Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 25

Monday, May 25, 2020

Tentatively …

We sojourn in these,

God in these [below]

pure clear beauty reflected in the weeds

Evil is not seen in the beauty of God’s Creation

But God is reflected even in the weeds of Creation

Psalms 5:4

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you.

Ephesians 6:18

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Words of Grace For Today

God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God is merciful and gracious.

God delights in forgiving and receiving home the sinner.

God delights not in wickedness. Evil does not travel to stay temporarily with God.

Evil, and we are that when we sin, tend to run from God. We do not travel to stay with God even temporarily. We want to hide from God’s view, God’s judgment, and our shame.

God though stays with us, no matter where we go. Evil does not stay with God, because God forgives it and transforms it, by the sacrifice of Jesus and through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Evil in God’s presence is transformed so that the evil is eradicated and God’s good creation abides with God.

That is really good news. It’s exactly as if God stayed with us when we venture out to places with people we are not supposed to be near, and we spread Covid 19 and are silent about where we’ve been so others are infect unawares, until there is another outbreak with no known source.

Except God’s presence eradicates the virus from us and from everyone else that would have been infected. And all is well, not because we’ve done the right things, but because God works for us in all things.

Except God does not eradicate Covid 19 or any other disease, contaminant, or destructive organisms that we can encounter in the world. God is with us, and suffers with us. God gives us eternal life starting the day we are baptized, but God does not make life free of danger for us.

God does send the Holy Spirit to guide us, inspire us, and to light a fire (under us, mostly).

Therefore each day we can pray as the Holy Spirit moves us, for all the other saints struggling, and all others, so that God will also transform their lives to be lives of purpose reflecting Christ’s sacrifice to bring life to so many.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 24

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The grass is greener …

The grass is greenest,

where the most manure is found

(where the cow’s ate for years, when this was a barn yard.)

Forgiveness is not needed for perfectly good people (they don’t exist!)

Forgiveness is needed for the rest of us, every last one of us!

Psalms 130:4

But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

Colossians 3:13

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Words of Grace For Today

Rulers and people seeking power have long since used condemnation and fear to control people, with marginal success to surprisingly good success.

God is different. God seeks our respect through forgiving us, being slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

One may (incorrectly) think that God works more on the carrot approach, and less on the rod approach. God goes in a considerably different direction, in fact in the opposite direction from both carrot and rod. Instead of motivating us to do the thing that God wants us to do, with either a reward (the carrot) or with threat of punishment (the rod) what God does requires that we take a step back from ‘trying to motivate’ others to do what we want them to do, and realize God approaches ‘motivating us’ to do what God wants completely differently.

God realizes that the matter of getting us to do what we were created to do is not at all getting us to recognized what we must do, then to choose to do it, and to follow through when the going gets tough.

God shows us with Jesus’ story that no human is capable on our own of recognizing, choosing or following through with what is right.

The problem is that we cannot do what is right, well enough, to make it right. When we fear condemnation and shame for failing, we do even worse things, fooling ourselves into thinking the good is something it is not, just so we can do it, or that we’ve done a good thing, when we’ve at best messed around with good just a bit too much to leave it good.

We need a permanent fix, a re-creation, a new start, total redemption, and total freedom … again and again and again and ….

God does not trifle with us. God inspires us through the work of the Holy Spirit in us to accomplish pieces of goodness, in spite of ourselves. Thank God or everything would be ruined by us!

Covid 19 is just another challenge that forces us to pause. It is a tremendous opportunity to see what we really are like when we cannot cover ourselves with consuming, owning, travelling …. You name it, we’ve used it to run from the reality of our lives.

Now, with much of that taken from us, we’re left to deal with more of the actual reality of our lives … as God’s creatures.

We can now as much as every revere God, for God forgives us and sets us free from our sins to move into each new moment of time as God’s forgiven saints.

God equips us by Jesus’ example to forgive … ourselves, and to forgive others, freely, unconditionally, and repeatedly.

Thanks be to God, there is so much to do, so much forgiveness to do, especially for ourselves, our enemies, and the stranger who seeks refuge among us.

That’s why being kind is the beginning of every good day. If one is kind, it’s easier to move to forgiveness from kindness than any other attitude when forgiveness is required (and it always is or will be shortly.)

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 23

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lost but Now Found Again! and Again! … and Again!

This photo somehow ended up in a folder it had no business being in.

Why? Don’t know.

Like us, when we are lost, though God claims us, we need to be put back online where we belong.

Being on track doesn’t make us God’s children, being God’s children gets us back on track, sometimes.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Moses said, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.”

Colossians 3:24-25

Since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.

Words of Grace For Today

Blessing for obedience. Curse for disobedience. Payback for doing wrong. Serving in order to gain an inheritance.

All of this is religious language of coercion; a well organized chorus of controlling others.

It frames life as nothing more than doing what is right and being rewarded; or doing what is wrong and being punished. This is the thought of a two year old, dressed up to look like an adult’s thinking. It is the most common thought pattern applied in most every situation and from nearly all perspectives. It is still childish and falls short of the reality of life as God created us to live it. It is the perversion of the Devil that takes something profoundly good and turns it just a few degrees and lets it loose on us, until down the road we are light years away from the goal God has set for our life on earth: to give God glory in all we do, bringing abundant life to the poor, disadvantaged, and outcasts; and bringing a life of God’s meaning and worthy purpose to the wealthy, privileged and powerful.

Before we get too far along uncovering this devilish perversion of life’s meaning, let us affirm that there is a blessing and a curse in obedience or disobedience. Obeying God does bring blessings to others (rarely to ourselves), and disobeying brings curses to others ( most often to ourselves as well.)

The reality of God’s creation is that God rewards us with an inheritance as God’s own adopted children, and therefore we serve Christ. The direction of causation between our behaviour and God’s rewards correctly stated is simple. Because God acts, rewarding us with blessings, therefore we serve and obey.

The devilish perversion is to think and live as if we act either obeying and serving or disobeying then on the basis of our thoughts and actions God either rewards us with blessings or punishes us with curses.

It is a childish approach to life to think and live as if one’s actions determined God’s blessings and curses. On first blush we might well wish that our thoughts and actions had such influence on God’s response to us. An honest appraisal of human history and our own experiences lays bare the reality that we can never do enough things well enough to please God, or event o accomplish something profoundly good enough to actually FIX a problem the world faces. Every good thing we do is tainted by incompleteness and unintended disastrous consequences … and sinful motivations and results.

It does not matter how hard or diligently we try, or how much self -disciplined we apply to our attempts, one just has to read the honest words written by good thinkers to realize … every human attempt to FIX a problem is a failure. Self-discipline and self improvement is only a mad dash from one hot issue slightly tamed to the next hot issue, only to have a host of previously tames issues raise their hot little heads as major impediments to our living well.

The project of being good enough in life is a futile chasing of one’s tail to no good end, or worse to the destruction of one’s self and many others.

If our actions determined God’s response to us, there would be no hope for us at all! Thank God our actions do not determine God’s response to us!

An old pastor spoke up at a cigar smoke filled room with Scotch glasses set next to the second deck of cards: Looking back at my ministry I pray mostly that I have not harmed anyone.

Relatively young (in my 40’s) at the time I thought it was an odd prayer. Why not pray that the good one did would actually bear fruit in a cascading style through many generations?

Now I understand all too well. Life is really not about how much good we can accomplish, if one is (trying to be) a good and kind person. Doing Good is wholly dependent upon God working in and through us, so that we get good things done almost by accident (actually its by the Holy Spirit ‘accidentally’ getting good things out of us.) Not doing intentional harm to others is something that is much more in the realm of our possible control. The old pastor’s prayer though deals with the unintentional harm one can hardly avoid doing, and from which only God can save us and those whom we have offered ministry to and still harmed.

The true project of human life is simple: to Give God Glory, by

1. confessing one needs saving, cannot save oneself, and God has through Jesus’ sacrifice redeemed us and set us free to …

2. sacrifice what may be seen as ‘our‘ ‘rights’ and ‘possessions’, so that others will experience through us Christ’s redemption of them, and God’s love that holds the universe together.

The world thinks reality is: IF we x, THEN God y.

God’s reality is this:

BECAUSE God blesses us, THEREFORE we can offer ourselves as servants who joyfully obey God’s commandments, loving God with all our heart, mind and strength: particularly obeying Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourselves, and even our enemy.

There is great blessing in obeying God, it is that God gets more done through us for others. There is great curse in disobeying God, and it is that we have failed to recognize the blessing God has already given us.

The challenges of Covid 19 intensify the need for us to see reality clearly, to trust God’s Blessings, and to listen to creation groaning under and rebelling because of our disobedience to God’s commands to love and protect all of creation, as stewards which God has made us to be.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 22

Friday, May 22, 2020

Grass is Green -er

Trees and Grass are Green

Fog is grey.

People come in Genders.

Colour or Gender

do not

Determine Sinfulness

nor

Criminality.

Goodness is Fully Dependent on God’s Grace!

Jeremiah 31:20

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.

Luke 15:20

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Words of Grace For Today

Ephraim is in trouble often with God, for God speaks often against him.

The selfish son is in trouble, deeply with his father, for he’s taken his inheritance before his father is even close to the end of his life. Then he’s squandered the entire inheritance.

That sounds like it’s not far from our own stories, each of ours. We take what we can claim as ours and run, and get into trouble, with our fathers, with God, – with our mothers, siblings, extended families, the community we live in, the church … and with God all over again. There are a great number of variations to the story, and every single one of us can be described by one variation or another.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is – well first a few thoughts about God as father. The image of God as father in itself is a very healthy image, one to embrace with profound joy. There’s nothing quite like the goodness of a father directed at us, loving, forgiving, accepting and inspiring us to live even better than we thought we could.

The damage done by the image of God as father is not in the image itself. It is in the abuse of positions of power occupied by men for centuries. Every good thing can be perverted. This is no exception.

The problem comes when we toss the baby out with the dirty bath water.

The abuse needs to be identified, clearly named and condemned … and ended.

The problem comes when we stupidly think that the abuse of the image of God as father is somehow made better when we replace it with abuse of the image of God as mother.

The problems multiply astronomically when we think that naming men as the problem, while ignoring the same kind of abuse, perversions, and destruction is perpetrated by women. The flavours, smells, and theme of the abuse and perversions can sometimes be collated to the gender of the abuser, but it’s just superficial.

Point blank: men abuse women. AND women abuse men. AND men abuse men. AND women abuse women. AND … God knows this all. So should everyone of us.

AND all of it is evil, and needs to be stopped. ALL abuse when it runs without restraint ends up killing it’s victims (and often the perpetrators, too.) A person is just as dead if they are murdered by physical violence as when they are driven to despair with no escape except suicide.

ME-TOO is all wrong, in that it only deals with one flavour of abuse, and ignores the rest. It is perhaps more destructive in that it sets so many people up to think that abuse is dealt with … so that the rest of it can continue unabated, the victims abandoned, the deaths unnoticed and uncounted.

The bishop last year said that we (this synod) are just starting to recognize and work on the issues of women being treated equally.

I spoke up, as I was able: some of us have been working on that for more than three decades, with everything we are, as men making sure the women in our lives get every opportunity possible and a fair deal (as much as possible.) It’s taken great sacrifice, and we’ve been sidelined often as irrelevant, our contributions raising children with great skill, grace and success belittled, and our words of giving attention to all issues of abuse ridiculed.

The challenge now is to acknowledge all kinds of abuse, by men and women, of men and women. To look at the root of it all: the need to scapegoat others as a means to advancing ourselves in life.

Back to the passages that speak profoundly of God’s unconditional acceptance of sinful sons. The translation to God’s unconditional acceptance of daughters needs be imagined, added to these stories. The stories though are powerful.

Who is your God? Not the God you say you believe in, but the God that your thoughts, words and actions belie you trust and believe in! Who is the God you live your life in response to?

Is your life a reflection of God, the universally, unconditionally accepting and forgiving father who, of a wayward son, says “I will surely have mercy on him!”

Does your life reflect the God who is portrayed in Jesus’ story as the prodigal father, who seeing his self-destructive, wasteful, wanton son approach, “filled with compassion runs and put his arms around him and kisses him?”

How marvellous it is to read these passages and know that God welcomes us, even when we have rebelled and wasted our lives and those around us!

The challenge is now:

Are we ready to be that welcoming father for all those people who have walked away from Grace and Goodness, and now desperately need a morsel of what we have in order to survive? Can we imagine being that overjoyed in welcoming back our wayward sons, daughters, parents, extended family, community members, church members, others known and strangers, even refugees and immigrants … and even those of other faiths or of no faith at all?

As we are able to do that, en-mass, then abuse, perversions and destruction of people will finally be dealt with in a manner so that they can be ended.

And all of us will be able to joyously embrace images of God as father, as mother, as Jesus the man, and as the Holy Spirit, wind, breath, and fire – lighting one under us to get on with the work of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Ah, what makes that all possible is that our God is a God of compassion and mercy, who rushes to greet us when we return to him!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 21

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Imperfect Reflections

Evil Uses Imperfect Reflections of God’s Will

to Guide Us to Our Destruction

Psalms 97:10

The Lord loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

Ephesians 4:15

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

How does one say this: some people are stupid. In Canada, one does not say this in polite company. Is this right? Or maybe the question is wrong. It should be: Is this the best we can say?

This past week campers have gathered as every year for the first weekend of the summer. In the random camping area where I live on crown land, there were no restrictions possible to limit units to every other campsite, since no official campsites are designated. There are unofficial ‘campsites’ well established though. Established enough that they are named.

Doublesite is the first site on the left as one enters the area. It has the end of the circle-road bisecting, after it loops through to the main campsites and just before it joins the entrance road again. It’s large enough open space to easily fit three (four are tight) camper units on one side of the road and two units and two large tents on the other side, though more are possible. This weekend three units circled tightly the central campfire (not fired up, thankfully with the fire ban on). Tents were pitched on the other side, but only one or two. People and especially the half dozen pre-teen children freely mingled and met around the toys and food tables.

There seemed to be little concern for Covid 19 physical distance restrictions. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

Rightsite is the first site on the right as one enters the camping area. It has a 100 metre separate roadway through trees into it’s wide opening around a huge campfire pit. A favourite site, it is usually occupied by one unit, maybe two units. There are two pathways/roadways leading away from it where other units can fit into, though it’s not all that optimal. It can work though as a group campsite and occasionally it is just that.

This weekend a bus and three camper units, plus three tents were squeezed in around the campfire pit. Set off by itself it was hard to see whether a fire was lit. But the space hardly allowed for anything but absurdly normal interactions between the people with so many units filling the area, with no concern for Covid 19 restrictions of any kind. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

Along the loop further past the winter landing for ice fishers, two sites (Lake 1 and Lake 2) sit between the road and the lake, within 5 metres of the water. This weekend the first was empty, but the second was occupied by one unit, a truck, a truck pulling a boat, and a third crossover vehicle.

Around at the end of the loop, before it returns through Doublesite a number of roadways intertwine between the trees making up Website. Usually one or sometimes two units fit back there, not necessarily camping together. This weekend it hosted three camper units and three tents, and twice that many vehicles, with vehicles coming and going all weekend long. The older teenagers and early 20-year-olds carried on like it was a regular bush party, drinking, making lots of noise, louder as the night wore on, tossing frisbees, and setting up drinking games (with shared bottles). After they left there were a number of areas a short ways into the woods with used toilet paper and not quite empty toilet paper rolls strewn about. Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness. Can you spell Darwin Awards?

And at night, the perpetrators unknown, someone lit off a series of fireworks, despite the fire-ban. If they had started a wildfire the dry conditions and the huge amount of dry junk brush in the woods and dead trees would have sent an inferno rolling through and out of here.

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough? With Covid 19 restrictions, who knows when firefighters enough may appear to control it! Who knows how much property would have been destroyed and how many lives would have been lost!

In Cold Lake itself, when I go shopping typically people breach a one metre physical distance from me on a regular basis despite my best efforts to avoid them, forget about 2 metres. I sat at the tailgate of the borrowed truck picking up hardware from Canadian Tire. No less than a dozen people walked past me, all within a foot, two at the most. I finally pulled out a 6 foot stick that I use to pull things out of the 6 foot truck-bed and propped it against the tailgate out onto the pavement easily covering the area where all those people had walked. It forced the next dozen to walk at least 1 metre away from me, and most did that and no more, cutting from the corner right past me at the tailgate.

I’ve heard people foolishly say that there is no Covid 19 in Cold Lake. 2 tested cases were reported, but the military do not report their cases, nor could Cold Lake report an outbreak or real numbers lest threats to Canada could know our military is unable to respond due to illness.

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough? Someone will get killed from Covid 19 because of their carelessness.

As Monday noon rolled around the vehicle noise from that end of the camp area increased, then settled down. I sat writing and out the window off to one side I saw a black something move across the narrow view. I stood up and peered out the window where I might see the whatever if it kept moving the same direction. Nothing, then from behind the borrowed truck meandered a young adult black bear, nosing about for food. Coming right toward me, it was no more than 3 metres away, through the window.

I grabbed a camera to get a few shots. Then as the bear continued to poke about and started toward the camper itself I started shouting. At first there was no response, then the bear slowly changed it’s slow meandering course away from the camper back toward where it had emerged from the roadway to the rest of the camp area.

This young bear has already learned that human campsites are a source of food. That makes for a dangerous bear, one that is not afraid of humans, one that will easily attack humans. Someone is going to get hurt, badly and likely killed eventually, before this bear’s life ends. Who left food out and when so that this bear learned humans are a source of food?

The Bear Truth:

Someone Taught this Bear

Humans Mean Food!

Can one say ‘stupid’ loud enough and long enough?

One can, but is it the wisest or best thing to say?

As we grow up into Christ we learn to hate evil, but to speak graciously and gently about others sinfulness. We remember our own and all that Christ forgives us. We extend that grace towards other sinners.

We speak the truth (about our and their sinfulness) with love (the same love God exercises for us in Christ, that erases those sins.)

The truth is, the population is rebelling against the present restrictions. Even the restrictions are not strong enough to stop Covid 19 from spreading; they will just slow it down to avoid spikes in cases that overwhelm the health care system. If we were under restrictions strong enough to stop Covid 19 from spreading, we would be in full rebellion.

Speaking the truth in love sometimes meaning saying what can be said to get people to do what can be done, and not trying to do what cannot be done, so that people rebel and do nothing to help reduce the dangers we face.

Lake 2 was the only campsite where a bunch of garbage was left scattered behind, (if one does not mention the used toilet paper around Website) though the fire-pits everywhere seem to be treated as if they were garbage cans. So there is that to thank all these campers for: comparatively little mess to clean up after them!

Now feeding that bear, intentionally or inadvertently by leaving food or garbage out for it to find … there just is no excuse for that.

Come to think of it, there is no real excuse for any sin, or for any of us to participate in evil. Yet we keep doing it, thinking it will bring us life.

Only life lived out of God’s Grace brings us and others life.

Be everything good and gracious you can be. At your worst, be kind. That will get you and yours through every challenge in these times when we are ripe pickings for the Devil’s temptations to call others ‘stupid’.

God’s Beauty

Perfectly Created

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 20

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Poor

Struggle to Survive as They are Able

.

.

.

Leaves Up Close

Like the Poor

Need to be Recognized

First

Proverbs 29:7

The righteous know the rights of the poor; the wicked have no such understanding.

Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.

Words of Grace For Today

The rights of the poor

are known by those who are righteous, who seek to do God’s will,

but they are unrecognized by those who are wicked, who turn from God’s will.

This is a statement about what we now call universal human rights: that all people, wealthy or poor, powerful or weak, privileged or disadvantaged all have the same rights. These rights are everyone’s simply because they exist. They are inherent rights.

No one can give these rights, nor can anyone take them away or assign them to someone else. They are inalienable rights.

These do not fully exist. For the sinfulness of humans always leave those who are privileged and powerful to ignore or pervert the rights of others, poor or wealthy, in order to gain an advantage for themselves. Though our Canadian court system is supposed to uphold these inalienable rights, they tromp all over the rights of the disadvantaged. Minorities, especially First Nations and Metis are dis-proportionally convicted and incarcerated. Decades ago men used to bring their wives to court and have them convicted or worse detained in psychiatric facilities (drugged out of their minds) for years without end. Now women can do this to men, and the police, the churches, and the courts oblige them convicting on lies and against hard evidence, using W.D. as a full means to override truths with the biased will to convict no matter, just as long as the woman will lie somewhat convincingly under oath.

Those who are wicked, who think that since they break the laws and act in blatantly unethical manners, therefore everyone does, easily dismiss false convictions as if they are not a concern, or rather false convictions are SOP.

Those who strive to do God’s will, do recognize that even the courts are corrupt, falsely convicting innocent poor people routinely. And with the routine false conviction, courts blatantly invite police and women to freely lie in court. Worse they are free to gaslight their chosen victims, and to invite other bystanders to do the same.

Covid 19 makes this blatant perversion less of a priority to be dealt with than it ever was. Good people turn their eyes to ‘more important things, like the community surviving this pandemic.

Doch the righteous always recognize, work to protect, and struggle to uncover the abuses of universal human rights.

Who do we choose to be today? We will not always choose to deal with injustice and follow through, sinners as we remain. The beginning, and sometimes the best we can do is to remember. Remember how God saved us, and how God desires to use us to save others from injustices, and abuses of their basic rights.

God does recognize and reward our efforts. God already gives us salvation, freely, overwhelmingly, without reserve. We are in God’s family, God’s own people. God recognizes and rewards our efforts to support the saints (the God-made saint in each of us baptized people.) The rewards never end, and include contentment with life, a clear conscience, a pure heart, loving empathy, and renewed energy for life.

These rewards are part of the abundant life God promises us.

Rest in God’s promise, and work like the dickens to protect and keep everyone aware that universal, inherent and inalienable rights for everyone always need protecting.

This will inform our efforts to deal with Covid 19, as well. We bring protection, treatment, and (eventually) the ‘cure’/vaccine equally to everyone.

Then

God’s Rewards

Abound for Those

Who Recognize Universal Rights also for the Poor

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 19

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Fog Covers Our Horizons

As Our Sin Perverts our Spirits

Yet God Takes Delight

Only in our Turning Back

to God.

Ezekiel 33:11

Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, Ohouse of Israel?

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’

Words of Grace For Today

Amazing Grace that saved wretches like us, though we did not deserve anything good from God!

Why does God choose to save such wretches?

Because God lives and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but eagerly waits for the wicked wretches to turn from their evil ways that produce nothing but death. Instead God desires the wicked to turn from their evil ways and live!

There are obvious wicked ways and not so obvious ways, ways wherein we may even deceive ourselves into thinking the way we proceed is not evil. Evil remains evil. It robs life from us and all around us. This is not the end-of-physical-life death. This is the many little deaths of our spirit that we suffer until there is nothing left of us as creatures of God, though we continue to walk and haunt and destroy the earth with our terrible ways.

Sometimes turning from our evil ways, which have netted us great ‘security’ in power, wealth and reputation, will cost us more than it ever netted us in the first place.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who only made money when he cheated people by collecting more taxes than he had to pay to Rome. Whatever difference he collected was his to keep as his own. Here he will return half of everything he has to the poor. Then as he defrauded everyone out of their money which really was not due for taxes, he will return to them fourfold what he stole from them. Either he will not be able to …. He will be broke long before he repays everyone. OR There is a new definition of fraud.

We play these games often, telling ourselves that what we do is not sinful Rather we redefine sin to exclude what we do, and include what others do, so that we can condemn them and feel ‘good’ about ourselves. It only works if we are very self-deluded. We always know our own lies.

Still, God wants us to take time for the amendment of our lives … to change our lives for the better (measured by our Creator’s intention for us.)

That shift, that transformation, that redirection of our lives is what God hopes for from all of us.

Covid 19 gives us the opportunity to reflect more honestly on what we have measured our living by, and to adjust it to fit our Creator’s intention for us more closely.

It can feel like a losing battle, finding our Creator’s intention for us ….

We have no real excuse, though. For Jesus has shown us God’s will for us.

We often do not like it.

But we know what it is … and doing it will give us life, and life abundant.

Only a fool would pass up that opportunity.

Still God rescues the fool along with the rest of us wretched sinners.

Thanks be to God.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 18

Monday, May 18, 2020

God Provides

Even as We Near

the End of the Road

Nehemiah 9:20

You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst.

John 14:26

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Words of Grace For Today

40 years in the dry wilderness, God’s people wandered. Freed from slavery they crossed out of civilization into the barren land. Life became difficult in new and different ways. They had no water. They had nothing to eat. Then they had no meat. It did not take them long to complain that perhaps Moses had led them into the wilderness to die. When God provided water flowing from rocks struck with Moses’ staff it did not take them long to complain that they had nothing to eat and to blame Moses and God for it. God then provided again what they needed; manna appeared on the dry ground each morning for them to gather and eat for the day. It’s shelf life was only a few hours, so each day they depended on God to provided them again this wonder. Still it was not enough. They complained again, this time that they had no meat to eat. So quail appeared in flocks that they could harvest from for their meat.

No matter our real needs, God has always provided for us.

Or has God?

Millions of people die from lack of water. No rocks produce water for them.

Millions of people die from lack of food. No manna appears each day for them.

Millions of people die from lack of proper nutrition. No quail appear for them to harvest.

Millions of people are torn from life by injustices: roving murdering bands ‘disappear’ people, courts accept and thereby invite police and citizens to lie in order to destroy innocent people, advocates for human rights are detained, the earth is ravaged and those living nearby are left to die from the pollution … on goes the list.

How can we forget?

Yet we so easily, striving to gain just one more thing that we think we need for life, forget all the people that suffer injustices, murder, and worse.

We forget so easily all that God has done for us, like water from rocks, manna in the desert, quail that arrive on their own … our list could be long or short and yet we forget how God has blessed us and continues to bless us …

even if we suffer injury, illness and death …

even as Covid 19 challenges us in new ways to make sense of the world we live in and our role in the progression of time as it moves us toward eternity.

We forget so easily as we get buried under new injustices, new accounts of new threats to our way of life, new things that would kill us, or new challenges of all kinds.

Doch!

God does not forget us.

God does not let us forget.

The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, comes to remind us of all that Jesus has taught us:

The poor, the meek, those suffering injustice, the outcast, the ill and dying … these are the ones that God builds God’s Kingdom out of.

We receive all we need for eternal life, for life abundant now … for all we need is the willingness to give up everything so that others can experience that God loves them! Just as God has loved us.

We move forward in time, in step to the music of the spheres for the Creator of the Universe is for us, claims us, redeems us, and sets us free …

to be …

those that remember, trust, and share …

all that God provides.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 17

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rutted Ways Ahead

Lost in the Ice

Canoe Ready

or Set in the Comfortable and Familiar

The Challenge to be

Who we are is Constant

1 Kings 8:58

Incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many things to do to discipline oneself to live well.

The challenges are never ending, sometimes overwhelming, other times simple. Life without challenges is not life. The questions constantly before us are:

A. Who are we?

B. Whose are we?

Every other question is subsumed into these, and the answers we give to every other question with our living (thinking, dreaming, planning, organizing, talking, writing, and doing – or not) are also the answer to these two questions.

Once we realize and confess that we are

A. wretched sinners saved by Grace alone (not by anything we do/not do/are/aren’t), transformed continually to be Saints, and

B. God’s people by baptism into Christ,

Then we have our work cut out for us to live out the promise God creates us to be for other people: That we will bear God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus’ saving us all, also them.

So we continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ, as we are established in faith.

We incline our hearts to God walking in Christ’s Way, keeping his commandments to love our neighbour and ourselves and our enemies as he has loved us.

And, as the saints in light who have gone before us have taught us, we live with overflowing gratitude.

Covid 19 has put somethings in perspective, slowed us down, kept us home, given us time to see ourselves and our families up close for hours on end, or to submerse ourselves in solitude (for those of us who live alone.)

The challenges are still great, and they tax us in new ways, and they give us new opportunities to discover who we are, and whose we are.

For this we give thanks!

The Fog of Life

Makes the Light of Christ

Visible

We Reflect God’s Perfection Imperfectly

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 16

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dark in Death

Even Beauty Dies

Isaiah 51:6

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be for ever, and my deliverance will never be ended.

Luke 21:33

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Words of Grace For Today

So many things change.

The foolish common word is that most people do not like change.

The truth is everyone yearns for change!

We just want change according to our wishes, changes for the better, which often we limit to better for ourselves and ours … but not for them, whoever them is!

What we commonly do not want is change that is foisted on us, making it worse for us … whether it’s better for others or not; though some people rise to the altruistic opportunity to gladly sacrifice themselves in order to being something better to those they love.

But who among us will sacrifice, gladly and eagerly, so that those who stand against us, our enemies, will have it better … instead of us and ours?

What God’s Word teaches us again and again is that change is part of how God created the world. Good change is possible. We have received, as those made in God’s image, the abilities to make things better, for ourselves and others. Sometimes we even actually succeed to make things better for everyone. That is a small miracle, a gift from God, since so few people strive to do that, especially those of privilege and wealth.

What God’s Word teaches us again and again is that life includes not only growth and things possibly made better, but life develops and decays into death. That’s just the way it is for us finite beings, us mortal humans.

Facing few good changes, and inevitable decay and death, no wonder that most of us do not look forward to change, for it usually foreshadows that we will decay and die, as the whole universe will eventually as well. Long before that so much of what is familiar to us will no longer exist.

How are we to look forward to even the rest of today, yet alone tomorrow or any day thereafter?

We look to God’s promises: our salvation will endure forever, long after the universe disappears. God is faithful. We can trust God’s Words and Promises because, while everything else can evaporate in an instant, God’s Word will never pass away.

God’s Word is forever, for us … for us all!

Golden Light

… God’s Light is Forever.