainly pretended to love some people. But have I truly loved them in my heart? Have I loved them with my actions? I’ve heard the cliché, “Love’s not a feeling; it’s a verb.” But how do I do that? Please show me how to love, really love, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And then show me how to love my co-workers. Maybe first, please show me how to best love my family. I wear the shirt, “Love one another.” But I need to do more than wear a shirt.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; 
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; 
his name is the LORD; 
exult before him! 
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
 is God in his holy habitation.
(Psalms 68:4-5 ESV)

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 NLT)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
(James 1:27 NLT)

There are times when living in both of the above thoughts will require change. In order to fully believe in God and to believe that He loves us and has forgiven us might require change. It might require (gasp) repentance!

When I use that word, though, I am not using it in the typical “evangelical” sense of “being sorry for my sins.” I’m using it in the purest form, which simply means to turn around, to change my way of thinking, to think differently about something. That is literally what repentance means. So, in essence, “change” and “repent” are kind of the same word.

In order to truly love someone without hypocrisy or pretense, change might be required, as well.

We don’t like change. We’re all familiar with the series of jokes that ask the question, “How many ___________ does it take to change a light bulb?” You can insert whatever you want in the blank and come up with a humorous answer. I once heard, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer was, simply, “CHANGE?????”

I grew up Southern Baptist so I can make fun of them all I want. There’s an old saying . . . “We’ve never done it that way before!”

But sometimes, we have to. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, and that takes work and adjustments and variations.

There are also times when we want change. We are tired of the “status quo.” “Life isn’t quite what we had hoped for, and we look for something new.”

But what makes the difference is how we involve God in that change. How do we approach the work? “God is shaping. His hand is molding. We can discover his ways in the changes of our own lives.”

“Change will probably always be uncomfortable. But we can begin to see it as desirable because the One who knows us best is carefully orchestrating the transitions of our lives.”

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

Father, the thoughts that are presented above require change in my heart. Maybe not so much the act of believing, although there is always room for improvement in my “belief department.” But most assuredly the “love department.” I do not feel that I have done a good job following that command, and I need You to help me change. I know that You have already been at work in that area; You have been working there, building and shaping, for close to a decade, now. There is nothing that You cannot accomplish in me, I do believe that. But I also know that I am, at times, stubborn and resistant to change. (Someone who knows me might read that and laugh. “At times?? Hah!”)

Father, I want to fully love people, but first I want to fully love You with every fiber of my being. Back to those two commands, aren’t we? Love You; love people. But do it according to Scripture. Help me to not just pretend, but to really love, both You and the people. I do know that when I pretend to love You, I am only fooling myself, though.

Grace and peace, friends.

Remembrances

Today is Wednesday, the twentieth of April, 2022, in the first week of Easter.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,414

It was seven years ago, today, that my father went Home. I still remember the phone call that I received right after I got home from work on that Monday evening. He had been “found unresponsive” at the nursing home/rehab facility to which he had been taken the previous Saturday. I immediately got hold of Mama, and called C, and we raced to Mineral Wells.

In my opinion, he was already gone. We gathered around and watched nothing happen for a few hours. Other friends and family arrived to wait with us. We didn’t wait very long. There wasn’t any point in keeping the machines going. His body wasn’t breathing on its own; it was 100% machine-enabled. Mama and I made the decision.

The rest of the week was a blur, as more family arrived at the house, and friends brought tons of food. Isn’t that interesting? When someone in your family passes away, everyone brings food. That’s an odd tradition, to me. I mean, it was good food, sure, and we enjoyed it. C and I got a new recipe for strawberry cake, thanks to Mama’s friend Shirley.

I also saw my favorite and beloved cousin, Joan, for the first time in years. And isn’t that a shame, that it took a family death to bring us together again?

My mother survived on her own for almost seven years after that. Oh, she’s still alive, and doing pretty well, but has now moved in with us, here in Fort Worth. But she made it alone in her house for quite some time. She had lots of help from some really good friends, some virtual angels.

Some people lose their minds when a parent dies. A pastor, that ministered at the church Mama and Daddy were going to, lost his dad, and his life practically fell apart. It changed him, and not for the better. For me, life definitely changed. For the last seven years, I have struggled to enjoy baseball, like I used to. That was something I had in common with my father (S, too). I’m pretty sure I have mentioned that, before. But I think there’s another effect. One that I haven’t mentioned, I don’t think. And maybe I have only recently come to realize this.

My love of music has not been the same. Oh, sure, I still love music, and still play and sing when I want to. But those times seem fewer and farther between. And sometimes, it seems, I simply don’t want to listen to any music.

Anyway . . . just some thoughts in my brain, today, as we remember back seven years ago. I’ll carry on, now, with the main reason I’m here.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
(The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Wednesday in Easter Week)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
(Psalms 116:15 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the life I had with my father, and the legacy he left behind
2. that we still have my mother with us, and for the joy that we continue to share together
3. that I still have memories and can remember good things
4. that God remembers that we are dust; we are flawed; we are far from perfect, but well on our way
5. for the power of words that contain truth

Ironically, today’s prayer word is “remember.” I don’t think I could have made that up.

Philosopher George Santayana is quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We remember a lot of things in our lives. Who among us has not suddenly, quite “out of the blue,” remembered something stupid we said in public? Or some mistake we made at work? Or some grievous sin we committed at one point in our lives?

We also remember good things. I remember beautiful scenes from wonderful vacation trips: the ocean, seen from the west coast, and the east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico; mountains in various parts of the country; redwood forests in California, as well as the forest on the way to the west coast of Oregon.

And we remember phone calls with bad news, like the one I mentioned above.

Memory is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, some of those things I would like to forget. Mostly the stupid things I have said and done in my life.

Apparently, according to my Bible app, “remember” is in the NIV 166 times. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a command or admonition from the Lord. Sometimes, it is in the form of a promise from the Lord. And sometimes, it is in the form of a prayer from one of God’s people to Him.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
(Exodus 20:8 NIV)

“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
(Genesis 9:14-16 NIV)

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
(Exodus 33:13 NIV, Moses speaking)

Then there are verses like these.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Hebrews 8:12 NIV)

We see from Scripture that our God is able to intentionally forget things! Have you ever tried to do that?? Just try and forget something, sometime! It is impossible for a human being to intentionally forget something. It’s like trying to not think about a pink elephant. Don’t do it!

(From Pray a Word a Day)(Except for the bit about pink elephants)

Father, there are things I want to remember, and things I would like to forget. I suppose there are reasons why I cannot forget some of those things; good reasons, hopefully, lessons learned. I’m not always so sure about that, though, that the lessons were learned, because I keep making some of the same stupid mistakes.

But there are also things I never want to forget, like my father’s face and his voice and his love for me. I never want to forget other people that have come through my life, and the good things they have brought to my life. And most definitely, I never want to forget You and Your benefits to my life. Help me to always remember that I belong to You.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Philippians 3:12 ESV)

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:36 ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(Hebrews 12:1 ESV)

It is important to remember (that was not intentional) that we have not yet “arrived.” Just like Paul, I have not obtained what I am after, yet. As U2 stated so well, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Of course, I have found Jesus, or, rather, He found me, because He is the one looking for “lost sheep,” right? But I have not fully obtained the perfect salvation that awaits me at the entrance to Home.

I have not arrived; I am not perfect. In fact, I’m pretty far from perfect. But there is one other important thing to remember.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalms 103:14 ESV)

Father, I am so grateful that You remember that we are dust. While You “command” that we are “holy,” as You are holy, or “perfect” as You are perfect, You still remember that we are dust, and that we are not, in fact either holy or perfect. We have the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, though. His righteousness has been added to my account. So You do not see, nor do You remember, my sin! Oh, Hallelujah!

I still search, and I still seek. I seek, first, Your kingdom. At least when I remember, I do that. Help me to remember to keep seeking Your kingdom, so that all other things will fall into place, as they should. Help me to lay aside the weight that I am not intended to bear, and that could mean a lot of different things. We take on weight that we should not, and that’s not always about sin. I look forward, with great anticipation, to being Home, and seeing that “great cloud of witnesses” that has gone before me.

Words are important. Words are powerful, both spoken and written.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

The spoken Word of God created the universe and brought light into being. It’s quite a wonder, if we ponder it, that light was created before there were any stars. But that’s a topic for another day.

“The spoken and written word is active; it does things, makes things happen. it is so easy to lose connection with this reality and let ourselves be intimidated by force and might, by horsepower and nuclear power, by money and militancy, and by terrorism and brutality.”

A man named Vaclav Havel “sat in prison in Czechoslovakia for many years because the communist government was afraid of his words and what his words would do.” He cared nothing about politics, but was “a deeply committed Christian who wrote plays for the stage and letters to his wife.” They were afraid of him because “he wrote truth, wrote well, and used words that were full of energy.”

After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, “he stepped out of prison and was immediately made president of his country. In the speeches he made after that remarkable reversal, he spoke over and over again to the Word, to the nature of the Word, to the Word of God and the Word made flesh.”

Not all words are active, though. If we separate our own words from the life of God, without His Spirit, they are small, meager. “Words used without accuracy, without passion, and without love are lifeless. . . . Words that make and root the world, that bring truth into lives, and that ignite love in hearts are the words that are born in the presence of God.”

And the place where we get those words is in our closet, in prayer; in His presence.

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

Father, help me to remember the power of words. But also that that power is contingent upon your presence. Yes, words that do not contain Your life and wisdom can be powerful, but they are lifeless. They do great evil. We are inundated, in today’s culture, with inaccurate words, words that spread misinformation, even though they may be spoken with passion. Help us to have wisdom when we listen; give us ears to hear only truth, Father, and let that truth be from Your Word, the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Let all other words fall by the wayside.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Remembering

Grace and peace, friends.

When Less is More

“There is a paradox here: the less busy we are, the more free we are to do the essentially Christian acts. The less we hassle ourselves and one another with jobs, lists, and endless moralistic housecleaning, the more focused we become for truly productive lives of creation and vocation.”

Today is Wednesday, the sixth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you.

Day 23,400

I’m a little late getting started, this morning. I slept later than usual, and decided, upon awaking, to go to the library to be in the staff group photo that was being taken. That happened at 9:25. Then I stopped for donuts for everyone on the way home.

In the meantime, C had an appointment with her foot surgeon who confirmed that she has broken another toe. This time, it’s the big toe on her right foot. As it turns out, the little toe still hasn’t healed properly, so she is supposed to wear her boot for four weeks. I’m thinking we need to bubble wrap all of the furniture.

In case you think I’m being mean, she is in on this joke.

There isn’t much else on the agenda for today, so on to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalms 100:4-5 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the family of good folks at the Hurst Public Library, such a delight to work with them
2. for the "mission" that I have, to love God and love people
3. that the kingdom of God is not "a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17)
4. that less really is more in the Christian life
5. for the writings and lessons of Eugene Peterson

The prayer word for today is “mission.” Here is another word that has a lot of different meanings, not all of which bring about positive thoughts in my brain. The word “mission” has been thrown around by the church and has gotten to be rather cliché, in my opinion. It became a kind of catch-all to mean all evangelism efforts, as well as a thing that the church is “on.”

In the reading for today, the header is a quote from Maya Angelou. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” I rather like that.

I suppose everyone has a “mission” of some kind. Some of them are self-appointed, and, perhaps, some are God-appointed. Some of us may not have a clue what our “mission” is. When I was in seminary (yes, I went to seminary), I was always amused at the number of guys (mostly guys, there were a few women, because, you know, Southern Baptists don’t exactly cotton to women preachers) who came from states like Alabama and Georgia, and had pretty much decided that that was where they were going back to when they graduated. Their “mission,” in their mind, was predetermined.

At sixty-four years old, I have struggled with “mission” for most of my life. I believe I have come down to this: (oh, no, is he going to say that thing about “two jobs” again??) My mission, and I have chosen to accept it, is to love God and love people. It is to display that love of God to as many people as I can in the time that I have left on this earth.

My mission does not concern politics. I have political opinions . . . who doesn’t? But they are not relevant to this forum, and will not be discussed on this forum.

My mission does not concern removing sin and evil from the world. Frankly, I do not believe that anyone other than God has that mission.

My mission is not “evangelism,” as defined by the current “church” in our culture. Contrary to what some folks have been led to believe, the Bible does NOT tell me that I’m supposed to “share Christ with everyone I meet.” I would love for someone to give me that chapter and verse. And it hurts my soul to see the lack of love that exists in many peoples’ efforts to be “evangelists.” It almost reminds me of Jonah.

If you’re not familiar with that one, read the book in the Old Testament. Jonah hated the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be “saved.” He wanted to watch them burn. He was actually angry when they listened to his warning, which he didn’t want to give them, in the first place, which is why he got swallowed by the big fish (which was not a whale, by the way).

My mission is all about love. If, in displaying that love, I manage to bring someone alongside me in this journey of following Christ, all the better. My desire is to show them the love that God has for them by loving them.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.”
(Luke 12:22 NIV)

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 14:17 NIV)

Okay, let’s revisit that “mission.” This time, in light of some words by Eugene Peterson.

As we grow up, from childhood, we learn to do things. We learn to take care of ourselves, feed ourselves, tie our shoes (some of us), and so on. Then we learn how to help around the house by doing chores like taking out the trash, doing dishes, making beds, sharing toys (some of us), and so on.

Somehow, we have managed to mistakenly assume that the Christian life is the same. “God helps those who help themselves” is frequently quoted as being something that is in the Bible. It is not. But being a Christian, being a true Christian, “means letting God take care of us, totally.” Unfortunately, we try to figure out what we can do to “help” (that is in quotes because my human efforts seldom “help” God with anything). We think that, as we mature as Christians, we will take on more responsibility, “getting busier and busier in the Lord’s service.”

This is a very humanistic attitude, and runs rampant in the modern church.

“What we find, though, is that as we become practiced in the practices of prayer and worship and trust and love, we are more and more receivers and our lives are experienced as gifts, as grace.

“There is a paradox here: the less busy we are, the more free we are to do the essentially Christian acts. The less we hassle ourselves and one another with jobs, lists, and endless moralistic housecleaning, the more focused we become for truly productive lives of creation and vocation.

“The less we do, the more we find our Lord the Spirit doing in and through us.”

Sadly, having served in many local churches, through my adult life, I have seen tasks and jobs and lists being forced on people. Even if the church leadership didn’t have a clear vision of what they should be doing, they would make something up, rather than wait on God to move. The more I observed this, the sadder I got, and the more disenchanted I became with the institution.

As Peterson has so aptly pointed out, we need to do less to be able to do more. That’s quite the paradox. But there really are times when we need to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). And, in that being still, we listen, we pray, we contemplate and meditate, and then we do the real work of the kingdom which is . . .

You guessed it.

Father, help us to get this. Your Church, in general, especially in the USA, really needs to grasp these concepts. We make ourselves so busy, “doing Your work” (at least that’s what we think we’re doing), that we can’t see the real “work” that needs to be done. The oppression keeps on, the poor stay poor, the hungry stay hungry, and the homeless stay homeless, all because we get so hyper focused on issues that, while they may be important, in truth are not our concerns, our worries. You have given us our tasks. You have shown us what we need to do, and it’s right there in black and white. But we, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’s day, think we have to “help” You by making up more stuff.

God, forgive us, and help us, and have mercy.

Help me to do a better job of loving You and loving people. I have my own issues that I have to struggle with, and one of those is that I have a hard time loving people that I see spreading hate in this world. But I’m supposed to love them, too, and even myself have said that if you hate the haters, you’re just another hater. So help me, Lord.

I thank You for the “mission” that You have given me, even though it’s not so different from the basic mission of every Christian on the planet. Help us all to fulfill it.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Help!

Today is Wednesday, the thirtieth of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ rain down on you today!

Day 23,393

I just realized that I published this without adding any personal stuff, but I didn’t really have anything to add, today, anyway. So straight on to the devotional.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Come to God,” by Daryl Madden

God welcomes us
With a sunrise’s beauty
Come receive His love
Welcome Him into me

God’s seeking us
In gifts everywhere
Come find His love
With our soul, be aware

God’s calling us
With opportunities
Come share His love
With the lost and needy

God’s wanting us
In Him to be
Come be His love
For eternity

What a beautiful invitation, especially that last stanza. There is, I fear, much misunderstanding surrounding God and His purposes. He desires us to be “His love for eternity.” Please check out more of Daryl’s inspirational poems at the link provided above.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the simplicity of the love of God; how deep and how mighty, yet how simple
2. that I am alive and breathing
3. that God is our help and our shield (Psalm 33:20)
4. for the easy yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)
5. that God will do what He says He will do

Today’s prayer word is “help.” And the quote at the top comes from a book that I have had on my TBR list for a while, now.

“This is a hard planet, and we’re a vulnerable species. And all I can do is pray: Help.” ~ Anne Lamott, in Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers..

The writer, known only as “Bob,” says that “help” is “the most instinctive prayer we ever prayed.” And the God of the universe, to whom we pray is “our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20).

And then there’s this cool Beatles song, too.

(From Pray a Word a Day)(Except for, of course, The Beatles)

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
(Psalms 72:12 ESV)

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
(1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 ESV)

Do you see it in there? Not only can we cry out to God for “help,” but we are also responsible, even obligated to “help” others.

Many times in our lives, in our walk with Christ, we feel unworthy. We feel the condemnation (even though God clearly tells us there is none) because of serious wrongs that we have done. Even though we have known Christ’s redemption, and know in our minds that He has forgiven us, we still struggle with this deep remorse. And the remorse is fitting, because the Spirit of God has awakened this within us.

But we must, says John Wesley, “transcend it in trust.” The Spirit has given us these words:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
(Job 19:25 ESV)

Interestingly, Wesley’s translation has the word “vindicator” instead of “Redeemer.”

The Spirit also gives us these words:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

In that faith, we are set free from the bondage of past sins. And remember these beautiful words, as well:

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)

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

Eugene Peterson reminds us that we are invited, by our Father, “to leap, to live, and to love: to leap from the visible uncertainties of self to the invisible certainties of faith, to live intensely instead of eagerly and dully, and to love directly and personally and not secondhand.”

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

Father, there are certainly times in my life when all I could do was pray, “Help!” And You answered; You helped, just as You promise You will. My life, my hope, and my trust are all built on the foundation that You will do what You say You will do. If I trusted my own faithfulness or steadfastness, my life would have been over years ago. But I trust Your faithfulness, Your steadfast love, and Your promises. I trust in who You are and what You say You will do.

You are my help and my shield; You are my Rock and my salvation, my Redeemer and my Deliverer. I praise You, my God. And now, help me to go out into this day, to leap into faith, to live intensely and to love directly, all in the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

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.