Church History

I grew up and was baptised (and confirmed on the same day) in the Congregational Church1 which contributes mightily to my person-centered2, non-conformist, and reformist ways, bordering on Christian Anarcho-Pacifism3.

Then in 1958 our family joined the exodus to the suburbs and moved to Brooklyn Center, MN where we eventually joined (as charter members) an Augustana Mission congregation named Lutheran Church of the Master. Pastor Paul Swedberg was (and, in a sense, still is) my pastor (though currently I consider my home church to be the Community of St. Martin, which worships in a Mennonite Church building in the Seward Community of southeast Minneapolis and used to operate St. Martin’s Table [a vegetarian restaurant and bookstore, 2001 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN] as an outreach center for peacemaking and justice seeking on the University of Minnesota West Bank Campus [sadly, the restaurant closed {after 25+ years} on Friday, December 17, 2010]).  Of many guidances from Pastor Swedberg, the one that had the most influence upon me was his suggestion to attend the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI) in Minneapolis.  I graduated from the two year General Bible course in 1965 and was Vice President of the class.  That was one of the most accepting and supportive communities in which I have ever participated.

After mentioning that I served in (and have never recovered from) the Vietnam Era service (as a Communication Technician in the U. S. Naval Security Group), I jump ahead to the early 1980’s and the other most accepting and supportive community in which it has been my good fortune to have been able to be a participant - Dorea Peace Community, Turtle Lake, WI.  My family was only there for two years, but in a real sense, it was where I lived my life!

I have most recently been on loan from the Community of St. Martin for about six years as caretaker for a 76 year old Alzheimer’s patient.  And, before his death, on February 28, 2011, I used to share church time between Living Word Christian Center (pastored by Lynne and Mac Hammond), Lutheran Church of the Master (pastored by Morris Vaagenes, Bud Bonn, and Bud Nelson [Pastor Paul Swedberg, Emeritus]), and North Heights Lutheran Church (both the Arden Hills and Roseville campuses).  Since his death I have been, again, "waiting for Godot" - like Lucky in his soliloquy (towards the end of Act 1 [text], [video] . . . ); cf. Albert Camus' The Myth of Sysyphus and the ancient Egyptian story of Setne Khamwas and Si-Osire (Setne II), who visited the underworld seeing people “plaiting ropes [on one end] while donkeys were chewing them up [on the other end].”4  Perhaps, future plans (see below) . . . .

Future plans are to officially sign on as a Third Order Lutheran Franciscan Associate (application made and "in process") and become a volunteer or staff person at Holden Village in Chelan, WA.

The viability of the latter plan mentioned in the previous paragraph has been set back considerably with the announcement of the Holden Mine Remediation Project by the U. S. Forest Service (and associated agencies).

Change is the only constant but you will always have the poor with you!  And so the times currently have me residing as a resident at Joseph's Chateau (a VA Medical Foster Home Care Program home in Plymouth, MN.  Think globally . . . act locally . . . love universally . . . . Yes!

1 Linden Hills Congregational Church (Pastor Stan Conover), 4200 Upton Ave S, in the Lake Harriet district of southwest Minneapolis, MN (now Linden Hills Congregational United Church of Christ). 

4 Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature:  A Book of Readings, Volume III:  The Late Period [Berkeley, CA.:  University of California Press, 1980], pp. 138-151. 

Prayer History

This is really where it is at for me.  Having graduated from the richness of the LBI experience, you cannot help but want to return thanksgiving.  And so, beginning with the directives for prayer in Martin Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray, for a Good Friend” (written in 1535 CE; the “good friend” was his barber):

and some intervening thoughts upon and responses to:

  1. the phrase “praying for Judas” (cf. Coptic Gospel of Judas here and here); and

  2. Peter's upside-down crucifixion prayer (cf. Acts of Peter, 39),
I have currently arrived (after over fifty years of mulling) at the following prayer (parts of which I pray repetitiously throughout the day as I lift up those members of the human community who have impacted / are impacting my life and / or who surround me):

It is through the cycle of my reading, evaluation, and review of the environment(s) that (surround)s me2, informed by the “Original Witnessing”3 perspectives of the translated Hebrew (Jewish) תנ״ך (Tanakh) or מקרא (Miqra) 4, Greek (Septuagint), Aramaic (Targums), and Samaritan (Pentateuch) languages, as well as the oral ת׀רה (Torah), now embodied in the הכלה (Halakhah5) and הדגגה (Haggadah6) of the Talmuds7 (Mishna8, Tosefta [Aramaic Boraithoth]9, and Gemara10) and other midrashim, the writings of the other living, universalistic, world religions11, and, in particular, the “Belated Witnessing” perspectives of the translated Aramaic, Greek, and Latin (Christian) languages, the other αναγιγνωσκομενα (“things that are read”) 12, and the related historical, socio-cultural, literary:  Original Witnessing, Belated Witnessing, and theological writings,14 that I feel that I can come before You.  And, at the same time, realizing that there is absolutely nothing I can do to warrant Your unmerited grace and unconditional love except to abandon myself into Your hands, as I lift myself up to You today, I ask that Your Spirit continue to be active in my life, to fulfill the purpose that You have for me in this world that You have created.  I am worthy of Your love and of the love of the members of the human family who surround me and who wish to share it, as I continue to learn to share Your desire to express Your love to them.  Send me out to do the work You have given me to do, to love and serve as Your faithful witness.  I abandon myself into Your hands, do with me what You will.  For whatever You may do, I thank You.  I am ready for all, I accept all, let only Your will be done in me, as in all of Your creatures.  For even though You were to slay me . . . nevertheless, I will maintain and argue my own ways before You, face to face.16

And now, may the peace of Jesus' Spirit go with you, wherever you are sent; may his Spirit guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm, bring you home rejoicing, at the wonders shown you; may his Spirit bring you home rejoicing, once again.

This is your time.

This is your dance.

Live every moment.

Leave nothing to chance.

. . .

Embrace the mystery of all you can be.

. . .

This is your time.

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2 In order to understand its significance, the reference to "person-centered" requires links to both Carl Rogers' On Becoming A Person and Robert K. Greenleaf's The Servant as Leader.

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3 Anarcho Pacifist Flag

See the wikipedia article on Christian Anarchism, the wikiquote article on Christian Anarchism, an Anarchist Reading List, the works of Joseph Chilton Pearce, Conservative Christian Anarchist, and two recent books:  1)  Tolsoy's Political Thought:  Christian Anarcho Pacifist Iconoclasm - Then and Now and 2)  The Political World of Bob Dylan:  Freedom and Justice, Power and Sin (Cf. this American Conservative article and more specific to our era of never-ending war [19 years 10 months in Afghanistan] with its attendant deceptions, dishonesty, untruths, hateful speech, alternative facts, and reductive curating, the "Romans 13" WWW site).

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1 For example, the online readings for today from Common Prayer.

As Ghandi once said, “Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement.  Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

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2 “A society that is not subjected to tyrannical laws has many customs and types of information; it contains groups, arts, crafts, sciences with different professional commitments; actions in such a society are fitting or inappropriate, good or bad, acceptable or out of touch depending on the circumstances in which they are performed; these change with time, they are not always codified or written down, which means that behavior cannot be ruled by an algorithm of general concepts - the individuals themselves must decide or, to put it differently, they must treat their surroundings in an inventive way, producing new responses to new phenomena.”  Paul Feyerabend, Conquest of Abundance:  A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being; Bert Terpstra, Ed. [Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 258 - 259]. 

From the “appreciative systems” perspective, in our human experience we notice particular aspects of our situation, discriminating them in particular ways, and measuring them against particular standards for comparison.  One could say that these aspects are organized into a system which for the individual is “appreciative” and that taking individual appreciative systems together in a social setting, form an “appreciated world.”  In addition, those “appreciative aspects” both condition our new experiences and at the same time are modified by the new experiences.  The impact of this “circularity” is disguised because the primary standard for comparison - our "myth of science" based culture - concentrates on linear causal chains and goal setting / seeking.  One can unmask the primary standard by replacing it with concepts from the larger science of systems.  For example, system feedback models in which personal, institutional, or cultural activity consists in maintaining desired relationships and attempting to escape undesired relationships.

In summary, the “appreciative process” is a cyclical one which looks like this:  Our previous experiences have created for us certain “standards” or “norms”, usually “tacit” (and also, at a more general level, “values”, more general concepts of what is humanly good and bad); the standards, norms and / or values lead to readiness to notice only certain features of our situations, they determine what “facts” are relevant; the facts noticed are evaluated against the norms in a process which leads to our taking regulatory action to modify the norms or standards, so that future experiences will be evaluated differently.

Colonel John Boyd, USAF, a military strategist, developed what he named the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop as part of the "Command and Control Process," which reminds me a bit of Vicker's "appreciative systems" concept.  It applies not only to military strategy, but also, litigaton, business, and law enforcement (to name just a few entities).  Take a look at the figure below (and compare Frans Osinga's "Science, Strategy and War:  The Strategic Theory of John Boyd" for deep background [especially, the bibliographies]; see also the Wikipdedia article on the OODA Loop):

Of course, you'll want to compare both of these to the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle (or Shewhart Cycle) in business and public service for operational continuity planning (see, for example, the QI [Quality Improvement] flow chart of the East London portion of the National Health Service in Great Britian.

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In an attempt to place the man, Jesus, in his social milieu (approximately 4 BCE - 28 CE), compare the following graphic from Dr. Sheila E. McGinn's "Social Classes in Agrarian Societies" (part of the "Readings" for her Introduction to the Greek [New] Testament course at John Carroll University) which portrays social stratification with reference to Gerhard Lenski's model of social stratification summarized by John Dominic Crossan in his The Historical Jesus:  The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant [San Francisco, CA.:  HarperCollins, 1991], pp. 45-46; cf. Crossan's Jesus:  A Revolutionary Biography [New York, NY.:  HarperCollins, 1994] pp. 24-25, 55-58):

Graphical illustration of Lenski's Power and Privlege Theory

Whether one reads “carpenter's son” with Matthew or “carpenter” with Mark makes hardly any difference in a social milieu where, in any case, sons usually followed their father's profession.  But what exactly was the social or economic class of a τεκτον translated as “artisan / craftsman” or “builder” or “wood-worker” or “carpenter”?  In order to avoid the immediate response of interpreting the word carpenter in modern terms as a well-paid, respected, and skilled member of the middle class*, one must turn to both social history and cross-cultural anthropology.

* In 1983, Geza Vermes suggested that since the word “craftsman” in the Talmud is used to signify a learned man, that the use of the word in the New Testament could indicate that Joseph was learned in the Torah (Jesus the Jew:  A Historian's Reading of the Gospels, 1981, p. 21).  Twenty years later, Andrew Norman Wilson raised Jesus' social status much higher based on that earlier reference (Jesus:  A Life, 2003, p. 29; cf. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity).

Similarly to our social milieu, the great divide in the Greco-Roman milieu was between those who had to work with their hands and those who sat on their assets.  Ramsey MacMullen, in his book Roman Social Relations:  50 B.C. to A.D. 384 [New Haven, CT.: , Yale University Press, 1974] notes that a description like “carpenter” indicated lower class status.**

** pp. 17-18, 107-108, 139-140, 198 note 82

At the conclusion of his book is a “Lexicon of Snobbery” which catalogues terms used by literate, upper-class Greco-Roman authors to indicate their prejudices against illiterate and therefore lower-class individuals.  Τεκτον, or “carpenter” is among these terms.

Mention has previously been made to Gerhard Lenski's “model of social stratification”*** which puts the insights from the previous paragraphs into a wider, cross-cultural frame of reference.

*** Power and Privilege:  A Theory of Social Stratification [New York, NY.:  McGraw-Hill, 1966], pp. 189 - 296.

From that study we find that if Jesus was a “carpenter,” then he belonged to the “Artisans” class as depicted in the graphic above - in the “dangerous space” aligned with the Peasants and the Unclean or Expendables.  In addition, since between ninety to ninety-seven percent of the Jewish state was illiterate during Jesus' milieu****, it is not out of the question to presume that Jesus also was illiterate like the vast majority of his contemporaries in that oral culture, knowing the foundational narratives, basic stories, and general expectations of his tradition, but not the exact texts, precise citations, or intricate arguments of the scribal elite.  (Any Biblical scenes where a youthful Jesus exhibits astonishing wisdom [e. g., Luke 2:41 - 52] [or even an adult Jesus {e. g., Luke 4:1 - 30}] must be viewed as [in these cases, Lukan] propaganda which rephrases Jesus' oral challenge and charisma into terms of scribal literacy and exegesis.)

**** See William V. Harris' Ancient Literacy [Cambridge, MA.:  Harvard University Press, 1989], pp. 61, 266.

Catherine Hezser's Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine [Tübingen, Germany:  Morh Siebeck GmbH & Co.KG, 2001], p 35.

and Meir Bar-Ilam's “Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the First Centuries C. E.,” in Simcha Fishbane, Solomon Schoenfeld and Adin Goldschlaeger (eds.), Essays in the Social Scientific Study of Judaism and Jewish Society, II, New York, NY.:  KTAV Publishing House, 1992, pp. 46-61.

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3 See Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture [Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 2012], Chapter 2, Part 1, “The New Testament as Witness”, pp. 47 - 54 (BS1186.3.H39 2012).  Cf. “The Hebrew Bible . . . ought not to be confused with the Christian Bible, which is founded upon it, but which amounts to a very severe revision of the Bible of the Jews. . . .  Christians call the Hebrew Bible the Old Testament, or Covenant, in order to supersede it with their New Testament, a work that remains altogether unacceptable to Jews, who do not regard their Covenant as Old and therefore superseded.  I myself suggest that Jewish critics and readers might speak of their Scriptures as the Original Testament, and the Christians work as the Belated Testament, for that, after all, is what it is, a revisionary work that attempts to replace a book, Torah, with a man, Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed as the Messiah of the House of David by Christian believers.”  Harold Bloom, The Book of J; [New York:  Grove Weidenfeld, 1990, p.3]; cf. his “ ‘Before Moses Was, I Am’:  The Original and the Belated Testaments,” in Notebooks in Cultural Analysis:  An Annual Review I, Norman F. Cantor, Ed. [Durham, North Carolina:  Duke University Press, 1984, p.3], Jack Miles, “The Order of the Canon and the Course of God's Life” in his God:  A Biography; [New York:  Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 15 - 16], James A. Sanders, "'Spinning' the Bible:  How Judaism and Christianity Shape the Canon Differently," Bible Review 14:3, (June, 1998), pp. 23-29, 44-45.

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4 In either case, the Masoretic Text (with “Miqra” meaning “that which is read”).

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5 The path or way that one walks - guided by the laws from the Torah, the rabbis, and long-standing customs.

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6 Telling or illustrating, e. g. the Pesach Seder Haggadah.

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7 Palestinian and Babylonian, with primary references to the Babylonian.

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8 A topical presentation of the Jewish Oral Torah consisting of six sections divided into 63 tractates with rabbinic discussion (Hillel, Shammai, Gamli'el, and Akiva are among the well-known rabbis whose contributions are included); compiled circa 189 CE by Y'hudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince).  See the citation for "Mishnah" in the Jewish Encyclopedia for more details.

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9 "Additions" or "supplements" to the Mishna; according to tradition, redacted by Rabbis Hiya (around the same time as Y'hudah HaNasi) and Oshiah (a student of Hiya [who died circa 350 CE]), with a manuscript history beginning in the late 13th through 15th centuries CE).  Boraithoth "outsiders," secondary, non-academical additions appearing after the death of Judah the Prince.  See the Brief General Introduction to the Babylonian Talmud and the citation for the Aramaic (link) in the Jewish Encyclopedia for more details.

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10 Wide ranging commentary on the Mishna tractates by rabbis from the 3rd to 5th centuries CE.  See the citation for "Gemara" in the Jewish Encyclopedia for more details.

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11 Buddhism, Christianity (including its American Civil Religious form), and Islam (although I have some acquaintance with the other seven, living religions [Hinduism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, and Sikhism], I confess that I am myopic in not paying as much heed to their teachings because they are directed more to "other" special groups of people or countries [see Selwyn Gurney Champion and Dorothy Short, compilers.  The World's Great Religions:  An Anthology of Sacred Texts {Mineola, N. Y.:  Dover Publications, 2003}, 336 pages.  BL 70.R43 2003]).

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12 Some combination of the Catholic, Orthodox (including Anglican, Bulgarian, Ethiopian, Greek, and Russian), apocryphal, deutero-cannonical, and extra-cannonical literatures (and the so-called “pseudepigraphic” literatures [including Arabic, Armenian, Romanian, Slovanic, and Syriac Peshitta literatures, and the “lost books of the Bible” and “forgotten books of Eden”]) - the basic selection criteria is summarized by Hedley Frederick David Sparks in the “Preface” to his The Apocryphal Old Testament, (Oxford, England:  Oxford University Press, 1984), p. xv, where he writes, “Our single criterion for inclusion has been whether or not any particular item is attributed to (or is primarily concerned with the history or activities of) an Old [and I'll add “New”] Testament character (or characters).  And we have tried to include all the more important and interesting items that satisfy this criterion, irrespective of date, and irrespective, too, of whether or not a convincing claim can be put forward on behalf of any one of them for a respectable Jewish [and I'll add "Christian" and "Jewish-Christian"] pedigree.” (In addition, with the growth of understanding of the diversity of the early Judeo-Christian period since the works edited by Robert Henry Charles [The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, with introductions and critical and explanatory notes to the several books, Volume 1:  Apocrypha {Oxford, England:  Clarendon Press, 1913}, Volume 2:  Pseudepigrapha [Oxford, England:  Clarendon Press, 1913] and Montague Rhodes James [The Apocryphal New Testament, being the Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, with other narratives and fragments {Oxford, England:  Clarendon Press, 1924}], and even after some of the earlier works [1972 - 1991] of James H. Charlesworth, and the later works of Wilhelm Schneemelcher [New Testament Apocrypha, Revised Edition, Volume 1:  Gospels and Related Writings {Louisville, KY.:  Westminster Press, 1990}, Volume 2:  Writings Relating to the Apostles; Apocalyptic and Related Subjects {Louisville, KY.: John Knox Press, 1992}], the textual tradition of the vast majority of these documents is either “Christian”, or “Jewish”, or “Jewish-Christian.”  Cf. Samuel Sandmel's instructive article from the 1960s [the Presidential Address to the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, December 27, 1961]:  "Parallelomania," Journal of Biblical Literature 81 [1962]:  1 - 13), and Walter Bauer's, "On the Problem of Jewish Christianity," Appendix 1, pp. 241-245, in his, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 2nd ed., Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Kroebel, translators [Philadelphia, PA.: Fortress Press, 1971].

This literature (drawn from a variety of internet sources [if you come upon a broken link {links last checked via the W3C Link Validator on May 31, 2012}, then let me know by completing this Feedback form]), then, may include:


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13 The books associated with the scribe Ezra are titled differently in different versions of the Bible.  The following table summarizes the various names:

# Masoretic Hebrew Most English versions [ 1 ] Latin Vulgate ,
English Douay - Rheims
Greek versions Slavonic versions Alternative Names
1 Ezra Ezra 1 Esdras Esdras B´ 1 Esdras Ezra-Nehemiah
2 Nehemiah 2 Esdras
3 absent 1 Esdras 3 Esdras Esdras A´ 2 Esdras Greek Ezra
4 2 Esdras 4 Esdras absent 3 Esdras (Ch 3 - 14) 4 Esdras
Jewish Apocalypse of Ezra
Apocalyptic Esdras
Latin Esdras
5 absent (Ch 1 - 2) 5 Esdras
6 (Ch 15 - 16) 6 Esdras

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church follow the naming convention of the Vulgate.  Likewise, the Vulgate enumeration is often used by modern scholars, who nevertheless use the name Ezra to avoid confusion with the Greek and Slavonic enumerations:  1 Ezra (Ezra), 2 Ezra (Nehemiah), 3 Ezra (Esdras A´ / 1 Esdras), 4 Ezra (chapters 3-14 of 4 Esdras), 5 Ezra (chapters 1-2 of 4 Esdras) and 6 Ezra (chapters 15-16 of 4 Esdras).

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Original Witnessing as Literature

Here are links to Gerald A. Larue's book (as a .pdf) "Old Testament Life and Literature", George Foote Moore's book (on Project Gutenberg) "The Literature of the Old Testament", and a bibliography of selections for your further reading.

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Belated Witnessing as Literature

Here are links to Professor Dale B. Martin's "Open Yale" course "Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature", and a bibliography of selections for your further reading.

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14 All of which contribute to my experience of the man Jesus (called “the Christ” or “the Anointed / Chosen / Righteous One” - the disciples celebrated the past and pointed to Jesus, Jesus celebrated the "eternal now"15 and pointed to God!).

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15 Cf. Paul Tillich's The Eternal Now [New York:  Scribner, 1963], Nicholas Thomas Wright's Surprised by Hope:  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church [New York:  HarperCollins, 2008] from which this quote is taken (p. 192), “The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term in the future.  And what he was promising for that future and doing in the present was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God's ultimate purpose - and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that large project”, and Mark L. Taylor The Executed God:  The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America [Minneapolis:  Augsburg Fortress, 2001] from which this quote is taken (p. 8), “Jesus died the victim of executioners with imperial power.  There is an inescapable opposition between the life and death of Jesus, and imperial power.  To embrace and love the executed God is to be in resistance to empire.  To be a follower of the executed Jesus of Nazareth is to venture down a road without having a place in the system of imperial control.”

Jesus said, when asked by a religious scholar, “Which is most important of all of the commandments?”:  “The first in importance is ‘Listen, Israel:  The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’  And here is the second:  ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’  There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

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16 Cf. Job 13:15 (especially the Amplified Version, Classic Edition).  Morning most often finds me praying this prayer and other prayers (from the book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals [Grand Rapids, MI.:  Zondervan, 2010]) where I am currently enjoying retirement as a resident of Joseph's Chateau (a VA Medical Foster Home Care Program home in Plymouth, MN).  Of course, you are welcomed to pray through the hours online at Common Prayer, Universalis, or the Daily Office at Mission of St. Clare.

Announcing a new project - Praying through the Prophets - utilizing the complete series (eight books) of John Calvin's prayers on each of the prophets:  Jeremiah (and Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obidiah, Jonah, Micah, and Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai, and Zechariah and Malachi - and in just a $6.99 Kindle edition.  It looks like reading through - a daily portion from a particular prophet - and praying (modernizing) John Calvin's prayer on that portion as prepartation for our own time of prayer.  Let me know if you would like to join in . . . .

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