Is it Thursday already!?  As I sit down at the keyboard this noon, I am thinking it is Wednesday and that I am ahead of schedule.  Then I looked at the calendar and realized today is Thursday – which I should have known because of the two places I already have been today!  Well, I hope “better late than never” is OK by you … because, now that I think about it, last week was a “never”.  2024 is not off to the best of starts in regard to Thursday’s Thirst.
If I were to make excuses, I would refer to a busier than usual schedule, but the reality of an excuse like that actually means that other activities have taken a higher priority.  That was true when I was working, and it remains true in retirement.  And I think this is something worthwhile for everyone – no matter where you are in life – to realize:  If you want to know what your priorities are, look at where you have spent your time over the past week (or longer).  The last I checked every week still has 168 hours for all of us.  Priorities dictate how we use them.
Much of my time the last couple weeks was spent in what one might call “pre-retirement type” activities.  I preached two Sundays in a row, attended a funeral, and preached at another.  Circuit Visitor duties have been given their share of time.  And then, there have been a few football games that were high on my charts (Go Blue … Go Lions). A month ago, I thought I was starting to settle into a nice routine, but it has vanished almost overnight … and I don’t really see the opportunity for it to return in the immediate future.
On the plus side, I am close to graduating from Physical Therapy.  I am down to one appointment a week for my hip dysfunction and daily exercise has become a regular home routine.  I am walking “normal” again.  I figure three more Fridays (at most) and I will be done.  It will be nice to have the PT “priority” (which took about 8 months for me to make one) replaced by copay-free activities that I will do at home on my own schedule (though I must say that my time at Team Rehab has been exceptional).
So, as I finally get around to saying “Happy New Year” to you, I am wondering how is 2024 starting out for you?  Did you make any new year’s resolutions … and how is that going for you?  What activities have been “prioritized” in your life – either intentionally or accidentally?  Which has touched off emotional activity in you more, the Wolverines or the Lions … or none of the above?  Have you been happy that most of our precipitation this winter has been in the form of rain, or are you looking forward to what this weekend is supposed to bring?
Personally, I am excited about 2024.  It feels like I am starting to figure out this “retirement thing” … even as that routine of a couple months ago vanishes.  In fact, it seems as though a new one is emerging, even if only for the time being.  Sundays are free after worship.  Mondays generally are open.  I have standing commitments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Then Fridays and Saturdays are open.  This is a routine I can happily live with … even though figuring out how this epistle fits in may be a challenge.`
I hope that prayer and devotional time are high on your priority list in 2024.  Just as my regular exercise routine keeps my body in shape, these activities stabilize and strengthen one’s mental and spiritual health.  For me, there are three daily devotions that start off my day (Portals of Prayer and electronic ones from Lutheran Church Charities and Lutheran Hour Ministries).  And during my morning 1.25-mile walk/jog (and as I place my head on the pillow at night) I go through about a seven-step prayer routine.  A major factor in my hip misalignment was my failure to continue my stretching routine (which is now part of my daily exercise, thanks to P.T.).  In a similar way I know that my head and heart fall out of alignment with the peace of Christ when prayer and devotional times fade.
The words of an old hymn, written by an unknown German author in 1734, come to mind.  Unfortunately, the closest hymnal to my keyboard is the 1947 TLH, so the words will be old English:

With the Lord begin thy task, Jerus will direct it;
For his aid and counsel ask, Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise, and when day is ended,
In his name then close thine eyes; be to him commended.
Let each day begin with prayer, praise and adoration;
On the Lord cast every care, he is thy Salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night Jesus will be near thee,
Save thee from the Tempter’s might, with his presence cheer thee.
Thus, Lord Jesus, every task be to thee commended;
May thy will be done, I ask, until life is ended.
Jesus in thy name begun be the day’s endeavor;
Grant that it may well be done to thy praise forever. (TLH 540, vv. 1,2,5)
And I cannot think of a better passage from God’s Word to start off the year with than this Song of Ascents: “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121)

While I will not make the promise to get Thursday’s Thirst to you on every Thursday at 8:15 a.m. in the new year (because that is a promise that would surely be broken), the promise our Lord God makes in Psalm 121 is one you can depend upon.  In fact, he makes good on every promise he makes (think about that as the election cycle ramps up in 2024).  Happy (belated) New Year, my friends.  May his peace be with you as you are reminded that ”The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

Happy New Year!