When the Line Fades

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

Good morning. Today is Wednesday, the ninth of February, 2022, in the fifth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Day 23,344

There’s not much going on around here, today. C is working from home, Mama is here and planning to go back to Mineral Wells tomorrow. I have to go in to “work” for an hour today, for a meeting, and I’m planning to cook Pecan Crusted Buttermilk Chicken tonight, for dinner. I have a grocery order scheduled for delivery, around lunch time. That’s about it. Should be a “chill” day.

It was a good evening at the library (starting to sound like a broken record, right?), last night. I really love my library people, and they know it, too. There’s always something to talk about, whether it be music we like or books (imagine that), or, most recently, Wordle. I introduced one of them to Dordle, yesterday. Dordle is like “double Wordle.” Here’s my Wordle score for today:

Wordle 235 2/6*

🟩⬜⬜🟨⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Yeah, I got lucky.

And here’s my Dordle score:

Daily Dordle #0016 5&7/7
⬜⬜⬜⬜🟨 ⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜ ⬜🟩⬜⬜⬜
🟨🟨🟨⬜🟨 ⬜🟩🟨🟨⬜
🟨🟨🟨🟩🟩 ⬜🟩⬜🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🟨⬜⬜🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩⬜
⬛⬛⬛⬛⬛ 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
zaratustra.itch.io/dordle

As you can see, Dordle has two words! The way it works is, you type in a word, and it shows up on both sides (two columns of five letters), telling you if that letter is in that word and if it is in the right position. Once you get one of the words right, the rest of the guesses are dark, and it only types in the other word. So far, I have not guessed the second word first.

Dordle hasn’t quite caught on like Wordle, just yet. I have also heard that the NY Times has bought Wordle. If they start charging for it, I’ll quit playing, as I’m sure many others will.

Time for another cup of coffee. Be right back.

I’ve discovered a design that I’m getting on a new t-shirt. It will be ready next week.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You are here for me;
You will not withhold Your love;
I am here for You.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
(Psalms 40:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for blue skies smilin' at me (not the song)
2. that God is good; He is truly the only One worthy of being called "good"
3. for the freedom that comes when we forgive
4. for the confidence to pray specific prayers, for myself and for others
5. for those times when the veil between heaven and earth seems to fade, and we get a glimpse of the other side

I half-expected today’s prayer word to be “everywhere,” but it is not. It is “free.” Again, I find that this is a word that could mean many things to many different people. The quote by renowned Christian author and Reformed theologian Lewis B. Smedes, says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an odd animal. Jesus had some things to say about forgiveness.

Pay attention to yourselves!
 If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 
and if he sins against you seven times in the day, 
and turns to you seven times,
 saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
(Luke 17:3-4 ESV)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(Mark 11:25 ESV)

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

I’ve struggled mightily with that last one, believe me. It almost sounds like it makes our salvation based on “works,” rather than grace. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today’s topic is “free.” When we free others by forgiving them, we also free ourselves. If I carry a grudge, I’m the one bearing the burden. I also think it is interesting that that passage in Mark doesn’t say anything about repentance. If I’m praying, and I have something against someone else, I’m supposed to instantly forgive them on the spot.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 
"Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly."
 And he said to him, 
"I will come and heal him." 
But the centurion replied, 
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, 
but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 
For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. 
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, 
and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, 
and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 
When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 
"Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment. 
(Matthew 8:5-10, 13 ESV)

Read this passage in light of yesterday’s discussion on prayer. Is prayer difficult? There is no answer to that question. Or, perhaps, the answer is, “Yes . . . and no.” The centurion found prayer to be easy. Yet, he did not deem himself worthy to have Jesus under his roof.

We, as stated yesterday, seem to prefer praying for huge things, world-wide things. Or maybe it’s that we subconsciously are praying for things that we know won’t cause us to have to do anything. There’s a thought, huh? I mean, what can I, individually, do about “world peace?” But if I pray for God to feed the hungry, He might impress upon me to take some food to someone, driving me out of my comfort zone.

What is it, though, that keeps me from voicing specific prayer requests? I don’t think it’s fear. But that might be it for some people. The fear being, “What if He doesn’t answer?” My perspective on that is that God will always answer. It just may not be the answer I want. And then I have to deal with disappointment.

There’s a thought that I see, sometimes, in contemporary music, that says, that God will never let you down.

I’m sorry to tell you this (no I’m not), but yes, He will. God will let you down. It’s inevitable. If you follow Jesus correctly, He will disappoint you. He never promised not to.

You see, it’s not about you! It’s not about me! This is one area where the modern church has completely lost its way. Was it yesterday when I read something about people turning God into an object they can use for their benefit? Turns out that’s not so modern is it?

So if I don’t ask God for something specific, I won’t be disappointed, right? But why bother praying at all, then? Why even ask for “world peace?”

Here’s the thing. If I’m going to ask for something specific, I’d best be ready to act when God begins answering, because His answer to that prayer might very well include me doing something. I’m encouraged to “experiment” with prayer, thinking of something to ask God for, over the next week. I’ll try to remember to revisit that, later.

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

GOD is good, 
a hiding place in tough times. 
He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, 
No matter how desperate the trouble. 
(Nahum 1:7-8 MSG)
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; 
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 
(Proverbs 3:24 NIV)
I lie down and sleep; 
I wake again, 
because the LORD sustains me. 
(Psalms 3:5 NIV)
He will not let your foot slipβ€” 
he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel 
will neither slumber nor sleep. 
(Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)

“I long for moments when the line between heaven and earth fades, where I can see the other side from over here.” ~ Ashley Kappel

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

Father, I echo Ashley Kappel’s sentiment. I long for those moments, when it does seem as though the veil between heaven and earth is thinner, fading, and we get a glimpse of the “other side.” I hope that this experience becomes more common as I draw closer to You.

I praise You for being You . . . You are good, as Jesus said, the only One who can truly be called “good.” You are truly a hiding place, my fortress or strong tower, where I can run and hide when I feel oppressed by our enemy. You are always there to help us, and all we have to do is cry out to You in our desperate need.

I pray for the faith to pray for specific needs, things that are beyond our scope of fulfilling. Help me to believe enough to truly pray for healing, or, as the case may be, for something as small as new shoes. Show me what to pray for, and for whom to pray. And then give me the confidence to come before Your throne. I praise You for the mercy You give. You are mercy, the very embodiment of it.

And help me to always be forgiving. Even if there is no sign of repentance from the other party, help me to release whatever it is that is holding me back. I want nothing between me and Thee. Help me to be truly free, Father, and help me to free others as well. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Beautiful One

Today is Saturday, the fifth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,340

It’s still rather cold, here in DFW, but better. It’s currently 20 degrees with a projected high of 49, today. I don’t think it quite made it to 40, yesterday, but it did get above freezing, and the street in front of our house seems to be dry. I’ll probably try to leave a little early for work, this morning, just in case there is any difficulty. I’m not expecting any, but you never know.

Here’s my Wordle score for today.

Wordle 231 3/6*

⬜⬜🟨⬜🟩
🟩⬜🟩⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

There’s another similar game that someone came up with, that involves math. It’s called “Nerdlegame.” It has eight spaces and involves equations. No thank you. I choose to not do math for fun. I avoid math whenever possible, and am most certainly not entertained by it.

I don’t want to risk running out of time, this morning, so I’m going to move on to my devotional content. I will say that Mama is still here, and is immensely enjoying her time here. At this point, there is no definite plan as to when she will return home, and for how long. We haven’t talked all that through, just yet.

I have forgotten to mention a couple things. Wednesday night, I think, it was, we all watched Hamilton on Disney+. Mama really enjoyed it. Last night, we watched The Greatest Showman, and we all enjoyed that, as well. It was a lot of fun. I have no idea how accurate it was, as I know virtually nothing about P.T. Barnum and his life. But the movie was good.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, 
your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; 
your judgments are like the great deep; 
man and beast you save, O LORD. 
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! 
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house,
 and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
 For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light do we see light. 
(Psalms 36:5-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the steadfast love of the Lord
2. that I have drunk from the river of His delights
3. that the Lord has said to my heart, "Do not fear!"
4. for the beauty of God
5. for beauty in creation, that reflects the Beautiful One
"I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; 
you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!' 
You came near when I called on you; you said, 'Do not fear!'"
(Lamentations 3:55-57 ESV)
Come, let us worship and bow down.
 Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. 
We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. 
If only you would listen to his voice today! 
The LORD says, 
β€œDon’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, 
as they did at Massah in the wilderness. 
For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
 even though they saw everything I did."
(Psalms 95:6-9 NLT)

We are called upon to love the Lord through the hard times, just as much as we love Him through the pleasant times. This seems challenging to some. There are types of people who simply lose their minds when things don’t go the way they think they should. And I’m not talking about how it can ruin my day if the Internet doesn’t work right. That’s just me being petty and silly.

I’m talking about folks who believe the world is ending in Revelation-style proportions if the “wrong” guy gets elected. This hearkens back to where we put our trust. If our hope and trust is in the Lord, and we listen to His voice that has said to us, “Do not fear!” then there is no place for this dismay.

“Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for HE is our God.” Let us love Him just as much when things are going great, when things seem like they are catastrophic or disastrous, as we love Him when things are just dandy. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this creates a calmness in life that is unequaled. It helps one to live life on more of an even keel, as it were. In case you don’t know what that means, to be “even-keeled” means to be characterized by stability or consistency.

And there is nothing more stable than the love of God. I promise you this is true. Because His love reaches to the heavens and stretches to the clouds. It is like the mighty mountains, and His justice flows like the ocean’s tide.

Go back up there and listen to that Third Day song again (or for the first time, if you skipped it). Read the Psalm right under it while you listen. Dwell in that for a few minutes, meditating on the mighty love of God, the unchanging, steadfast love of God. There is nothing better.

The prayer word for today is “beauty.” John Keats is quoted as saying, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

This idea of beauty can be taken several ways. The author today’s reading in Pray a Word a Day comes from the perspective of a walk through a botanical garden in New York. I can only imagine the kind of beauty that she sees there.

But I believe that we can also take that word and apply it to our God. He is beautiful beyond all imagination. He is more beautiful than anything this person saw in that botanical garden. But the thing is, His beauty is reflected in that garden, because He is, ultimately, the Creator of all of that beauty. And God, the Beautiful One, creates things that reflect His beauty.

Father, I praise You, this morning, as You are the Beautiful One. I thank You for the word You spoke to my heart when You said, “Do not fear.” I thank You that this word continues to be true for me and for anyone who chooses to believe that You are Truth.

Lord, please help us to love You the same during hard times as we do during the good times. It is easy to love You during the easy times. Oddly enough, though, we tend to only pray during the hard, challenging times. Why is that, Lord? You must think us really strange people!

Help me to see beauty today. There is a chance that there will be may children at the library today. Help me see beauty in their faces, as well as the faces of their parents. Give me grace to be patient with all circumstances that arise today, and to remember my love for You through all things. Help me to love others, as well, even, and especially, when they are failing to love You through their difficult times. Help me be one who shows them what an “even-keeled” life looks like. That, of course, requires me to live life on an even keel, so help me to do that.

I want to show love to people, Father. I want to show them Your love, and I want to show them that I love them, as well. Help us to have a love revolution in our world. I pray for Your Church to remember who is in control, here.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Leaves of sound are shed they fall
On this murmuring mind
Where the lullabies call
And from these words I sink and fall
To the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

Deep waters sound, who loves that deep?
I make my way
Up the toilsome steep
In green meadows now I sleep
In the beautiful one

Behold this dreamer
In the arms of the beautiful one

And in the wind a song
And moonlight on the lawn
Draws me on, and on
And thru the day a sigh
For dreamers such as I
Who steal away
To watch and pray"
(Words and music by Terry Scott Taylor and Tim Chandler, copyright 1986 Broken Songs)
I challenge you to
find some beauty in your world
on your way, today

Grace and peace, friends.

The Lute and the Plectrum

Today is Friday, the fourth of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,339

It is currently 20 degrees outside, and everything is still covered in ice/snow. Mostly ice. I received word about 3:25 PM, yesterday, that the library would be closed again, today. So I don’t have to worry about getting out there and driving until tomorrow. We are supposed to get above freezing sometime this afternoon, possibly up to 40 (although the hourly only shows it getting to 37). It is sunny outside, as well, though, so hopefully, even though it looks like it will get down to 20 again tonight, the roads will be clear in the morning.

We have had no more power outages since night before last, which is good. I know at least one family that had to get a room in a hotel, because their power has been out since early yesterday. They live in a rural area, north of DFW, though. I’m not sure what’s going on with their power.

There are no plans for the day, since I would have been working. We were going to have our pizza tonight, but we don’t have enough ingredients to make two of them, so I’m not sure, at this point, what we will do. I may make a trip to the store, this afternoon, though. I don’t know what the shelves will look like. We may just order out, this evening.

I got lucky with my Wordle guess today.

Wordle 230 2/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, I dedicate this day to You.
May my feet walk only where You want them to walk.
May my eyes see only what You want them to see.
May my ears hear only what You want them to hear.
May my mouth say only what You want it to say.
May my mind think only what You want it to think.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
(Psalms 150:6 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I am alive and breathing; I have breath, so I'm praising the Lord
2. that God is constantly making all things new
3. that we have heat and electricity and plenty of food
4. that, in God's kingdom, I have nothing to fear
5. that prayer is like God "strumming my heart with His fingers"
Praise the LORD! 
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, 
in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
Great are the works of the LORD, 
studied by all who delight in them. 
Full of splendor and majesty is his work, 
and his righteousness endures forever. 
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; 
the LORD is gracious and merciful. 
(Psalms 111:1-4 ESV)

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
(Romans 8:19 ESV)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, 
are being transformed into the same image 
from one degree of glory to another. 
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
 teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, 
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 
(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, 
so walk in him, 
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, 
just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
to which indeed you were called in one body. 
And be thankful. 
(Colossians 3:15 ESV)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
(1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV)

Can we find a common thread in all of these passages? They occur in a reading on prayer, in the Spiritual Classics book. In this reading, prayer is likened to a lute player strumming his lute. In this imagery, the lute is the heart of the player, and the strumming is done with a plectrum (in modern days, we call this a “pick”), which is God’s Word, or the recollection of it, as well as the Name of Jesus.

The question is asked, do we view prayer as more of a burdensome duty or obligation? Can this idea of playing a musical instrument make it more a gift of grace? As a musician, I can identify with the attitudes presented. There are times when it’s a burden to grab my guitar or turn on my keyboard and begin playing.

In this reading, a selection written by Andre Louf, the idea presented, if I am understanding it correctly, is akin to the thought, “just do it.” However, it isn’t as simple as that. Before the section on prayer, there were a few readings on meditation, which is a precursor to prayer, and away to allow the Word of God to begin doing the “strumming” on our hearts. It reminds me of a song (that I never liked very much) in which the singer said that someone was “strumming my heart with his fingers.” Through meditation and contemplation, we allow the Spirit of God to begin the work of prayer in our hearts. And then, it becomes a gift of grace.

I have experienced this, in my own prayers. There have certainly been times when my prayers were mechanical, more of a burden or obligation than a joy. However, like practicing a musical instrument, there are times when it is more important to simply do the duty. It will not always be a joy. But the more we practice, the more it will become joyful.

That passage from Colossians 3 is instrumental in this endeavor. We allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (and trust me, this is a choice that we must make), work to be thankful (another choice that must be made), and then allow His Word to dwell in us richly. All of these are choices that we must consciously make. They won’t just happen. Just like becoming proficient in any musical instrument will not just happen.

Louf makes a statement that prayer can’t be learned from someone else. Actually, Louf is quoting Callixtus II, a fourteenth century Byzantine monk. “Nobody can learn how to see. For seeing is something we can do by nature. So too with prayer. Authentic prayer can never be learnt from someone else. It has its own instructor within it. Prayer is God’s gift to him who prays.” I agree with this to a point. However, we must not allow this idea to keep us from reading what other great people have to say about the subject. And it certainly doesn’t prohibit the use of pre-written prayers.

All of this was launched by the question, “is praying difficult?” And the question is not answered. In fact, Louf goes so far as to say that “No one is going to give you the answer to that question.” There will be some who try to tell you that it is easy. I say they do not fully comprehend prayer. As we learn to allow ourselves to be, in a sense, taken out of ourselves by the Spirit, prayer becomes more of an intricate part of our being. And we learn that prayer can be both difficult and easy.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, 
they comfort me. 
(Psalms 23:4 ESV)

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.
(Luke 12:22 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “step,” in the sense of taking one step at a time. A Chinese proverb is quoted. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” I once had a pastor who spoke of something he called the “one-percent grade.” As long as you are moving upward at even a one-percent grade, you’re doing okay, he would say. And, of course, we’ve all heard the famous statement that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And, for a little levity, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.”

The kingdom life doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” It’s easy to interpret some of the commands in this way, but that only leads to a life of impossibility and frustration. It eliminates the concept of “grace” altogether. It is good to know that God remembers that we are dust; He knows we are imperfect.

Father, as I pray for You to keep teaching me how to pray, I also ask for more of an understanding of how prayer works, how I am to go about it. I pray that You would, indeed, strum my heart with Your Words, with the Name of Jesus, reminding me constantly who I am and whose I am. I pray for consistency, but I also pray for real, authentic prayer in my life, prayer that comes, not necessarily easily, but naturally, as I become more and more consumed by Your Word.

Remind me, please, that I have nothing to fear in Your kingdom, and that, as long as I am moving in Your direction, thought it be only one step at a time, I am doing okay.

I pray for people I know who are still without power. Please intervene and give them power and heat, that they may be safe and warm in their homes. I pray for any who might be without shelter, during this time, that they might be able to find someplace warm to stay. I also pray that they would have food to eat.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Eternal God,
who are the light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You;
grant us so to know You that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Prayer to Know God, by St. Augustine)

Grace and peace, friends.

Keep Your Eyes On the Son

Good morning. Today is Thursday, the third of February, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today.

Day 23,338

It was a fairly busy day at the library, yesterday, as people came in to get books in preparation for today’s winter storm. We have a subscription service that was initiated during the time that the library was closed in 2020. Those who sign up get three books a month, personally curated by a library staff member, based on the patron’s likes and preferences. A bookmark is provided with each book, that gives an opportunity for the patron to respond to the choice, indicating if the library staff person made a good choice for them. I see a lot of those come back through, some with good comments on them, but some with nothing at all, which is not at all helpful for the next month’s bag of books. I have thought about signing up for that myself.

Anyway, I handed out no less than seven of those bags, yesterday, which is, by far, a record for me. I handed out five during my first hour at the circ desk, and I don’t think I had ever given out that many in a whole day before.

The library, along with all city services (other than emergency of course), is closed today. I can’t speak for the rest of the area, but at my house, we pretty much only got sleet/freezing rain all night, and have had very little snow. Snow would be better, because sleet is ice, which means the roads are covered in ice. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, regarding my library shift, because it won’t get above freezing today. In fact, the projected high is only 23.

Our power went out for about an hour, last night, at around 1:30. At first, I was angry. I will confess that, in the spirit of transparency. I always want to hold myself accountable for the things I “preach” here, and show that I am not, in fact, perfect, and have a long way to go. I was angry at our governor and the farcical board that controls electricity in the state of Texas, since a few years back (many of us had no idea that our government had even done this) when the state decided to foolishly remove itself from the federal power grid. This is why we were without power for over thirty hours last February (some people for even five whole days). And no improvements at all were made in the last year, because our government caters to capitalistic greed and will not hold power resource companies accountable to their actions.

However, in the midst of my anger, it was as if the Holy Spirit were speaking peace into my soul, reminding me that my trust and hope is not in human beings, but in the Lord. The power was restored in less time than predicted by the power company. It took me a while to calm down and go back to sleep, which may not have happened at all, had it not been for that peace received from the Spirit. I was wrong to be angry, yes. My thoughts were not wrong, and someone in power still should be held accountable, and hopefully in this year’s election, that will happen. But I was wrong to be angry, because my hope is not in princes, kings, presidents, or governors. My hope is in the Lord God Almighty, and He is my strength and shield.

Today is my normal day off, anyway, so the library closing really means nothing to me. However, I am glad that my beloved library friends won’t have to try to get to work in this weather. Hopefully, they are all safe and warm. One of them said she was going skiing. Hahaha! The only thing on my “plate,” today (besides the chocolate cake I ate for breakfast), is likely a few loads of laundry. There should be some reading and gaming done, as well. And probably chicken stir-fry for dinner.

And here is my Wordle score for the day. As one of my Facebook friends says, I had a “fortuitous” second guess.

Wordle 229 3/6*

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to You and be healed."
(Traditional)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 
(Psalms 34:4-8 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good
2. that He has delivered me from all my fears (so far)
3. that my hope and trust is not in any human being, but only in the Lord God Almighty
4. for Nathan Buchanan and his ministry to FBC Mineral Wells
5. for angels
6. for the light and warmth of the sun (as well as the Son)

“Let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice; seek the Lord and be strengthened, seek his face always. Entering into prayer today, I too am seeking the Lord, seeking his face, looking for the signs of his presence in my life, gently guiding me in truth and peace and love.”

When David's time to die drew near, 
he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 
"I am about to go the way of all the earth. 
Be strong, and show yourself a man, 
and keep the charge of the LORD your God, 
walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, 
his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, 
as it is written in the Law of Moses, 
that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 
that the LORD may establish his word 
that he spoke concerning me, saying, 
'If your sons pay close attention to their way, 
to walk before me in faithfulness 
with all their heart and with all their soul, 
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'" 
Then David slept with his fathers 
and was buried in the city of David.Β  
So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, 
and his kingdom was firmly established.
(1 Kings 2:1-4, 10, 12 ESV)

In today’s reading, we see the final words of King David to his son, Solomon. David tells Solomon to “keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes.” Perhaps there is not a lot of agreement on what it means to walk in the ways of the Lord, keeping His statutes. It seems to mean different things to different people.

I will tell you what it means to me. It means paying close attention to the words and actions of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, if I am to walk in the ways of God, then Jesus is where I need to look. Of course, it is wise and helpful to read and meditate on the Law of the Old Testament. But that should not ever take precedence over the words and steps of Christ. And even if it does, we have the words of Micah, who said, “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?”

And Jesus boiled all of the commands of the Law and Prophets into two commands. If you’ve read my blog before, you know what is coming. Love the Lord your God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything is covered in those two commands.

The question is asked, do I know a leader who carries great responsibility. I do, as a matter of fact, one whom I respect greatly. His name is Nathan Buchanan, and he pastors my mother’s church, FBC Mineral Wells. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate him very much (as well as the worship leader, Mel Kincaid). Pastor Nathan is bearing quite a load, right now, as his wife is quite ill. I believe that he is striving to walk in the ways of the Lord, as made evident by Jesus Christ. And I pray for him, that he might have “wisdom, kindness, strength, and courage” and everything else that he needs in order to successfully minister to the people of Mineral Wells, Texas.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

(From Pray As You Go)

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
(Hebrews 1:14 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “sun.” This could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It could also be read phonetically to be “Son.” Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”

If you’re like me, and you are, sometimes, you might be a cat owner. Dog owners might experience this, as well, but I’ve seen more cats do it. And that is laying on the floor, stretched out in a streak of sunlight that is shining through a window somewhere. Sometimes that streak is really narrow, yet the cat always finds a way to fit inside it, basking in the warmth.

“Like the sun, the warmth of Jesus’s presence does the same for me. When life feels wild, His faithful love leaves me feeling sated and calm. In light of His mercy, anxiety and anger fade away. There is no darkness in Jesus. His Holy Word is a lamp for my feet, guiding my way. His face shines upon me, bringing peace. Like the sun, Jesus brings light and life. I have all I need.” (Susanna, in Pray a Word a Day)

I’ve written a few songs, in my lifetime. One of my favorites is called “Keep Your Eyes on the Son.” It begins like this:

Have you ever looked at the sun, my friend?
If you have, then you know, when you look away again,
All you can see is a big yellow ball;
When you look at the sun, you can't see anything else at all.
Some people say, "If you look at the sun, then blind you'll be,"
But I'm here to tell you, it's the only way to see.

Keep your eyes on the Son . . .

We started out, this morning, talking about walking in the ways of the Lord (the version read in Pray As You Go had the word “faithfully” after “walk”), and walking faithfully. As we conclude, we see that the best way to walk faithfully in the ways of the Lord is to keep our eyes on the Son. The physical sun provides light and warmth to our physical bodies. The Son of God provides light and warmth to our spiritual selves.

Father, I have many things to pray, this morning. I lift up Your servant Nathan to You, asking that You would provide all the wisdom, kindness, strength, and courage that he needs in order to do Your work. I also pray for healing for his dear wife. May You bless them richly, especially for the kindness that they have shown my family.

I pray for my friend Robert’s granddaughter, Addison, who is struggling with breathing, in the hospital. Father, breathe life into this child and fill her lungs with oxygen.

Keep teaching us, Father, how to walk in Your ways, how to walk in Your kingdom. Help us to know the ways of Jesus, how to keep our eyes on Him as we walk in this world. The older I get, the more distracting life is. There are so many things that threaten to take our eyes off of Jesus, and successfully, all too often. Help us to stay focused; help us to walk correctly. Help us to do those things that are mentioned in Micah, things that please You.

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.

Take My Hand

Today is Monday, the thirty-first of January, 2022, in the fourth week of Ordinary Time. The last day of January.

May the peace of Christ be with you today!

Day 23,335

Today’s header photo is courtesy Paul Militaru. Please check out his fine photography at the link provided.

Yesterday was a day. It was, as it turns out, a pretty good day, but it was one of the more stressful days that I can remember, lately, and quite exhausting, at least mentally.

Right off the bat, let me say that no one was to blame for this. Circumstances arose that were out of anyone’s control, beginning, at least for our involvement, Saturday evening.

But what this is going to turn into, as the ongoing circumstance develops, is a praise report.

Look back a couple days ago, or so, and you will see an entry called “Disastrophe.” In it, I wrote about how the book of Ezekiel shows us that God works in and through catastrophe in our lives. We experienced the truth of this, yesterday.

The circumstance is that the plumbing in my mother’s house is clogged up, right now. Both toilets are backing up, and there are other issues, but the toilets are the primary, priority issue. We were already planning to go over there, yesterday, as S had an event at FBC that she wanted to attend, and we planned to have her there for that. So when Mama called Saturday evening to tell us about the problems, we decided to wait until Sunday morning to try to deal with them.

We dropped S off at the church and went over to the house. We chatted for a little while, serious talk about the eventuality that my mother wants to . . . okay, she doesn’t want to, but feels that the time is nigh for her to leave her home of almost sixty years. And, she expressed, to our surprise, her desire to come live with us for a while. Surprise because it had been previously expressed that she did not want to stay at our house, but might want an apartment or senior living space somewhere nearby.

After we talked a little while, and before we headed back up to the church for the worship service and lunch afterward, C took the short snake that we had brought and tackled one of the toilets. She actually got it to flush, and we went on to church.

As for plumbers, Mama had not been able to successfully contact any. She had called one that had been recommended, but had not been able to talk to them, as they had not returned her calls. While we were at church, I ran across a family friend, one of my high school teachers who is active in the visitation of elderly people who don’t get out much (we used to call them “shut-ins” when I was a kid), who gave me a name of a guy who does work like that, not an official “plumber,” but a handyman of sorts, who has actually done work for Mama before. But she was not aware that he was still doing work like that.

We got home from lunch, finally, and gave her the name. Of course, she remembered him, and still had his number. We talked some more, mostly about what kinds of things would need to happen in order for Mama to come live with us, and what kind of time line we were looking at. We are concerned with two things, at this point. One is getting the plumbing/toilets fixed asap, and the other is that there is an extreme cold front coming in mid-week, with snow and temps dropping to single digits. Doesn’t look anything like last year’s “Snovid” event, but still a bit unsettling. C really wanted to bring her home with us last night.

Shortly before we were getting ready to leave, Mama tried to call the guy, but he did not answer. She left him a message. We went to Braum’s to get her some milk and orange juice (and I needed to use the restroom). We got the milk and OJ, but someone was in the men’s room the entire time we were there! I waited close to fifteen minutes, too! One customer, as I was leaving opined that he would have just used the ladies’ room, as they are single occupancy. C even offered to stand watch while I did that, but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Silly, perhaps, but whatever.

So we went back to the house (I figured I could wait on the restroom until we hit up a convenience store on the way out of town in a few minutes) to deliver the milk and OJ. Just as we were saying our goodbyes, the phone rang. Mama figured it was a good friend who was supposed to call her back, but it was the handyman. We waited while she talked to him. He is supposed to be there, sometime this morning, with a super-duper snake machine, and feels that he can fix the problem.

So let’s lay out how we believe God worked through all of this. I realize that skeptics would call all of this coincidence. I, personally, do not believe in coincidence or “luck” (even though I do, sometimes, use the word “lucky”). I ran into my old teacher/family friend at church, who gave me the name of the handyman that my mother had used before and trusted. Now, here’s the thing that blows my mind. If I had not been delayed at Braum’s, trying to use the restroom, an inconvenience and annoyance to me, because whoever was in there wouldn’t come out, we likely would not still have been at Mama’s house when the guy called back, and would have left her with little peace about what was going to happen. As it turns out, we had great peace when we left, and were able to relax and get a good night’s sleep when we got home.

So, catastrophe, yes. Stressful, to the max, yes. But God worked. It is not finished yet, but we at least have something in the works that has good potential. And there is the beginning of a plan to move my mother into our house, soon. No idea how soon, but it’s at least in the works.

Well, that got long, and probably could have been its own entry, but I’ll carry on from here. Today is a typical Monday. C is back at the office again, and I’ll be doing some housework, during the day. It’s my “heavy” week at the library, working Tuesday evening, all day Wednesday, Friday (weather permitting), and Saturday.

I have also managed to get in my Wordle for the day.

Wordle 226 4/6*

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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."
For you are my rock and my fortress; 
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; 
Make your face shine on your servant; 
save me in your steadfast love! 
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, 
all you who wait for the LORD! 
(Psalms 31:3, 16, 24 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the way God works through apparent catastrophes
2. that the Lord is my rock and my fortress and that He leads me and guides me
3. for the sovereignty of God over all creation
4. that You are holding me by the hand, leading me to live right and well
5. that You bind up that which was broken (Ezekiel 34:16)
“Hear My Prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee.”
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 
He lived among the tombs. 
And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 
for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. 
No one had the strength to subdue him. 
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 
And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 
"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
 I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 
For he was saying to him, 
"Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 
And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, 
"My name is Legion, for we are many." 
And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 
Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 
and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." 
So he gave them permission.
 And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; 
and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
(Mark 5:1-13 ESV)

Can you picture this scene in your imagination? What do you think this “wild man” looked like? Living in the tombs, according to Luke’s version, he was also naked, wearing no clothes. Night and day, he would cry out or howl and cut or bruise himself with stones. Sounds like the making of a good adventure movie, doesn’t it? Can you imagine what the howls sounded like?

Notice that the demons inside the man recognized Jesus immediately, running to Him, and throwing the man down at His feet. The “spokesdemon” even begged Jesus not to torment him. I wonder how Jesus looked at this man . . . what kind of expression did He have on His face?

The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 
And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, 
the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 
And those who had seen it described to them 
what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 
And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 
And he did not permit him but said to him, 
"Go home to your friends and tell them
 how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 
And he went away and began to proclaim 
in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. 
(Mark 5:14-20 ESV)

Can you now imagine the man, clothed, and sitting in front of Jesus, “in his right mind?” Why do you think the people begged Jesus to leave? Was it because they were so selfish that all they could think about was their pigs? I suppose that is always possible, knowing humanity the way we do. But I think there is also a key in verse 15. “They were afraid.” Something, someone “Other” was in their midst. Someone who had the kind of power that could do this thing, someone who was more powerful than whatever it was that had plagued this man for a long time.

I can’t help but wonder what it felt like to be in His presence at that moment. I have to believe that the air must have been thick with the power and presence of God. I mean, I know what it feels like when I get a taste of His presence in my room, here. This had to have been multiplied exponentially!

Do we know someone who might be suffering in the way that this man was suffering? Perhaps not possessed by “legions” of demons, but suffering in some other way. How can we pray for these people? We can speak to God, through Jesus, the One who has this kind of power, and we can have confidence that He will answer.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

(From Pray As You Go)

"I am GOD. 
I have called you to live right and well. 
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe." 
(Isaiah 42:6 MSG)
Of David.

 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. 
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. 
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. 
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. 
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. 
(Psalms 138:1-8 ESV)

In that Isaiah passage, there are several translations that have God saying, “I will hold your hand,” or, “I will take you by the hand.” Surely we are all familiar with the image of God holding us in His hand. Who doesn’t know the old gospel song, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands?” But how often do we think of God, whose “hand” is big enough to hold the world, taking our hand and holding us by the hand?

What a wonderful image. Just as God called Isaiah to “live right and well,” my God has called me to do the same, and He has pledged to take responsibility for me. There are many times in my life that I have experienced Him holding me in His hand or in His arms. But I have also known times when I believe that He is holding me by the hand and leading me.

Someday, that righteous right hand that gives me the confidence to “be not afraid,” will take my hand and lead me Home.

And today’s prayer word is “broken.” How’s that for “coincidence?” The verse given is short and sweet, from Ezekiel 34:16, where God says,

"I will . . . bind up the broken . . ."
(NASB)

Most translations render that “injured” rather than broken. However, the KJV says this:

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
(Ezekiel 34:16 KJV)

Father, in the spirit of Ezekiel 34:16, today, I ask You to bind up my mother’s “broken” plumbing. Bring healing to whatever needs to be fixed in her house, please. I call upon that same power that Jesus had when He cast the legions of demons out of that wild man in the tombs, restoring him to his right mind. I call upon You who take us by the hand, that same hand that holds the entire world, to lead us onward, to lead us Home, eventually. You have given us grace upon grace, and I pray that this continues, as You demonstrate how You work in and through disasters and catastrophes. You have given peace in the midst of the “storm,” Father, and I thank You for this.

I pray that as cold weather approaches our area, it will not be as severe as last February’s winter storm. I pray that it would not even be as severe as is being predicted, and that we would not have any travel/transportation issues in our area, and that no one’s electricity or other means of power/heating will stop working. Protect us, Father, those of us who follow You as well as the ones who do not. I do not wish calamity on anyone.

Thank You for Your absolute sovereignty over Creation, for it gives me confidence to trust in You and hope that all things will work out for our good. All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

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

Grace and peace, friends.

True Love

Today is Friday, the twenty-eighty of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,332

It’s already getting late, this morning, so I’d best get moving. It’s a work day for me, and I am due at the library by 9:15. I’ve also been informed that I will be alone in the computer center (no supervisor/manager on duty) for the first part of the morning, as the manager has an early appointment. That shouldn’t be a huge problem, though.

Anyway, I’m going ahead into the devotional part, this morning, as I have less than an hour to get done.

I did take time to play Wordle, this morning.

Wordle 223 5/6*

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Blessed be the LORD! 
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; 
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; 
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 
The LORD is the strength of his people; 
he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! 
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
(Psalms 28:6-9 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that my faith only has to be as big as a mustard seed
2. that God is my strength and shield, and that my heart trusts in Him
3. for the love of my wife; nothing on earth equals this
4. for the beauty of creation and eyes to see it
5. for the night sky, visible when there are no clouds - the heavens declare His glory
“How glorious is the kingdom, where all the saints rejoice with Christ”
And he said, 
"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 
He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 
The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, 
then the full grain in the ear. 
But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, 
because the harvest has come." 
And he said, 
"With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 
It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, 
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 
yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, 
as they were able to hear it. 
He did not speak to them without a parable,
 but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:26-34 ESV)

Jesus gives two examples of the kingdom, both from the perspective of the harvest, or the production of seeds. In the first, the farmer scatters the seeds, and the fruit seems to grow “by itself.” It’s as if it just magically appears. The second concerns the volume of growth from such a tiny seed as a mustard seed (I’ve seen one . . . they are almost invisible to the naked eye). It grows to be “larger than all the garden plants.”

Having never had much experience with gardening, planting, or growing things (I have killed many plants, though), I think that these illustrations might be perfect to help me understand how God’s kingdom works. It might also help to remember that many of the young men to whom Jesus was speaking were fishermen. One was a tax collector. I’m not sure what the vocation of the rest were, but I don’t think we are ever told that any of them were farmers.

But God’s kingdom is shown to be like the working of these seeds. The seeds are planted (Jesus uses a couple other illustrations like this) by the sower or the farmer. There might be some things he can do to prepare the soil, and he might have to tend the soil after planting and maybe do some weeding. But, for the most part, he scatters the seeds and waits. In the case of most plants, the “seeds” are much smaller than what is eventually produced.

Jesus spoke most of the stories in parables, as He spoke to crowds of people. He did explain them to His disciples when they were in private. What I am taking away from these two stories, this morning, is that God is the one who does the bulk of the work. Maybe I’m supposed to be scattering seeds. But in one of the other parables, I believe the explanation is given that God is the sower. In any case, what I do think I understand is that faith is the key. I need to understand that God’s kingdom is bigger than anything I can imagine, and grows from the smallest of seeds.

(From Pray As You Go)

I am my lover’s and my lover is mine.
(Song of Solomon 6:3 MSG)

House and land are handed down from parents, but a congenial spouse comes straight from GOD.
(Proverbs 19:14 MSG)

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.
(Proverbs 31:10 MSG)

Love never gives up.
 Love cares more for others than for self. 
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 
Love doesn't strut, 
Doesn't have a swelled head, 
Doesn't force itself on others, 
Isn't always "me first," 
Doesn't fly off the handle, 
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
 Doesn't revel when others grovel, 
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best, 
Never looks back, 
But keeps going to the end. 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG)

The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.
(1 Peter 3:7 MSG)

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.
(1 Peter 4:8 MSG)

I don’t have any comments to add to these passages, other than to say that I have experienced these things.

Father, I thank You for these apt illustrations of how Your Kingdom works. I thank You that You have given me faith, but is it strong enough? Does my faith even equal a mustard seed? Some days, I might say, confidently, that it does. Other days, I’m not so sure. But I do know that Your kingdom is larger than any of us realize, and I also know that I cannot do anything to either make it bigger or make it smaller. I know that Your Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven, which is why that is a safe prayer. So I pray, along with the disciples of Jesus, increase my faith, in the right directions.

Thank You for the love of my wife, that I have experienced for over thirty (closer to forty, now) years. You have blessed me wonderfully. I can only hope that she feels half as blessed as I do. True love has been shown me, and I am grateful for this. The love that I get from You is like unto the kind of love that we try to show one another. Help us to love each other, as that Message paraphrase says, “like our lives depend upon it.” Because, in some ways, they do.

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

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalms 19:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

Making Disciples v. Preaching at People

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-fifth of January, 2022, in the third week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,329

Today is my half-day, at the library, from 4:15 to 8:15, this evening. The reason for the fifteen bit is that I’m working until we close, which is 8:00 PM. Then it takes a few minutes for everyone to get their stuff together and get out the back door, so, in order for it to be four hours, the schedule is bumped to the quarter-hour. That is why my eight-hour days begin at 9:15 instead of 9:00, as well. We close at 6:00, but work until 6:15. For some reason, on Saturdays, we start (officially) at 9:30 and only get forty-five minutes for lunch. I have not asked for the logic behind that decision, I just go with it.

Nothing of any interest happened yesterday. It was a pretty lazy day. I did some chores, my usual Monday stuff. I still have a little bit of laundry to finish today.

We have been notified that we need to get Magnolia (cat) vaccinated against rabies. We thought this had already been done, but C got a call from the Watauga animal shelter, yesterday, saying that we had until Friday to provide proof of that, or we would get a citation. I had several possible reactions to that, one of which was, we don’t live in Watauga, so let them go ahead and cite us. However, the probable more right thing to do, especially as one who is supposed to be a “peacemaker,” is to get the shot and provide the proof. We got a voucher with Maggie to get it done at a place called TCAP (that stands for Texas Coalition for Animal Protection), and I can take her pretty much any morning this week. So I plan to take her to the Hurst location tomorrow, sometime between nine and noon, which is when they do vaccinations.

I’ve been playing the latest game craze to hit social media, Wordle. Here is my score for today.

Wordle 220 5/6*

⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨🟨⬜⬜⬜
⬜🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟨⬜🟩🟩⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

If you are interested in trying it, here is the link. Everyone gets the same word, each day, and the word changes every day. You get six guesses. The yellow blocks show that the guessed letter is in the word, but in the wrong position. The green blocks show that the correct letter is in the correct position. The empty blocks are just wrong. LOL. I have played ten times with a win percentage of 90%. I missed one a few days ago. The word was “prick.” I would never have guessed that. Modern culture assigns a not-so-nice meaning to that word. But it is a verb, though, meaning to “make a small hole in something with a sharp point.” You know . . . Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger with a spindle, right? Anyway.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Can Take You, by Daryl Madden

To listen so intently
The into flowing through
That takes you to the place
Only music can take you

To move the soul so deeply
Beyond what we construe
That takes to you the Grace
Only prayer can take you

To dwell within the scene
Of vision in the view
That takes you to the space
Only beauty can take you

To hope within the promise
To receive what we pursue
That blesses the embrace
Only God can take you

Oh, the places that music, prayer, beauty, and God can take me . . . please check out more of Daryl’s beautiful poetry at the link provided above.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
 let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
and why are you in turmoil within me? 
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 
(Psalms 43:3-5 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for music, prayer, and beauty, and the places that they can take me
2. that my soul is not "cast down," and that I am able to praise the Lord
3. that God is a friend to those who revere Him (Psalm 25:14)
4. that God has given me the faith to faithfully pray, and then watch to see what He will do (Psalm 5;3)
5. that I am content and protected beneath the wings of my God and Father
β€œI believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
And he said to them, 
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, 
but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
And these signs will accompany those who believe: 
in my name they will cast out demons; 
they will speak in new tongues; 
they will pick up serpents with their hands; 
and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; 
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 
(Mark 16:15-18 ESV)

In this passage (allegedly not found in the oldest, most reliable manuscripts), Jesus tells His disciples, His followers to go and proclaim the good news to all of, or “the whole” creation. The KJV translated the word “kosmos” as “world,” where the more modern translations use the more-inclusive “creation.” What is our reaction to this command? The more popular version of it is found in Matthew 28, and is referred to as “The Great Commission.” Some people say that the Bible says that we are supposed to preach the Good News to everyone we meet.

No one I know does that, not even the people who claim to believe that this is what the Bible teaches. They would never get anything else accomplished, nor would they be able to hold down any kind of reasonable employment. I dare say that most employers would not tolerate someone who never did anything but preach at people while on the job.

And, sadly, that is what a lot of people do when they try to proclaim the Good News. They preach at people. And I can tell you from experience that this bothers people. Dallas Willard once opined that Jesus did not mean that we were supposed to go out and “bother” people.

I have also heard it said that, in the Great Commission, the Greek language implies that it should say “As you go . . . ,” indicating that we should be speaking the Good News in the context of our daily lives. This I find easier to believe. It is also worth noting that the Matthew version uses the phrase “make disciples” or “teach” (KJV) rather than “proclaim.” That’s a bit different, isn’t it? It takes a lot more investment in someone to make them a disciple than it does to just proclaim the Gospel. It’s a lot easier to stand on a street corner and preach than it is to take the time to actually teach someone how to be a disciple of Jesus.

For me (and I am most certainly not saying that I have done a good job of obeying this command), the way to discern what is being asked of us is to look at what Jesus did. While He did do some preaching (there are several “discourses” recorded in the Gospels), the majority of His time was spent with those twelve guys, teaching them how to be disciples.

But going back to this passage in Mark. What is the “good news?” That question is answered in Mark, as well, back in chapter 1.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

I believe that the “gospel,” as proclaimed by Jesus, is that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” or, in other words, here. This is the message that we have to proclaim to the world. The kingdom is here; change the way you are thinking about life.

If Jesus really said the things recorded in this passage (again, not included in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), He made some rather bold statements about how His followers would be identified. My take on this requires me to contextualize it into our own culture, and I believe that it simply speaks to the kind of faith that we will see in disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t think we would find a lot of agreement about it, if we were to gather a dozen or so followers of Christ in the same room. Depending on where we got them, some would want to take this more literally than others. I mean, I suppose we still have “snake-handler” Christians around us somewhere. I seem to recall some news about some around Fort Worth, just a few years ago.

And some would, no doubt, use this passage as ammunition for their refusal to take part in any Covid-preventing measures. My faith, however, does not lead me down that path. Where it leads me is to walk on a path of love and faithfulness, of compassion and generosity and kindness. If you have read this forum very much, you have seen that I believe that I have, basically, two jobs: love God and love people. That is where my faith leads me, and it leads me to trust that God is looking out for me and has my best interest at heart (behind His own best interests, of course).

Part of the good news is this: God loves us. He loves us so much that He has provided a way for us to spend not only this life, but all eternity in His presence. And He has gifted us with His presence as we live and walk on this earth. What more could we ask for?

Pieces of this taken from today’s episode of Pray As You Go.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:13 ESV)

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(Psalms 5:3 ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

The prayer word for today is “feathers,” as in Psalm 91:4.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalms 91:4 NIV)

Father, I praise You for the protection that I feel, sheltered beneath Your “feathers” and “wings.” Your faithfulness is, indeed, my shield, and I find that I have nothing to fear in this world.

I thank You for the faith that You have given me, faith that enables me to pray in the face of insurmountable odds, and then wait to see what You will do. No, my prayers are not always answered the way I would like them to be. But that is part of my faith, that allows me to accept the answers You give as Your will. I know that Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are not my ways. There are times when I cannot comprehend Your ways and thoughts, and that is where faith comes into play, the faith of which Jesus spoke. I may not handle snakes or drink poison, but I trust in You, so I’m not afraid to walk out my front door and get in my car to drive somewhere.

I am also thankful that You have given me the faith to believe in the gospel, that Your kingdom is at hand, that it came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and that it remains on earth, with the presence of Your Holy Spirit, which You have given us, Your Church. May we walk in Your kingdom, and may we faithfully and adequately proclaim this kingdom while we walk here, and may we also faithfully teach others to walk in it, as we make more disciples. But, in doing this, may we not just preach at people. Help us to be more invested in the lives of others, because this is how we are going to reach them in Your name.

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.