This has been a good week.

  • I turned sixty-mumble, and lived to tell about it.
  • I had a colonoscopy/endoscopy this morning, results next week, and no immediate problems or ill after-effects.
  • I upgraded our home networking with an Amplifi Alien – ‘spensive, but worth it. Mesh system that just works. Our streaming TV service no longer needs a warm-up and no longer pauses. Wish I had done it sooner – been bothersome for months, and a major weight on me.
  • I got my brother-in-law’s site (which I host) up and running with rotating pictures. He’s been asking for that for a long time, and today I had time and energy and inclination to do it. Piwigo to the rescue.

My health is good. My God is great. My job is turning around (less stressful). My weight is the lowest it’s been in 22 months, and down 30 pounds from my high three and a half years ago. And for data geeks, that’s in the bottom 4th percentile across daily readings from almost 8 years.

So what? Not much. This isn’t a brag post, nor a humble brag one. I just feel good about what I have gotten accomplished. And that’s been a while.

PS: That pic of the Alien shows a few things in the blurry background. A potato gun that I got because I wanted to do a project at work that I had named SPUDGUN – never got off the ground, but I like seeing it and saying “spudgun”. A coaster from Scrabble tiles from my very favorite niece Caroline. A model train car from the Rock Island line, because a friend I’ve never met blogged about the trademark being publicly available. My work laptop (powered off), and one of two side monitors that help me do things. The ear coverings of my active sound canceling Bluetooth headphone (sometimes I work better with comfortable music on, and everything else off, even if I’m home alone). A large-letter, lighted keyboard because I’m not getting any younger. The white box contains a piece of bismuth I picked up at the fair a few years ago, which led to my Dad and I home brewing our own bismuth parts, one of which I have in my office window, and I smile every time I see it. Yes, we used thrift store pans. My momma didn’t raise no dummy.

I wish I was a dog.

I was having one of those whiny, gripey woe-is-me moments, thinking life was unfair, and then I realized that dogs have many advantages.  They get fed on a regular basis, and sometimes get scraps from the table.  They get to go for walks with their owner.  And even at the end of their lives, they aren’t worried, because they trust their owner. Wonderful.

Then I started to count my blessings.  I do have ready food, and choose when I want to eat.  I don’t get scraps from the table – I have a seat at the table.  Dogs lying around most of the day is overrated – ask anybody who has spent quantity time in the hospital.

And then, as He does, God moved my thoughts into the spiritual realm.  That table that I have a seat at – it could be anything from David’s “Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” to Revelation’s marriage supper of the Lamb.  Going for walks with my owner – well, the great theologian Merle Haggard put it like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

The leash that dogs wear?  Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  All through my life, and at the moment of my death, and for all eternity, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting and guiding.

And all this is because although I am a creation of God, like dogs are, I am much more than that.  I am made in His image.  And because I have accepted the gift of salvation, I am a child of God.

So, my life, as it exists right now, even with burdens and cares, is much, much better than a dog’s life.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”.  And why rejoice?  Because of God’s love for us, expressed through Christ and His sacrifice.  Jesus was willingly obedient, by choice, by love, to die for my sins and yours, to ensure that the end of our lives would not be the end of our life with God.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate communion with wafer and juice representing Christ’s body and blood, I thank You for the indescribable gift of salvation.  Your ways are not our ways.  Like Job, I sometimes need to put my hand over my mouth.  I know You love us, and You have plans to give us hope and a future, plans established in time immemorial.  Help me to seek Your will here and now, not wish for something not in Your plan.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In my library, where I do a lot of my reading of physical books, I keep three reading streams. Fiction, non-fiction, and “spiritual”.

Fiction encompasses mysteries, science fiction, cozies, anything that is made up.

Non-fiction includes a lot of history, science explainers, and trivia.

Spiritual has included an in-depth analysis of the book of Revelation from four perspectives, Christian biographies, and conservative archeology. I recently tossed a book that tried to redefine King David as the ringleader of a small group of tribesmen – that’s not the way I read my Bible.

As I finish a book from my reading streams, I replace it with a similar one. A day or two ago I finished up Indianapolis, a sad story with a happy ending. I replaced it with Homestead, the story of a failing mill town near Pittsburgh.

Today I completed The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, hardback, at about 700 pages. All the stories and novels, with fascinating explanations of the language, the locations, and the exact dates the fictional events must have happened on. A hefty hardback, coming in at four pounds. As enjoyable as it was, I wasn’t sad to reach the end and move on to the next book.

Which is The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, volume 2, at 800 pages.

Woe is me.

Remember being in junior high school – everybody was against you, and nobody would let you do anything you wanted?  If only you could be in high school, because they could do anything, even drive when they got old enough.

Remember being in high school – nobody would let you do what you wanted?  You were an adult, almost, and you should be able to make your own decisions.  If only you could graduate right now, and then go to college or get a job, and everything would be perfect.

Remember being in your first job, thinking about how you didn’t have enough money to do what you wanted, how you had to live in a little apartment or with your parents, and thinking to the future where you would be rich and could do anything you want?  Get married, buy a car, buy a house – the possibilities are endless.

This sounds a little like “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” –  and there’s some truth to that.  Certain parts of other people’s lives can look appealing, but we don’t always see the whole picture.

But this isn’t a “be peaceful and accept your lot in life” meditation.  There’s some truth to that, too – but that goes against the Proverbs 31 wife.  Verse 16 says “She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.”.  That isn’t passive.

I am not recommending some sort of middle ground, where sometimes you’re active and sometimes you’re passive, based on a coin flip or doing what you want.

John 5:19 says “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”  And that’s what Jesus does.  He has His own wishes and desires – praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.”.  He knew it was going to hurt.  And He knew that the physical pain wasn’t going to be the worst part.

But that isn’t where Jesus stopped.  You all know that He continued “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus could have had anything He wanted – that is how Satan tempted Him. But Jesus, though He had a choice, did His Father’s will.

And that is what we are celebrating now – the death of Jesus on the cross, in the body and blood represented with the wafer and the juice, and the resurrection on the third day that gives us hope.  Let’s pray.

Father God, Jesus showed us how to live perfect lives.  He was in fellowship with You, and it cost Him His life, and gave us eternal life.  Help us to live not wanting more, but wanting Your perfect will.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Communion meditation June 6, 2021

I’ve had my “new car” for seven years. About 95K miles on it so far.

The dealership keeps on wanting me to buy something newer, trade it on on that “new car feel” or something. I’m smart enough to thank them kindly, and save my shekels.

This time, though, they are trying something different. This is as clipped from the email – no editing, no photoshop.

The way I interpret it, the “care wash” means that I won’t have any more cares, because of the free car. And yes, that would be a special day.

Point A: If I get up the nerve to try it, I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Point B: Good to know that I can always get a job as a proof-reader. I’d want to read the employment contract very carefully.

Jim Knowles died earlier this month. He wasn’t a large man, but he was a big man.

He was big on his family.

He was big on his wife, Nancy.

And he was big on Jesus. A licensed minister, a holder of a Masters degree in Religion, and he had more than twenty years of service as a minister in a couple different churches. I don’t have pictures, but I have memories of him. He’s sitting in his rocker, early in the morning and late at night, Bible on his lap or right next to him.

He wasn’t an ivory-tower saint – he lived in the world, knew how it worked, and understood people. And loved them.

One thing I don’t understand, though, is how to reconcile the fact that the Bible says that there will not be marriage in Heaven, in contrast to the eternal love Jim had for Nancy.

God will work it all out. Jim trusted Him, eternally, and God is still working out His plans through Jim and his legacy.

Every one of us are unique.  We are created in the image of God, but we are not identical.  We all have something that we’re born with, maybe something that has happened to us, that makes us different than anyone else.  My wife Bettie has something that’s different, and only shows up when her hands get cold.

She has a thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome.  How it works is that some of her blood vessels like to go overboard – they clamp off the blood supply to part of her fingers if she gets too cold.

Fortunately, there’s an easy cure for this – just warm up, and everything is fine again.  The blood vessels open up, blood starts flowing, color returns, and everybody’s happy.

If she doesn’t get warmed up, I imagine there could be some significant consequences – we all need the blood to flow to keep on living.

And then I realized this is true for us spiritually.  If we don’t have the blood of Christ, we don’t have life.  1 Peter 1, verse 18 and into 19, says

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ

And that is what we’re celebrating now, the life-giving body and blood of our sinless Redeemer and Lord, available to all who answer the call.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You know us.  You see us in all of our imperfection, and You love us anyway.  You love us so much that You sent Your perfect, spotless Son to die in our place.  We are called to remember that, and to celebrate it.  We thank You so much for that priceless gift, the blood that washes away our sins.  We thank You for the gift of eternal life, and the calling to follow Jesus Christ down that narrow road.  In His name I pray, amen.

Communion meditation April 11, 2021

Nobody wants them. From Exodus 32, verses 7 and 11:

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

Almost a game of Hot Potato. God, as He does, came out the winner – and also accepted the Israelites back. He is good, at many levels.

Ohio crossed one million cases of Covid-19 on. Monday.

I had it right after Christmas.

That makes me one in a million!

I heard something interesting the other day.  Seems like newspapers are having trouble getting the newsprint to publish their papers.  All that paper is apparently being turned into cardboard boxes for shipments from Amazon.

During these times of pandemic and quarantine, it seems like people may not know what they want, but they sure do want it now.  Psychologists have a concept called delayed gratification – the idea is that a person is willing to give up something now to get something more later.  I’m afraid that next-day shipping has thrown all that out the window.

But I don’t think that’s a very good way to think.  Goes against the idea of working towards a goal, of understanding what’s important and putting forth effort to get there.  That credit card bill is coming soon – there is always a price to be paid.

Delayed gratification reminds me of the description of Jesus, described in Hebrews 12:2 –

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Would it have felt better for Jesus to avoid the cross?  Yes, definitely.  Would it have been easier for Him to not be scourged, whipped, had a crown of thorns forced over His head?  I have no doubt.

But those things are a short-term release – immediate gratification.  Jesus had His eyes set on the long term – on eternity – because He knew what mattered.

With this delayed gratification, Jesus isn’t teaching us a life hack, one weird trick to get into Heaven.  He is showing us that being obedient to the Father is the only way to live.  His sacrifice on the cross, that buys our salvation and which we celebrate now, is a recognition of that, and a calling to that level of sacrifice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, you created us.  You created us with free will – we can choose the route of immediate gratification, or we can choose the straight and narrow road that leads to life – eternal life.  Thank You for the gift of Jesus to pay the price for our sins, and to be our Savior and our Lord.  In His name I pray, Amen.

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