Monday, May 29, 2023

Gratitude -2022

Rev. Paul W. Manuel, Ph.D.—2022

For anyone who wants insight into my thinking, this is perhaps the most informative document.
It is also the document I have attempted to keep current.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:18)
     As a person gets older and nears the end of his sojourn on earth, while he should not wait that long, the delay is an opportunity to reflect on God and appreciate the sentiments in great hymns: His eternal nature (“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” 1839) and impeccable character (“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” 1826 and “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” 1774), the various ways the Lord has enriched his life (“O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” 1719, “How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord,” 1837, and “If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee” 1641) all calling for several expressions of adoration (“Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty,” 1680, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” 1834, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” 1550, and “Now Thank We All Our God” 1636). Many examples come to mind for me, most significantly:
           I am grateful to God first of all that He redeemed Linda and me from the penalty of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, His son, giving life a foundation, freedom, and focus, which I appreciated most after high school, when many of my friends seemed to have no direction:
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isa 43:25)
I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Jer 31:34)
             None of what follows on this list would be possible without that initial step of faith. It was not until sometime later (circa 1970) that I selected my life verse (Manuel 2018):
May Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts. (Ps 119:173)
             and my favorite hymn: “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above” (1675), that Linda selected her life verse:
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Isa 40:31)
             and one of her favorite hymns: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (1757). I am also grateful He led us on a path that gave shape to our future (e.g., via more education).
           I am grateful to God He has given prayer as a way of directing His attention (not that He needs direction) to matters concerning us and others (Manuel 2019), attention He allows nothing to impede—not time, circumstance, or distance—and I am mystified He even deigns to listen:
In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)
             I am also grateful for His abiding presence—He is ever with us:
What is man that You are mindful of him? (Ps 8:4)
What is man that You care for him? (Ps 144:3)
I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt 28:20)
           I am grateful to God most that He blessed me with a believing wife, the first and only love of my life, who loves me (astonishing!) despite my many flaws, foibles, and failings. Linda is my best friend, my “crown” (Prov 12:4), a woman of “prudent” (Prov 19:14) and “noble character” (Prov 31:10), a “helper suitable” for me (Gen 2:18), who has enabled me to “enjoy life” (Eccl 9:9) and reach my potential (such as it is), a marvelous gift (my ‘wonder wife,’ ‘my lotus blossom,’ and ‘the crux of my deepest desire’). Truly, she is “my beloved” (Cant 2:16 KJV), my “crown” (Prov 12:4). She has brought me “good” always (Prov 31:12). She is the personification of God’s grace to me, a woman “worth far more than rubies,” and I have “full confidence in her” (Prov 31:10-11). I am underserving of her, and there is no doubt that I would not be successful without Linda by my side—she has helped me make good decisions as much as she has kept me from bad decisions. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Eccl 4:9). I am thankful for our many years together (50+) as well as for our multitude of shared experiences and memories. (She often remembers things I have forgotten.) Certainly, “he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov 18:22)—true for me on both counts: the finding “good” and the receiving “favor.” I probably would have burned out long ago or taken a very different path if not for her. She is my “bright morning star” (Rev 22:16), who has helped me stay on the “straight” (Prov 3:6) and “narrow” (Matt 7:14) way He laid out. Her unwavering love for me mirrors God’s love, reminding me that He is constant, a non-fickle source of affection. She has kept her vow to remain faithful “in sickness [e.g., MS] and in health.” She could have turned to someone else, but she did not. She says she did not want to start over having to break in a new model after working so hard to break in this model.
                 When I said to Linda one day, “I’m glad you married me,” she replied, “I did it for your mother” [= “She who must be obeyed” Rumpole of the Bailey]. Linda could always count on Mom for an attentive ear when I did not meet Linda’s expectations. It confirmed my contention: “Mom loves Linda more than me.” Nevertheless, there were limits. Not too long after our wedding ceremony, Linda thought about giving me back to my parents, but my mother demurred, “He’s your problem now.” I can only assume Linda kept me because she felt sorry for me…or more likely, for my mother. In any case, it proves that love is indeed a choice and not merely an emotion. After more than fifty years, it is amazing Linda kept me this long, knowing how high-maintenance I am. I’m thankful she has.
                 I am grateful for the joy Linda displayed upon seeing me in the library at CBC one day—a vivid and highly treasured memory! I am also grateful that He preserved her through several maladies and surgeries (e.g., scoliosis, leg vein stripping, breast cancer, heart valve repair, congestive heart failure, COVID, diabetes, cateract removal, hernia repair). Linda is very much looking fotward to her glorified body:
[God] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil 3:21)
He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pet 1:3)
             Thankfully, God has kept us close when many other couples are not (easier now in our dotage and having had considerable experience). I am grateful that God led me to find my ‘soulmate’ (a curious designation) the first time and not after repeated attempts, as is sometimes the case with others. I “rejoice” because she is “the wife of [my] youth” (Prov 5:18). Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Life is what you make it,” which is true of marriage as it is of almost everything else. Linda made our marriage, and whatever little investment I put in it, truly worthwhile, and for her I cannot thank God enough (Manuel 2020):
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18)
Linda’s paraphrase, which she usually applies to me is: “Oy! I cannot leave this man alone.”
They are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Matt 19:6)
A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Eph 5:31)
             In thinking about Linda’s love for me, I am reminded of Golde’s song to Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof:”
Do I love you?
For [fifty] years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house…
If that’s not love, what is?
             Such is Linda’s love for me (astonishing)!
                     This also causes me to pose the question Elizabeth Browning (1806-1861) asked in her sonnet 43: “How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways?” This document, particularly the section that begins “I am grateful to God most that He blessed me with a believing wife,” attenpts to answer that quesion:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord [as Linda does] is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Prov 31:30-31)
           I am grateful to God I had the presence of mind, something not always available, to respond to the hospice chaplain’s question—“What is the best thing that has happened to you in seventy years?” (Manuel 2021)—I was able to reply without hesitation: “Linda.” (I feel sad for the chaplain that, being divorced—I am amazed at how many marriages end this way, especially within the Church—she cannot know the satisfaction I have in being happily together with someone for more than fifty years.) Divorce is for many the easiest way out of a contentious marriage rather than working through problems. Too few appreciate the seriousness of breaking a (wedding) vow they made to God:
When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. (Num 30:2)
If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you, and you will be guilty of sin…. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth. (Deut 23:21, 23)
When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow…. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the [temple] messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? (Eccl 5:4, 6)
             Divorce threatens more than a person’s property, here and now. It threatens a person’s eternity, then and there. It does not jeopardize salvation, which depends on something else, but recompense, the degree of one’s reward or pumishment. It also contradicts God, which is not an enviable position to take:
I hate divorce,” says the Lord God. (Mal 2:16)
             Divorce reflects a couple’s failure to live up to its commitment (‘til death’).
                     Marriage is not the culmination of a search for one’s soulmate, as if God has one ideal partner for every person (although He may be that specific). Marriage is devotion to the person who will (or who has) become one’s soulmate. When two people embark on the journey that is God’s will for them, as Linda and I have, it is a true adventure that brings a couple closer to Him as well as to each other. I am also thankful for the positive example He enabled our marriage to be for others, even if we did not realize it during our ministry together. In all of this, God has blessed me beyond measure by giving me Linda. A husband who loves his wife as I love her, is ultimately acting in his own self-interest:
How delightful is your love…my bride! (Song 4:10)
Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 5:28)
             It is true: “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” (Amish proverb) Or as Solomon says,
The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (Prov 20:29)
           I am grateful to God that Linda and I developed complementary tastes, culinary and otherwise (e.g., preference in poultry: dark meat for her, white meat for me), doubtless because we were so young when we started dating and not yet set in our ways, which made our marriage easier, ensuring we have much in common and argue very little—something else for which I am thankful. (I also enjoy hearing her laugh quietly, actually a soft chuckle.) Because she knows me better than anyone else, she is able to make a decision for me when I cannot make it for myself (e.g., hospitalization) or when she thinks I am taking too long to make it (e.g., meal selection). When we tell each other: “I love you,” as we often do, we consider it another successful meeting of the ‘Mutual Admiration Society.’
           I am grateful to God that He placed me in a stable and musical home with loving parents and siblings who all value a relationship with Him—our parents did not send us to church; they took us to church. Consequently, God allowed me to grow up without many of the difficulties that adversely affected my peers, and I am grateful my family members all appreciate Linda. In ministry I have learned that not every in-law is as beloved as she is. (Cousin Debbie, who was only five years old when Linda and I started dating, does not remember ‘life before Linda.’) In this, Linda may have prepared the way for Oscar and Dawn. I am sure my parents, like most others, did not realize how their own early choices would shape their children’s future. Mom and Linda formed a bond from the start of our relationship together, for which I am very thankful. A wife’s relationship to her mother-in-law is very important:
[Ruth said to Naomi] “May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:17)
                 When I entered the ministry and became privy to other peoples’ lives, I realized how dysfunctional family life could be, with petty bickering over hurt feelings and selfish concerns (e.g., money, possessions). Until then, I had only the experience with my own family to follow. It was devoid of those minor considerations and is so even today—another legacy from godly parents, although children’s continuing that legacy depends on their having the same relationship with God. Upon further reflection, I realized how one’s personal values, informed by years of exposure to parents with similar values (e.g., fidelity), have shaped my (our) own. It is an example I see in few others, but always among those who (or whose parents) evince a close and regular communion with the Lord. Here is yet another reason to be thankful to God:
I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (Ps 37:25)
A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. (Prov 13:22)
Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife [as I have] is from the Lord. (Prov 19:14)
           I am grateful to God that He gave Linda loving parents and siblings, who came to know Him later in life and who accepted me despite my many oddities. (Her mother used to chase me around the house with a broom. It was terrifying. J She was in our “Karate for Christ” class, and I did not teach weapons! Some skills just come naturally.)
           I am grateful to God that He strengthened my resolve in high school and beyond not to use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs (again, abstaining like my parents, although I attended Woodstock J Manuel 2015), and so enabled me to avoid many pitfalls and health problems that caused hardship for friends and acquaintances. I am also grateful He led Linda to make the same decisions to abstain. Unencumbered by addiction, we were able to make good health and other choices throughout life (e.g., we never had to quit smoking):
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jms 4:7)
           I am grateful to God for the activities my parents spent money on when I was growing up, although I did not always appreciate those opportunities at the time (e.g., summer camp, swimming lessons, numerous family vacations).
           I am grateful to God for my niece Victoria, and I pray He will protect her from elements that would distract her from the path of His will for her life, praying also that path will remain clear to her:
I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. (Prov 4:11)
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim 2:22)
           I am grateful to God that He limits the myelin damage from my disease and prevents the MS from impairing vision, hearing, or speech, as well as from causing fatigue or difficulty with common bodily functions (except for occasional vertigo), allowing me still to concentrate and communicate easily (Manuel 2014). I am also grateful that my condition is not contagious, and that it has not affected caregivers, friends, or those in the family. I am thankful I am able to sleep regularly and, though I am no longer ambulatory, I am not in pain (which certainly helps me maintain a positive attitude, uncommon according to Julie, our first hospice nurse), on any medication (there being none for Progressive MS), experience the unusual symptoms of the disease (e.g., migraines, pseudobulbar affect, trigeminal neuralgia), and that my mind seems unimpaired. One drawback of being bedbound is that the lack of activity makes it difficult to control my weight. Fortunately, I do not have a big appetite. I am also grateful He delayed the full onset of the MS until I completed my education and was in ministry for several years (a delay I also credit to the perceptive doctor who first diagnosed my MS and suggested a series of steroid infusions which pushed the MS into remission). The hospice chaplain (Rebekah) asked if I had difficulty adjusting to the MS limitations when they recurred (eighteen years after their initial onset). I did not—although I of course miss my not being mobile—perhaps because I have come to appreciate His geat goodness to me. Besides, there may be a myriad of unpleasant experiences I missed because I have MS. NB: Being in pain, whch is rarely true for me, is not the same as being a pain, which is often true for me according to Linda. J
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps 139:14)
           I am grateful to God that by His restricting my physical activity, He encourages me to spend more time in prayer and thereby have a positive impact on peoples’ lives. I doubt that absent the MS I would be so occupied.
           I am grateful to God that He gives Linda some relief from her constant pain, sufficient at least to get through the day without extreme agony. I am also grateful she is able to sleep and has found distraction to take her mind off her discomfort (computer games and animal videos). I pray the Community Life doctor will know what meds will relieve her pain and will not be reluctant to prescribe them..
           I am grateful to God that Linda was able to have cateract surgery and that the improvement in her vision is so marked as not to need glasses, which she had since she was six years old:
I was blind but now I see! (John 9:25)
           I am grateful to God for His great patience with me, and I hope to display similar patience as I get older and am increasingly dependent on the care of others.
A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. (Prov 14:29)
Be patient with everyone. (1 Thess 5:14)
The Lord is….patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
           I am grateful to God for His great grace that our respective illnesses, congestive heart failure for her, progressive MS for me, restricted us most about the same time and after our parents were gone, sparing them from worry about us, also after we were able to purchase and pay off our (all on-one-floor) home, which in itself was an answer to prayer, and that we are now both confined to bed together as, coincidently, were the previous occupants of this bedroom. It was after their passing that we were able to buy the house. Thankfully, Eddie, who held the insurance policy knew when it became available and informed us.
           I am grateful to God for the help Dave, Dawn, and Victoria provided us on their last visit, especially because we could offer no assistance. They came and did for us what we could not do for ourselves:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov 17:17)
           I am grateful to God that He has given us two adjustable hospital beds, enabling us to change position and mitigate bed sores, and that He allows me to lie quietly beside Linda, sometimes holding her hand (remeniscent of our first date when we held hands at the mall), but at all times satisfied simply to delight in her company. As the Beatles sang:
And when I touch you, I feel happy inside.
It’s such a feelin’ that my love I can’t hide.
I want to hold your hand.
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to afford an electric and inflatable bed platform, shifting me slightly side-to-side and permitting my pressure sores to heal (or at least not get worse). I am also thankful for help from Don and Perry to set up the bed platform, and that, given the extra movement, I am not prone to motion sickness. I am very glad to have avoided moving into a nursing facility long-term, which would be inconvenient, unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, separating us and exposing us to other illness. Besides, getting in does not necessarily mean one will be able to get out.
           I am grateful to God that He has given me an electric wheelchair which enables me to stand as well as leave the bedroom, and for aides to help me in and out of it.
           I am grateful to God that when Linda fell in the bathroom and could not get up, I was able to call 911, that Tina Walter was part of the EMT crew come to help her—she was very good with Linda—that the hospital determined Linda broke no bones, and that Don Graffius was available to bring her home a few hours later.
           I am grateful to God that when Linda and I both contracted a relatively mild case of COVID, we were able to be in the hospital for a brief period, that she came home (at her insistence) to recooporate there and care for the cats, where Community Life (a Medicare service for seniors designed to allow people to remain in their homes) could support her, and allowing me more time at Penn Knoll Village before I also came home. (I often felt tignored by personel there, but that may have been because of staffing shortages.)
           I am grateful to God that He has allowed us to live during this era and has given us certain conveniences, making life easier and generally more enjoyable than if we had lived many years ago (e.g., electricity, indoor plumbing, household appliances, telephone, television, computers, internet).
           I am grateful to God for where He did not lead us: to Bethel West in CA, where I was offered a provost position, for which I was not suited (responsible for fund raising) and where we might not be enjoying life as we are now, not that He could not have done for us there what He has done for us here, but I am very thankful for what we have now.
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to participate in the martial arts for forty years, advancing to high levels in several disciplines: ninth degree in Goju (2009), sixth degree in Shotokan (2009)—It was during that exam when I first noticed a problem with my my balance—instructor in Tai Chi Chuan (which has no formal ranking), and that He allowed me to use my training to teach others, an opportunity I enjoyed immensely. I am also grateful He allowed Linda to participate with me, advancing to third degree in Goju (1995), and I am grateful He used our martial arts training in an outreach ministry for the Freeport church (“Karate for Christ”), despite the ways she treated me during her first two black belt exams J—throwing me to the floor by my hair and biting me on the neck (whose hickey we then had to explain at prayer meeting):
I do not fight like a man beating the air [shadow boxing]. No, I beat my body and make it my slave. (1 Cor 9:26-27)
Physical training is of some value [for physical health], but godliness has value for all things [especially for spiritual health], holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Tim 4:8)
             Some think participation in the martial arts is an inappropriate activity for a Christian. That is because they falsely assume God is a pacifist. He is not. From His early instruction to wipe out the Canaanites to His final disposition assigning all who oppose Him to perdition, it is evident that His agenda is different:
When the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. (Deut 7:2)
NB: There is no special dispensation sparing pregnant women (and their unborn children). They suffer the same fate as their sisters (cf. Num 31:17-18). God is not pro-life at the expense of holiness (Manuel 2022). God treats close Canaanites more strictly than distant Canaanites, becaue of their greate sinful influence (Deut 20:10-18).
The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Rev 21:8)
             The highest value in God’s economy is not life but holiness.
Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. (Lev 19:2)
You are to be holy to Me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be My own. (Lev 20:26)
Without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Pet 1:15-16)
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to acquire an education, again advancing to high levels: Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies (1995), 2 M.A.s in Hebrew (1984 and 1988), and M.A. in Linguistics (1990). Although more formal training than candidates need for pastoral ministry (usually just M.Div.), it gave me confidence to field most biblical questions I encounter, for which I either know the answer or know where to find the answer. I am also grateful that God enabled Linda to acquire an education with me (B.S. in Bible, 1982) through a generous program at CBC (no longer available) allowing the spouse of a fulltime student to attend classes and receive credit free. This benefit He anticipated, wholly unexpected by us, even before we contemplated leaving NY for school:
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isa 65:24)
Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matt 6:8)
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to accumulate a personal library sufficient (several thousand volumes—according to the maxim: ‘There’s always room for one more book.’) to do much of my work from home without recourse to a large seminary collection, and that He directed me to a suitable place to bequeath some of it (e.g., Marion Bible Fellowship) when the time came to dissolve it.
           I am grateful to God that He permitted me, via the generous scholarship from a seminary friend (Jeff Feinberg), to spend a year studying in Israel, that Linda could be with me for most of it, and that we were able to visit Egypt (where we saw a rooftop covered with white Egyptan porcelain J).
           I am grateful to God that He gave us an understanding of the political tension in the Middle East as forces continue to battle over the small piece of real estate which is the modern country of Israel (since 1948), for the home it offers to Jews worldwide, and for the central role His people have in His great plan:
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen 12:3)
Whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye. (Zech 2:8)
Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the gentiles has come in. And so, all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:25-26)
God apparently has a quota system.
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to become ordained as a minister (1997) and serve Him in that capacity for twenty years, all pre-COVID, even to what some consider a fringe group: Seventh-Day Baptists (Manuel 2016). I am thankful I could officiate at the wedding of my brother Dave to Dawn (1999)—which I am glad the global concern for civilization’s impending collapse during the Y2K panic did not impede J—and happy I could care for congregations in NY and PA, all while acquiring a host of good friends. And I am grateful for His wisdom in this venture as He directed me to the pulpit of a church rather than to the lectern of a university, where I was able to develop certain ‘people-skills’ I might not have gained otherwise (contrary to my monkish proclivities), also allowing me the freedom to research and write about topics of interest to me (in areas akin to theology versus philology,, not what is necessary to “publish or perish,” a need from which the pastoral ministry shielded me. The pastorate was not my first choice as a career goal after I finished school, but God’s persistent guidance in that direction confirmed it for me. Despite my isolationist tendency, and in contrast to my expectations, one aspect of the ministry I enjoyed most was visitation (although I am not an extravert). I am also grateful He placed Linda with me as my primary support and counselor, which she has been. Mark Twain was correct when he said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I have enjoyed the pastorate, even if my inclination is toward more scholarly pursuits. After years of writing, my favorite document describes God’s provision for man (Manuel 2007). After years of preaching, my favorite sermon describes man’s reliance on God (Manuel 2013). In retirement, I still prepare sermons for the blog (Manuel 2012):
There is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. (Eccl 3:22)
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction…. Discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:2, 5)
             After years of contemplation, my final: realization is that the only thing God guarantees us is a fair trial in the end:
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)
           I am grateful to God for the various activities Linda and I did together while in Madison (ten years), like going to the zoo and walking along the lake, further opportunities to enjoy each other’s company.
           I am grateful to God for Clifford Bass’s making the top floor of his house available for us to rent during our final years in Madison. It was comfortable and in a very pleasant neighborhood, where we also enjoyed his cat Sprite as well as taking walks together (and where we first discovered evidence of the notorious ‘Butterfly Cult’ J).
           I am grateful to God for the cautionary words of Paul and James to those who deal with the scriptures, because their admonitions provide necessary guidance and restraint:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
             NB: Paul offers only two options in this passage to Timothy—be “approved” or be “ashamed.”
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (Jms 3:1)
             To be “judged more strictly” is not inviting, but it is inevitable. Such evaluation is something I anticipate facing with some trepidation (“This is your life”), although it is part of serving Him, and I realize it is something I must eventually undergo. It will be a Christ-command performance, to which he will summon everyone’s attendance:
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)
           I am grateful to God that He brought certain people into our life, in addition to immediate family members, to help us along the way, though they may not always have recognized His hand at work or the grace He extended to us through them:
                 Grossmutti (grandma Griebert), who would send us small amounts of cash while we were away at college, amounts she could barely afford but that always encouraged us (I regret that I did not correspond more often.)
                 Sensei Vincent Demarco, a tenth dan master of USA Goju karate (under Peter Urban) and an instructor in Yang style Tai Chi Chuan (under Cheng Man Ching), who was our main martial arts teacher, who saw potential in me and continued to train me even after he moved to FL, and whose interment upon his passing I had the honor of officiating
                 Phil and Milli Vollono, who were our primary wedding attendants (Best Man and Matron of Honor) and who, thankfully, are still together
                 George and Lori DeLalio, Sephardic Jews (now, regrettably, divorced), who introduced us to the Sabbath
                 Rev. John Dischinger, who was the first to suggest that I go back to school
                 Dr. Hap Struthers, dean of off-campus students at CBC and an OT scholar, who accepted our commitment to the Sabbath without question, despite the school’s policy of observing Sunday (although it did accept SDAs)
                 Dr. Gleason Archer, an OT professor at TEDS (author of ‘The Yellow Bible’—A Survey of Old Testament Introduction), a towering intellectual and linguistic scholar (whose wife provided a down-to-earth perspective of him—“O Gleason!”—as she responded to his dropping a teacup; when several international students wrote birthday greetings on the board one morning, he could not read the Chinese but corrected the French and German), who gave a future teacher (me) helpful advice
                 Steve Lancaster, who worked with me to develop Toward Meaning and The Drama of Redemption
Linda and I met Steve and Mona in 1983 at The American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College) in Israel where Steve and I were both graduate students. Our friendship continued at UW-Madison where we were again students and able to work on some joint projects. (We wanted to write our dissertations on related topics, but the department would not allow it, a decision that may have contributed to Steve’s ABD, not completing his Ph.D.). Because we agree theologically, I can listen to Steve’s preaching without having to issue a series of mental corrections or revisions along the way (a rare and welcome respite). Steve is currently pastoring “Marion Bible Fellowship” in OH and occasionally still leads tours to Israel.
                 Ken Carl, head deacon in the Freeport church, who encouraged me to seek ordination after my (final) graduation
                 Rev. Herb Saunders, who graciously flew from WI to NY for my ordination and who told me, “If a sermon is worth preaching once, it is worth preaching again.”
                 (SDB ‘Pope’) Jim Skaggs, who volunteered to set up and manage my blog, without which most of what I have written would not see the light of day and be available to help others. He also flew from WI to NY for my ordination, despite his distaste of flying. Jim is a good friend for having accepted the responsibility of overseeing the blog and for having endured the flight.
                 Elder (‘Coach’) Eddie King, who helped us in the Salemville church immeasurably, serving as a valued counselor and friend (despite his being vociferously Pre-Trib, an error he no doubt now realizes J)
My predecessor at the church told me that Eddie would be a very helpful member of the congregation. Having grown up in the church, he knew everyone well and could guide me past whatever obstacles I might encounter. He was right. Eddie was a most valuable friend and confidant, always loyal, supportive, and encouraging. My ministry would have been much poorer (and shorter) without him. I regret that my successor did not know him well.
                 Kevin and Katrina Gentsch, who continued to care for us, even after we could no longer attend the church. (It would have been easy for them to consider us “out of sight [and] out of mind,” but they did not.)
                 Elder (Judge) Don Graffius, who has always been available for needed advice, legal and otherwise, as well as his wife Linda, who kept my rampaging ego in check by reminding me that I am not a ‘real’ (i.e., medical) doctor
                 Betty Clapper, our (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) church matriarch, who was my mother here and who treated me as a son
                 The Fedoriw family, who permitted us to serve as surrogate parents and grandparents to their eight children
                 Marcia Dieterle, who allowed us to minister to her during the very fragile period following her husband’s death
                 Hyacinth Rollock, originally from the Freeport church, who continued to call us after we moved to PA and she moved to FL
                 Carol Murphy, who resurfaced after college and visits occasionally
                 Debbie Bowser, who has been a good friend, especially to Linda
                 Joseph Formica, a fellow karateka, whose marriage to Krista (in a high Catholic Mass) we had the honor of celebrating in song (a duet accompanied by a Buddhist-Quaker organist, who played the pedals in his bare feet). Joe and Krista keep in contact even as our lives diverge. Joe visits when he can and does all manner of work around the house while he is here.
There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prov 18:24)
                 Patty Petersen, who demonstrates “the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5)
                 Gary Hanson, who followed God’s leading to India with “Operation Mobilization” and is a reminder about how much God has blessed us
                 Mike Browell, our initial contractor (1-814-652-2150), now retired, who was willing to do whatever we needed
                 Deacon Perry Barbee and his wife Amanda, who has assumed responsibility for the blog and posts my new submissions
                 Paul Baker, our subsequent contractor (1-724-433-0406), who is also willing to do whatever we need (although his work is not always the best quality), and his wife Rochel, who has a brain tumor and who helps keep our house clean
           I am grateful to God that He made certain teachers part of my CBC experience to provide good advice early in my academic career when I was uncertain about my ability to succeed in college, especially given my previous failed attempt (Manuel 2017).
                 Diane Lewinski (my English teacher), who encouraged me as a freshman struggling with parts of speech and sentence diagraming, wondering if I was even cut out for college—“You’ll get it.” She was right. I did get it and later used sentence diagramming with my Hebrew students:
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Heb 10:36)
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jms 1:4)
                 Charlie Wenzel (my theology and Greek teacher), who advised those preparing for church ministry to become more familiar with what the Bible teaches than with what famous theologians have taught. He was right. People often ask me about the Bible but rarely ask me about famous theologians. He also offered good pastoral advice— “Make fun at your own expense, not at the expense of others:”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Pet 3:15)
                 ‘Buck’ Hatch, whose Progress of Redemption helped me put it all together and inspired The Drama of Redemption, in anticipation of a wonderful future:
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Hab 2:14)
           I am grateful to God that my CBC experience impressed on me the importance of becoming conversant with the biblical text (my mantra: “Context controls meaning”) and of appreciating how God’s precepts have priority over man’s preferences, as well as how important it is to present the biblical text clearly (e.g., without the encumbrance and distraction of sloppy thinking or poor grammar—my dictum: “Good writing is rewriting”).
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
           I am grateful to God that He enabled me to play the trombone starting in grade school and then to resume it years later, even achieving some improvement, for the good horn my parents purchased for me (a significant expense for them, I’m sure), as well as for the enjoyment it provided at home and in church. My trombones both metal and plastic are now with Dave, as are Dad’s tenor and bass trombones:
With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King. (Ps 98:6)
           I am grateful to God that He allowed me to become a philatelist (not to be confused with a philanthropist or a philanderer J), gathering stamps for several topical collections, many of them international, and that I found suitable homes for them: U.S. Ship stamps (originally for Dad, now with Dave), U.S. Space stamps (also now with Dave), Martial Arts stamps (now with Joseph Formica), Bible stamps (now with Marion Bible Fellowship), Science Fiction stamps—general and Jules Verne (originally for Linda, now with Dave). It has been an engaging and enjoyable hobby.
           I am grateful to God for preserving His words in scripture and for enabling me to preserve some of mine in various sermons and studies, most of which are on the blog. I hope they will prove useful to others:
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:9)
Write down the revelation and make it plain. (Hab 2:2)
             I am also grateful for His inspiring classical authors who composed insightful essays extolling the value of writing, like Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), who wrote “Of Studies,” and Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who wrote in The Adventurer (both of which Dave recommended to me):
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory [which I do not have]; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit [which I also lack]: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.
To fix the thoughts by writing, and subject them to frequent examinations and reviews [i.e., good writing is (through) rewriting], is the best method of enabling the mind to detect its own sophisms, and keep it on guard against the fallacies which it practices on others: in conversation we naturally diffuse our thoughts, and in writing we contract them; method is the excellence of writing, and unconstraint the grace of conversation.
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. (Prov 18:4)
Do not be quick with your mouth [but] let your words be few…. The speech of a fool [has] many words…. [Yet] many words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God. [Note the two-fold recommendation: brevity with gravity.] (Eccl 5:2-3, 7)
Do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matt 6:7)
Everyone should be quick to listen [and] slow to speak [which is perhaps the reason God gave us two ears but only one mouth]. (Jms 1:19)
           I am grateful to God that He allowed me to direct a select (‘touring’) choir during my tenure here, for the various opportunities we had to sing, as well as for Katrina, who ably accompanied us throughout and who gave me a private presentation of He Watching over Israel, which she prepared for “Pastor Appreciation” week. (It was a wonderful gift.) Although we never sang that piece—it was too high for the sopranos and tenors—forming the choir was a (even the) highlight of our ministry:
For the director of music. With stringed instrument [e.g., piano]. (Pss 4:0; 6:0; 54:0; 55:0; 61:0; 67:0; 76:0)
           I am grateful to God that He brought three cats into our home, providing us with (clean and quiet, no barking or having to walk them) companionship and entertainment, and that we are not allergic to them. This is yet another instance of His anticipating our needs, especially for Linda, of meeting those needs, and of enriching our lives through them.
Dogs have owners, but cats have staff.
           I am grateful to God that He has given us a comfortable home (now mortgage-free, thanks in no small part to my folks’ help) in a beautiful area of this magnificent country and that He enabled us to work on it while we were still healthy. I am also grateful we were able to adapt the house for our needs (e.g., replace carpeting with hardwood flooring).
           I am grateful to God that He encouraged the church leadership to anticipate our physical difficulties and modify our main bathroom (through “Bath Fitters”) to make showering easier, even possible, for Linda.
           I am grateful to God that He prompted Jim and Nancy Krug, two former parishioners, to purchase for me an electric hoya lift. I did not realize how much I would eventually have to use it. Community Life has since installed an overhead track system to get me out of bed. (It is reminiscent of the arcade machine with a crane to select a toy. In this case, I’m the toy.)
Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matt 6:8)
           I am grateful to God that He blessed us with good friends, like Kevin and Katrina Gentsch, who agreed to be our legal proxies for medical and financial decisions should we not be able to make them ourselves. It is wonderful that in the absence of immediate family God provides for us through others. I am grateful for Katrina’s advocacy at various times, interceding for us when we could not, and for Kevin’s help with different computer problems.
           I am grateful to God for His patience with me during occasional but thankfully rare difficulties at the congregation and that most parishioners remained supportive of me (and of the church) even when I fell short of their expectations:
Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Rom 2:4)
           I am grateful to God that He sent Linda and me home aides through “Community Life,” which provides several services for us (e.g., a doctor to prescribe meds, various therapists, grocery shopping, laundry, home care, help with bathing).
           I am grateful to God for the skill He gave Linda in needlework, for the patience such activity showcased, and for the many examples of that ability now adorning our home.
           I am grateful to God for the adventures He allowed us to have over the years, from vacationing with my parents—for both Linda and me—to practicing various martial arts, to visiting Arizona (despite my first near-death experience of almost being eaten alive by a desert vulture J), to attending schools in different locales, to seeing Israel—where she encountered a flock of curious wild turkeys during a bathroom break J—and Egypt (where we saw a panorama of local white porcelin), to singing in various venues, to making friends along the way, to residing in other states (and living in some very fancy establishments, like the ‘cottage’ in Illinois J), to serving four churches (and my second near-death experience of almost drowning during a knee-high stream baptism service, to the congregation’s inappropriate amusement J), to owning a home, to having three cats (Manuel 2017).
           I am grateful to God that He continues to use us in ministry (e.g., through prayer, encouragement, counseling, writing), despite our physical limitations.
           I am grateful to God that He encourages men and women to risk their lives for others as part of this country’s military, law enforcement, fire departments, and medical services. They are His “servants” (Rom 13:4). I also pray He will alert them to danger before they encounter it, so they might take precautions to avoid it:
A letter to the police: As I hear repeated reports about attacks on police (as well as the ridiculous notion some proffer to abolish the police [and replace them with social workers]), it baffles me but illustrates the decay in our society, and I am troubled by the toll it takes on the people who protect us (as well as on their families). They too often encounter the worst among us, doubtless skewing their view of our culture. I wish I could offer them encouragement. I hope they know that not everyone (in fact, very few) has a negative attitude toward them. My wife and I certainly do not. We are very grateful to God for them and wish we could shake their hands and tell them so. The best we can do is pray for safety and sanity (which we do), both for them and their families. I cannot appreciate the uncertainty of not knowing if the job will enable them to come home at the end of their shift. *(As a minister I have no such uncertainty. Again, I am grateful to God for their service to and sacrifice for our communities.
           I am grateful to God for people who are alert to corrosive influences in society (e.g., CRT = critical race theory; tribalism = white essenti; 1619 Project; DIE = diversity, inclusion, equity [≠ equality]; green new [socialist] deal; wokeness = weakness; mediocrity versus meritocracy; austerity versus prosperity; cancel-culture; restorative justice; fluid gender identity, LGBTQ activism [contra Manuel 2002]). I pray such leftist ideologies, falsely labeled “progressive” (actually ‘radical’) will soon be discredited and suffer defeat, fading quickly from public consciousness:
The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (Gen 6:5)
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)
           I am grateful to God that He leads men and women in this great country to seek political office. I fear for the future of our nation should the Democrats (in their current extreme liberal configuration) come to power as they have. In that case, my prayer is similar to the rabbi’s in Fiddler on the Roof: “May God bless and keep the Czar far away from us”:
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (Prov 11:14)
I urge…that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving, be made for…all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Tim 2:1-2)
           I am grateful to God for enabling Pres. Trump (despite what some considered an abrasive personality) to do what no earlier administration was able to accomplish (e.g., southern border security, energy independence, three supreme court appointees, streamlined COVID drug approval = “Operation Warp Speed”), including in the Middle East (e.g., finally moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, “Abraham Accords”). I am alarmed and dismayed by the direction the subsequent democrat administration is taking over-spending and over-regulating, with no concern for the negative effects of its decisions, especially after several initial policy debacles (e.g., Keystone XL pipeline closure and resulting dependence on foreign energy, stopping border wall construction and inviting into the country millions of unvetted and unvaccinated illegal aliens as well as tons of deadly drugs, disastrously abrupt Afghanistan withdrawal and abandoning billions of dollars in new sophisticated military equipment to the Taliban as well as forsaking stranded Americans and indigenous loyal allies, COVID vaccines and mask mandates even for those with natural immunity or medical exemptions and firing many who refuse to comply, considering the placement of a Palestinian consulate in East Jerusalem despite the threat it might pose to Israel’s security, Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act that does not decrease inflation especially with the additional student loans cancelations). The latest democrat bill bloats the IRS and is more expensive than Customs, Coast Guard, and Border Control combined. Thankfully, some Trump policies, like those in the Middle East, are not easy to reverse and, thus, are more enduring than other policies:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.” (Ps 122:6)
The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. (Eccl 10:2)
           I am grateful to God for enabling the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (and send the issue back to the states), the ill-conceived law for almost fifty years that resulted in the abortive death of millions (Manuel 2022). The reversal was possible thanks also to Pres. Trump’s appointment of three (young) conservative justices (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett):
You have come to royal position for such a time as this. (Esth 4:14)
           I am grateful to God that He grants us perspective to view life more broadly than the narrow confines of immediate circumstances allow, and grateful for His sparing us from many of the trials others face (e.g., grave illness, emotional turmoil, loneliness, marital conflict, financial insecurity, political uncertainty, family ‘drama’).
           I am grateful to God that He has given me an appreciation (late though it may be) for some of the many good things people have done for us, including those no longer here and whom we cannot thank (e.g., Mom and Dad for great family vacations and that my parents invited Linda to accompany us, Grossmutti for handmade Christmas gifts, Aunt Attalie and Uncle Michael for my first car: a ’56 Olds [‘the hulk’], ‘Uncle’ Steve for a handcrafted bow and some arrows, Fordice Stone [Dad’s boss] for offering to finance my undergrad education if I did not get involved with a girl first. [He was rightly concerned about the potential distraction of such a relationship, but by then I had started to date Linda. Thankfully, she was my primary support financially and emotionally while I was in school, far longer than Mr. Stone expected, I’m sure—eighteen years!])
           I am grateful to God for His leading over the years (Manuel 2021) and for all He has enabled us to accomplish in life, giving us a good run together for more than fifty years. Having almost “finished the race [and] kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7), we are content—more than that, we are exceedingly thankful:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. (Phil 4:11-12)
If we have food and clothing [which we have, and more], we will be content with that. (1 Tim 6:8)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. [which is not difficult when God has given so much] (Heb 13:5)
           I am grateful to God that He gives our health enough stability without the interruption of frequent hospital visits or the need for special treatment (e.g., dialysis).
           I am grateful to God that although I may get frustrated at my own inabilities, I do not direct that frustration toward others (e.g., Linda, caregivers), and I pray He will continue to grant me enough presence of mind (patience) to maintain that perspective.
           I am grateful to God for Krista Formica who visited us with Joe and spent several hours working on improving the health of my feet (certainly beyond the regular bonds of friendship and somewhat out of her normal realm as a pediatrician, although I may be in my second childhood J).
           I am grateful to God for the many answers to prayer this list illustrates and for His saving the best till last: home ownership, comfortable retirement, and a beautiful setting in this marvelous country (as we contemplate “Dwelling in Beulah Land” 1911 and “This World Is Not My Home” 1946). Of the many places we have lived, this is the most attractive and the least given to unrest (influenced either by climate or politics), where we are glad to spend our closing days. And I am especially grateful that I can live these golden years with Linda. My wonderful wife is marvelous, so very marvelous! Most amazingly, all she has to do is, as the Beatles sang, “act naturally.”
           I am grateful to God for the perspective that maturity of thought brings, at least the wisdom to remain silent rather than giving my opinion to others unsolicited (e.g., my early view about biblical law was not as welcomed as I thought it might be):
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Prov 17:28)
             This proverb also appears in the modern adage: “It is better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” (Anon). I only wish such wisdom had come sooner for me, but better late than never.
           I am grateful to God that He has been with us throughout life, directing, protecting, and meeting our every need (“Praise Ye the Lord of Hosts” = Eddie King’s favorite choir anthem).
           I am grateful to God that He enables me to compile this expanding but not exhaustive list of the many advantages He has given us (“Count Your Blessings” 1897), for the ongoing ability to revise, enlarge, and preserve it, and for the helpful review it provides (viz. direction in prayer). This list is largely a compilation of peoples’ names, because that is how God often works—through individuals (some now deceased).
           I am grateful to God that I have a computer to record these many reasons for my appreciation (without relying on my faulty and limited memory to recall them) and still have some use of my left hand to type, even if only minimally, to maintain this list of items for which I am thankful.
     It might seem strange to write about my gratitude for people no longer with us but now with the Lord, until one realizes that gratitude is to God, who is timeless. He can hear and appreciate my sentiments be they this far removed. It is only important that I express them. He accepts my thoughts even at this late date, perhaps more so because they represent careful reflection.
     As a person gets older and nears the end of his sojourn on earth, while he should not wait that long, the delay is an opportunity to reflect on God and appreciate the sentiments in great hymns…as well as on the various ways the Lord has enriched his life, all calling for several expressions of gratitude.
     Ben Franklin wisely said, “Wish not so much to live long as to live well.” I pray that in God’s estimation, which is the only opinion that matters, to know the difference between simple longevity and more valuable sagacity. I strive for the latter.
     Each item on this list begins with the phrase “I am thankful to God” rather than simply “I am thankful,” as is often the practice today, because it is necessary to identify the one responsible for my gratitude and not leave that essential element blank or assumed. Without God any expression of appreciation is vacuous and vapid. He above all is my raison d’etre (Manuel 2003).
     Anyone who thinks he is entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursiuit of happiness,” as some assume, is setting himself up for disappointment. The only thing God guarantees everyone, the only thing they can expect, is a fair trial in the end:
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)
Anything more is self-delusionary, even hubris, considering I (or anyone) am “the least of all God’s people” (Eph 3:8). The best one can be is the most one should be:
What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees…for your own good? (Deut 10:12-13)
What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Mic 6:8)
Be content whatever the circumstances. (Phil 4:11)
Moreover, one’s final judgment will be without concealment, delusion, or personal commentary (e.g., excuses):
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen 18:25)
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:13)
It may seem counter-intuative to look forward in any way to one’s final judgment, unless he believes it to be motivational to good behavior. Personal conduct now will count in the end:
I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. (Jer 17:10)
The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)
The Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does. (Eph 6:8)
I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Rev 22:12)
It is possible to be content because God’s care is gracious and comprehensive:
No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Ps 84:11)
God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.
Such is the oft repeated testimony of scripture:
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. (Gen 1:31)
Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you. (Deut 26:11)
I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me. (Ps 13:6)
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.” (Ps 16:2)
According to Your love remember me, for You are good, O Lord. (Ps 25:7)
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, He instructs sinners in His ways. (Ps 25:8)
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Ps 34:8)
Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Ps 34:10)
No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Ps 84:11)
The Lord will indeed give what is good. (Ps 85:12)
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You. (Ps 86:5)
The Lord is good, and His love endures forever. (Ps 100:5)
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. (Ps 107:1; 118:1, 29)
You are good, and what You do is good. (Ps 119:68)
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good. (Ps 135:3)
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. (Ps 136:1)
The Lord is good to all. (Ps 145:9)
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. (Lam 3:25)
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. (Nah 1:7)
No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)
In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Rom 8:28)
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. (Phil 1:6)
Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above (1675)
1. Sing praise to God who reigns above,[1]
the God of all creation,
the God of power, the God of love,
the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul He fills
and every faithless murmur stills:
To God all praise and glory.
2. What God’s almighty power hath made
His gracious mercy keepeth.
By morning glow or evening shade
God’s watchful eye ne’er sleepeth.
Within the kingdom of His might
Lo! All is just and all is right:
To God all praise and glory.
3. The Lord is never far away,
but through all grief distressing,
an ever-present help and stay,
our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand,
He gently leads His chosen band:
To God all praise and glory.
4. Thus all my toilsome way along,
I sing aloud Thy praises,
that earth may hear the grateful song
my voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart,
both soul and body bear your part:[2]
To God all praise and glory.
5. Let all who bear Christ’s holy name
give God all praise and glory;
let all who own his power proclaim
aloud the wondrous story!
Cast each false idol from its throne,
for Christ is Lord, and Christ alone:
To God all praise and glory.
Text: Johann J. Schutz; trans. by Frances E. Cox
Music: Bohemian Bretheren’s Kirchengasange; harm. by Maurice F. Bell
Tune: MIT FREUDEN ZART, Meter: 87.87.887
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (1757)
Text: Robert Robinson, 1735-1790
Music: Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second
Tune: NETTLETON, Meter: 87.87 D
Although my musical preferences tend toward older hymns, there is a few contemporary pieces I enjoy, ones that are not repetetive musically or vapid lyrically (although the flow in this one is not clear to me), but mostly those that also employ good vocal harmony, like the theme song of the acappella group Glad:
Be Ye Glad (1988)
In these days of confused situations
In this night of a restless remorse
When the heart and the soul of a nation
Lay wounded and cold as a corpse
From the grave of the innocent Adam
Comes a song bringing joy to the sad
Oh, your cry has been heard and the ransom
Has been paid up in full; be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad
Every debt that you’ve ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad
So be like lights on the rim of the water
Giving hope in a storm sea of night
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter
Of these fugitives in their flight
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle
You are winsome and young as a lad
And there is no disease or no struggle
That can pull you from God, be ye glad
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35, 39)
Manuel, Paul
     2002       “Homosexuality: Affirming Our Biblical Bearings.”
     2003       “Your Raison D’etre.” Anthropology Excursus 4 in A Reader’s Digest Approach to Theology.
     2007       “An Equal-Accessibility Deity.” Soteriology Excursus 3 in A Reader’s Digest Approach to Theology.
     2013       Palm Sunday: “God Doesn’t Need You” (Luke 19:37-40). [Sermon]
     2022       Is abortion a capital offense?
The following documents are all listed in the “Posts relating to himself” section of the blog.
      2012       “Of Preaching.”
     2014       “That was then; this is now.”
      2015       “Woodstock.”
     2016       “Adopting the Sabbath.”
     2017       “Cat and Other Tails.”
      2018       “My Life Verse” (Ps 119:173).
      2019       “The Ministry of Prayer.”
     2020       Providence versus Fate.”
     2021       The Question.”
[1]This first line is on our headstone. Linda wanted to add at the bottem: “I told you I was sick.” But I thought such frivolity, however in keeping with her sense of humor, might be in poor taste.
[2]There is a belief among some Orthodox Jews that worship, especially prayer, should be all-lnclusive (i.e., physical and mental; e.g., daven):
Ps 63:1 My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing,

tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing,

call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,

mount of Thy redeeming love. [Luke 23:33]


2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer [1 Sam 7:12];

hither by Thy help I’m come;

and I hope, by Thy good pleasure,

safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger,

interposed his precious blood.


3. O to grace how great a debtor,

daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

seal it for Thy courts above.