Because

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Why this photo?

Only because ,

Like Everything Good,

God made it possible.

Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us.

Words of Grace For Today

You shall … and no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot all the time do what God says we shall … even when it comes to love and especially not when it comes to loving God, yet alone loving God with all our heart, soul, and might.

Doch

because God loves us first, therefore we are able (by Grace alone) to love our neighbours as ourselves, our enemies, and always God.

Loving gives our otherwise meaningless lives purpose and joy … and always brings us pain and sorrow, too.

That’s the colour of love that God gives us, and enables us to live out in our lives, all our days on this wonderful, if lately kind of wild, planet. It’s a full rainbow of colours, even the empty colours of a void … that God gives us and fills with our living in God’s presence.

We Are Self-Made and Successful! … Quatsch!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

As God Brings Roses to Bud

so God alone Brings

Wealth and Prosperity to Us.

Deuteronomy 8:18

Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

John 3:27

John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.’

Words of Grace For Today

George was retired, having raised two children, succeeded in business, and married a very good woman. He continued to his last days to call Rena ‘my princess’.

Rena was impressive, more so than George. She was a bank manager, then a retired bank manager, living in the suite above the bank with a view out over the ocean … past the pulp and paper mill with all it’s terrible smell until the very last years of her life when it ran cleaner, though hugely cut back – a loss to the one-industry local economy.

Both George and Rena continued to be generous with their property, sharing the lake cabin with many people, us included. The cabin was on the lake, literally floating on the lake. That’s a wild idea for any Canadian who sees all the lakes freeze and freeze hard every winter. It was possible because they lived on the west coast, the lake never froze and in the days when they established their cabin cedar logs as floats were to be had.

George and Rena contributed generously to the local church, where we got to know them. They made modest financial contributions. Their real contributions were their talents. Rena served as treasure, cleaning up some real problematic messes made by less than clear headed councils, pastors and treasures and one treasure that was obviously less than honest about separating his own and the congregation’s money.

George was a available most any time, helping in every way possible. He welcomed everyone who came and helped them to want to keep coming back. He gave people room to make mistakes and be forgiven; he gave everyone another chance. Sometimes he was gruff but you never had to guess what he was thinking. Rena was gentle, always able to make the best of any situation. Together they became good friends to many people, us included.

While many other people have contributed in so many ways and many of them have given much of themselves and their wealth, few have demonstrated so clearly that their success is not dependent on their own efforts alone, or even majorly. They knew and clearly demonstrated that everything they had was a blessing from God and their duty was to share it with as many people as possible.

Which leads us to ask (as the readings do as well), what do we have and how do we share it?

(Quatsch is a German expression close to BS! in English.)

Truth is Blessed. The Wicked are Tormented By Their Own Sins.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Blessings Of God

Bring Serenity

To Those Who Trust God

Accepting Forgiveness Readily

And Sharing Blessings with All People

Like the Reflection of a Destructive Storm

Those Who Destroy Others

Are Tormented Always

By Their Own Sin and Evil

Psalm 32:10

Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

Romans 5:5

Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Words of Grace For Today

When Arnold had finished with Tina, having sent her to jail for crimes that she did not commit, he still suffered the terror jags. With all his lies about Tina he had created, or rather constructed, a wholly fictional character, which he’d applied to Tina and presented to the church, the courts, and even the children. That character had very little that was true about Tina. Almost all of the terrible things in that character came from Arnold’s own sins and crimes many of which haunted him out of his terrible past. The church, community, and courts, able to know very well that it was only fiction about Tina, had accepted the fiction nonetheless as true about Tina. They continued to do so even as it was more and more clear that they had added their own lies in order to convict, ostracize and ban Tina. Their increasingly worse sins were bound, to be judged by God. They church and judges continued to protest that they had done nothing wrong. It was impossible to have them accept the terrible truth about what they had done, thus they were in God’s hands. Every denial of the truth set them further and further apart from reality, from a healthy life, from the goodness of creation, from all of God’s blessings, from God’s love, and from all hope.

Tina, forced by poverty to live homeless in the wilderness, with help from friends that loaned her enough to get by on each year, lived in the middle of the goodness of creation beside a small lake. There reality was an unavoidable part of every day. Life threatening cold in the winter, and mosquitoes, wasps, and heat in the summer did not allow for any denials about reality. Wood needed to be collected, cut, split and burned to create a warm and safe space in winter. In the summer grass needed to be cut to minimize the mosquito population, wasps deterred or nests destroyed to allow use of the small and very old borrowed camper, and shade needed to be sought and created around that camper in order to mitigate the searing heat that made midday activities dangerous to impossible. Surrounded by the peace of nature, for the most part left alone by other people as a holy mystic, and required or at least able to exercise sufficiently most every day Tina’s health recovered from the terrible cost of suffering Arnold’s abuse, the gaslighting joined in on by the police, community, churches and the courts, and the life threatening ‘medical’ treatment provided by some doctors and nurses.

Tina saw the goodness of creation in the ebb and flow of the seasons as the lake sang and then moaned in bass tones as it froze and then quietly thawed and in a day or two was cleared of ice by a strong wind, the birth of new robin chicks and the care the parents provided the one that too soon glided out of the overfilled nest, the arrival of fawn’s and beaver pups, the fruit of the various berries in their own seasons, and then the welcomed night freezings that cleared the air of all mosquitoes and wasps, the ground of all ants and pine beetles, and the arrival of snow deep enough to ski far beyond where one could walk in a day.

With nothing but her clothing still sufficient for each season, a tent and good sleeping bag, and a bicycle, Tina counted her blessings as friends and family loaned her, gave her, and provided for her more than enough to survive on; she lived and thrived and wrote and took photos … and every morning gave God thanks. Life was reduced to the basics and it had not been so good for a long time. She saw God’s blessings each day, poured out on her and she shared them with the few people she saw during each week.

In spite of everything, all the terrible lies told about her, all the challenges she faced nearly every day to live, Tina knew like no other time in her life that God sustained her and that she had every reason to hope … for hope had not disappointed her at all.

She was able to trust God fully (well almost), and she counted on God’s love surrounding her, pouring over her, flowing freely to the few people she spoke with each day. She knew better than at any other time in her life that the Holy Spirit guided her, that Jesus was present all around her, and that God created and sustained her in everything.

Arnold chose to force his success in life at everyone else’s cost. Tina was only one of his victims. And he paid dearly, daily with the terror jags that disabled him, with the fear of any criticism, with the profound self-doubt that haunted him along with his unshakable knowing the truth of his own terrible treatment of Tina and so many other people. His past haunted him. He knew someday it would catch up with him, one way or another.

Tina lived blessed, not perfect though forgiven, and free … all a gift from God that she knew she did not deserve, and which would never be taken from her, not by all her enemies nor even by all the evil in the world.

Blessing Us Dirt

Thursday, July 29, 2021

God’s Light and Blessing

Makes Even

Dirt

Golden

Ezekiel 36:9

See now, I am for you; I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown.

Acts 17:28

We too are God’s offspring.

Matthew 20:1

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard

Words of Grace For Today

I always enjoy the biblical humour: the good news Ezekiel shares is that God is for the people, and they are compared to the dirt of the earth that is tilled and sown in order that something good will grow from it.

The people are, in this metaphor, nothing, just dirt to be trod upon … until God chooses to use them, to turn them over with the plow, to put something good into them that will grow, taking nutrients from their useless dirt, in order to produce food that will sustain others in life. And yet they, though useful to God’s project of providing food for others, and though God is with them, … they remain still dirt.

God turns to them, and they are tilled and sown.

So it is with us.

The dirt of the earth are we, and yet God uses us, tills us with the plow turning us over into something that lays bare the darkness of us, and then God puts good seeds in us, they grow, and food is produce for others, and we remain only dirt, the dirt of the earth. In this metaphor if we become or are and remain the salt of the earth, nothing will grow in us, and others will have no food. Best we are simply dirt, so that others may live.

This we are, the dirt of the earth. Still God claims us as offspring, as God’s own children. Is it really a jump to a completely different metaphor. Yes, but no not really.

God’s children are only something special and good for the rest of creation because God makes it so. God’s children are saints … only because God makes us saints. We remain stains on the face of creation, sinful stains, even as God makes us saints.

The real story is that out of such dirt and such stains God demonstrates everything about God’s love for us: God makes saints out of stains, out of sinners, out of dirty old dirt. That is God’s miraculous work, that God can make saints out of us.

It may seem humorous to be compared to dirt as Ezekiel pronounces God’s blessing of turning toward us, humorous for the unexpected impossible comparison … but then that is what God does all the time. God surprises us with the unexpected.

God blesses us and claims us as God’s own children … though we certainly do not deserve it.

Now what are we going to do with this unexpected blessing, this daily unexpected, life-giving, astounding blessing!? What else other than to share it with as many people, especially those the world would call unfit, unacceptable, incapable of being a blessing for anyone.

God calls for workers, to care for the vineyard, to bring in the harvest, and make the wine. That’s us, dirt, children, and workers.

God’s Own Blue and Beautiful

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

God’s Creation

Blue and Beautiful

Darkened Always by Evil.

Job 12:10

In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.

Acts 17:28

[God made then so that ]… they … search for God … though indeed God is not far from each one of us. For “In God we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are God’s offspring.”

Words of Grace For Today

Even the writer of the Acts came to know the truth, that God created us all and we thus search for God in our own ways.

Even so God needs not to be searched for, for God is not far from any one of us. For we in God we live and move and have our being; we are God’s offspring.

While the life of every living thing and breath is in God’s hands, that certainly does not mean that God protects our lives from destruction by those that would do us harm. Indeed we suffer great destruction from the evil one and from those that would advance themselves at other’s cost.

Our consolation is that God is never far from any of us. No matter how terrible it gets at the hands of our enemies we need not search for God, God is with us. No matter how difficult it becomes as resources, circumstances, friends, church, family, and even hope abandon us and we feel we are left isolated to die on our own in the wilderness, God walks with us. God provides everything to us that we need to live abundantly. This is not that we will have an abundance of anything in life, except that we will live with God’s abundant Grace, Mercy, and Blessings.

It can always get worse.

It never gets bad at all, since God is with us.

It is most terrible for those who work unjustly to do us harm, for they disconnect themselves from God, even as God is so near to them. By their own doing they walk alone in their self-made hell and terror.

For us every day is a day of peace, with ourselves, with God’s creation, and with God.

For we are God’s own children.

Proof: for Fear yes! For God no, sorry.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Dark Master

Or the Conqueror of Fears?

Isaiah 44:24

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth.

1 Corinthians 8:6

For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Words of Grace For Today

God is the creator of all things, and is the one for whom we exist.

There is no proof of this basic statement of faith. Any attempt to prove God exists or that God is the creator of all things or that we live solely for God’s good pleasure and God’s good pleasure is that we live abundantly and for each other … any attempt to prove most anything of God or that God exists at all requires that we first accept the result of the proof as the beginning of the proof.

Fear now … there is all sorts of proof that it exists, that we have it in abundant measure, and that it digs deep inside us and directs our ways and days.

Wasps decided, as wasps decide, to establish nests through out the insulated and not insulated tarps of my shelter, and in the spare tire for the camper I borrow.

Taking down the skirt around that small borrowed camper I took a hit, a hard hit right on the top of the wrist. It forced me to drop everything in my hands and run. I realized I was stung by a wasp, maybe a bee, but the force was like that of a wasp.

I watched as yellow jackets stormed around the spare tire I had moved past to pull away the insulated tarps that form the skirt there. When they quieted down I reached in for my things that I had dropped and was rewarded with a second hit just as hard as the first. It hurt worst than the first even though I knew what it was and there was not much surprise. After all I saw the wasp this time an instant before the pain-shock hit my brain.

For a good week my wrist hurt, then itched out of control, and then ached so bad it was hard to use that hand.

I went looking for wasp killing spray foam. None was to be found or even ordered on line for delivery sooner than three weeks down the road. Even after the ache subsided when I heard a wasp nearby an echo of the jolt of the sting hit me again. Each day I tried to work elsewhere until finally I was tucked inside the camper waiting for time to pass. I realized I was living in fear, having stopped all progress on the necessary repairs that could only be done in warmer weather.

Fear.

Fear requires no proof, though there is plenty of it, that fear exists and that fear will stop us in our tracks.

There are answers to fear. Fear that is not real requires we redirect our thinking until it no longer lands us in the clutches of fear. Real fear requires action. But before action it requires calm and calculated plans on how best to act, how to eliminate the source of the fear.

Degreaser detergent is supposed to kill wasps. I had a good size jug of it.

Vinegar is supposed to repel wasps. I got a good size jug of it.

Peppermint oil is suppose to kill wasps. It was too expensive to even consider.

Even though the sprayer would stop working after 5 pumps, I sprayed a full half jug of vinegar around, to no effect.

I dumped water detergent mix on the nest I could sort of get at, to no effect.

I went on line and tried to order more wasp control foam, but it would take even longer to arrive.

More and more wasps buzzed all around. If I did not act it would get worse and could get so bad that I could not get in and out of the camper or even come near to it.

So I got up early one morning, found a piece of fibreglass screen material left over from repairing ripped screens, got a rainjacket, jeans, another pair of nylon pants, rubber boots, thick leather gloves, and of course duct tape.

I filled the sprayer with detergent and water mixed thin enough so that the sprayer would spray.

After two hours of spraying, refilling, spraying, using a long pole to knock down and out a nest, and stomping it to a flat mess, I had killed a number of those hard-hitting wasps, destroyed three nests, and knew that this would not be the last of it. Too many wasps survived after the nests were gone. They would rebuild and regain numbers and become a problem again, maybe real soon.

Then I would use detergent and the protective gear again, until the foam killer spray arrived to kill enough that they would go away and not come back.

Fears can be dealt with, one way or another.

The only way to deal with the underlying fear of death and destruction by our enemies is to either destroy them first (which is a hell of a way to live – and is everything God tries to tell us is NOT how to live) or to trust God’s promises and grace and love for us.

Trusting God we can overcome all the fear the Evil one and other destruction-seeking people serving the Evil one can put into us. We can live free.

For we believe and therefore for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

More of the fear conqueror’s suit

Fears, fears of real dangers, help us prepare to avoid our destruction.

Plumb line – Remember & Pray

Monday, July 26, 2021

Even the blessing of a sandy beach

Can be darkened by a dirt.

All is possible in God’s creation,

Good and Evil.

Amos 7:2-3

When locusts sent by God had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, ‘O Lord God, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’ The Lord relented concerning this; ‘It shall not be,’ said the Lord.

1 Timothy 2:1

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone.

Words of Grace For Today

God sends locusts and then plagues that devastate Israel. Amos begs God to forgive the people, and God does. Yet God establishes a plumb-line in Israel’s midst, and God will not pass them by … yet then Amos reports:

The Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’

God follows up relenting and forgiveness with full desolation of Israel’s high places and sanctuaries, with their enemy rising up powerfully with the sword against them!

This does not seem like God provides much of a life for Israel. The message is clear: God does not protect anyone, not even the most blessed, from the consequences of sin and evil in the world, their own sin and the sin other others around them, and the evil that would take all we build up as signs of our prosperity and security we provide ourselves.

Paul, knowing full well the price that can be suffered by even himself though he deserved none of the persecution directed at him, advises the younger disciple Timothy (and all of us reading the letter so many generations later) to continue in practising his (our) faith by making supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone.

We cannot save ourselves. Nor can we save others from the evil and consequences of sin that is possible since God has given us the freedom to choose to love God and all creation.

We can remember that God has saved us.

We can remember that God has saved us and continues to save us each day.

We can remember that God has saved us and continues to save us each day though we do not deserve it.

We can remember that God has saved us and continues to save us each day though we do not deserve it, at no cost to us, fully paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s Good Will for us.

We can remember to pray … each day …

in thanks for all God does for us

and for all people, that they would also remember God’s mighty, blessed works for them.

The Strength of Our Rose

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Treasure of Our Lives

Is Christ’s Strength

Made from Our Weakness.

Psalm 82:3

Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

1 John 3:18

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Words of Grace For Today

The life of Christ’s disciples, some would say, is to be of peace and quiet, reflection and quiet prayer, and solace and disengagement from the turmoil of life.

Jesus and the early disciples had something quite different to say about how Jesus’ followers can live and are called to live. There’s lots that we have read and heard how to make life so much better for ourselves and for our own.

The centre of Christ’s way for us is simple and clear: we live blessed by Christ, so that we can be the same blessings for others.

Christ calls us, among other things, to love, not only in word but in truth and action, to give justice to the weak and the orphan, to preserve the right of the lowly and the destitute.

It will take much from us, if we ever speak untruth or avoid good action, or we do not give justice to and to preserve the rights of the weak, the orphan, the lowly, and the destitute.

So Christ calls us to an integrity as servants of the one who lay down his life that we might live free from the bondage to evil. Christ calls us to give to those who are outcast, who are orphaned, who are the weakest, who are kept low, and who are destitute … or who are in need of what Christ offers, abundant life.

The rose of our lives lies in our weaknesses that Christ uses to bring life to others, so we always remain, warts and all, fully engaged in life and for others.

De-story-ing OR God’s Story

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Blood Red Sun Sets

Through the Smoke

Telling Us, If We Listen

That There Is a Cost

As We Try to Breathe

For Ignoring Climate Change Warnings for Decades

Genesis 50:21

Have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

Ephesians 4:29

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Words of Grace For Today

There is too much to fear these days:

The Covid19 delta variant and other more transmissible and deadly variants that will come out of unvaccinated populations where Covid still runs rampant threaten us all.

Climate change disasters like crop failures, disasters for the farmers and for the people who depend on that food (at a cost that can be afforded), floods that destroy homes, businesses, industries, and kill people (putting the future habitability of so much land in doubt), fires that destroy homes, businesses and forestry industries and kill people (putting the future habitability of so much land in doubt, and drive even higher the cost of building lumber – so that it is out of reach for so many people), and wildfires that put so much smoke in every direction into the air that for thousands of miles people have trouble breathing.

Barbaric fabrication of reality (by spouses and children, police and pastors, lawyers and judges) in order to gain a fast diminishing advantage (money, power, and/or status) over good and honest people, falsifying science results or ignoring science’s best results (by politicians who lead us into destroying the very things that we need to live on earth, and by Covidiots and others who put every life at risk with their unsupported insistence that they can be right with their foolishness), and the accumulation of power by people who have driven fear into huge portions of our populations so that they are willing to surrender their freedoms in exchange for false promises that their fears will be dealt with. Instead more and more of their freedoms are taken and hate based decisions by despots destroy the lives of many good people. All which disconnects us from reality, the basic reality that God walks with us, and blesses us with many things in order that we can share them with all other people.

How are we to respond to these very real causes of fear in and among us?

First we listen as we have listened for years, for decades, and for generations to God’s promises.

Have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

Second we learn how and practise daily to be the people who live past fear in the Grace that God provides, so that we can share that Grace with others.

We let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that our words may give grace to those who hear.

If that sounds simple, it is, and it is impossible for us. Doch with God all things are possible and God calls us to live exactly this way. Living beyond fear, filled with Grace and sharing Grace with others, with our words and our actions, is exactly how God created us to live in the world.

There is too much to fear these days, just as there always has been for every generation. We can get lost in that fear, destroying (and de-story-ing) ourselves and others in the process … OR

We can remember and live in the story that God has for us: God makes us saints who share the Light of Christ with the whole world and all the people in it.

We cannot help but to fear and destroy and de-story ourselves and others.

Doch by God’s Grace we are saved and can be part of God’s work of saving everyone of all time.

Not so small a deal, when we think about it and remember how much God has done for us through the generations.

Hang in There, Remember God’s Promises

Friday, July 23, 2021

Evil Uses Lots of Smoke and Mirrors!

By God’s Grace We Stand Tall

Leaning on God’s Truth and Promises!

Psalm 119:148

My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.

Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

Words of Grace For Today

Tina was beside herself, as Arnold insisted again she had to tell her ex to stop asking the church to pray for his brother would had a rare and deadly form of cancer. Though she had no inkling how terrible it would become she felt everything was taken from her already. This was unbelievable. Arnold had done everything possible to drive her ex from town, and to erase all traces or mention of him, and now it included the mere mention of his brother’s name in the bulletin, even when Arnold refused to go to church.

It was just last year, when for months as she volunteered to care for Arnold’s neglected children, he had given her very kind attention and then focused attention, and then long conversations after she put the children to bed with tea and his oldest son sitting with them. Then his son no longer was around for the late night tea conversations. He volunteered to help her with a difficult project she had building a fence to hold her goat and dog who ran after cars. He displayed his strength and eagerness to help her out, though he did bring the children along and left them with Tina’s husband who was working writing to a deadline. The children, grieving their mother who’d killed herself just a year ago, were out of control, playing and fighting, making writing impossible for her husband.

The turning point came when Tina was out working on the fence with her daughter and a friend, who knew Arnold all too well. He texted her a brief and desperate message that as he was returning from a counselling session in a town 2 hours away, he’d collapsed at the wheel, pulled over where the cell reception was poor to nil and had called 911. The message was cryptic. At first Tina ignore it and went back to work on the fence. Then it sunk in, if Arnold texted her he must have no one else to ask for help. He had given her his wife’s set of keys for everything, with even the safety deposit box key on it. Tina stopped the fence work and started driving. She called 911 and was told that Arnold’s car was parked off the road, but it should be picked up as soon as possible, and that he had been taken to the nearest hospital, which was closer than where his car was parked.

Tina stopped at that hospital to let Arnold know she would get his car with the keys he’d given her. Instead Arnold wanted her to take him home. So she did. She and her husband returned later that day to retrieve his car. Tina had become Arnold’s only confidant and person to call in an emergency.

In the next month’s Arnold found every situation possible to be with Tina, to help her, to ask for help from her. He was romancing her. And it worked. They started a sexual affair, though the emotional affair was in full swing months before. Arnold was charming, too charming. Tina dismissed as survivor’s guilt his confession that he’d driven his wife to kill herself. He begged her not to just have an affair with him, and they planned to get married after Tina divorced her husband.

It had seemed so wonderful, Arnold telling her in every text 20 times a day that he loved her. Her husband had long since taken her for granted and said very little that was romantic. Everything was work for him. She’d always come in second to his work, but he was kind and they loved each other in simple and profound ways that had worked for them for 24 years and two children who were grown up.

After she moved in though it was challenging at first. Arnold wanted to rewrite their history, insisting that Tina and her husband’s marriage was completely broken, that Arnold had not caused their divorce. He tried to get Tina to say things that simply were not true. She danced around the issue as much as she could. Then Arnold insisted that her husband had brought her to town this past year just to get rid of her to him, the new widower. A bit later Arnold insisted that Tina’s husband was doing things that Tina knew he’d simply not bother to do, things that were unkind to other people he worked with. Soon Arnold started telling made up things about others that he worked with, that he’d known through his wife. The stories were ugly. He had lots of stories of being abused by his wife. Tina was sympathetic, not knowing how much was Arnold’s making up lies about others to cover terrible things he’d done.

Right away Arnold started to isolate Tina from her friends, her extended family, and then from her own children, and her ex-husband. Then he made her call her ex and tell him to stop having the church pray for his brother or someone would get hurt.

Then within months Arnold started to tell stories to Tina about Tina herself, things that Tina had supposedly done that she knew she had not done, or did she, it was hard to know anything anymore with all the things that Arnold told her about others and herself.

She started to hate herself for what she had ‘done’ that Arnold told her she’d done, or for how terrible she dressed, or how she did not take care of the home correctly. It was always something, something small. Together though it was too much to bear. She turned to counsellors for help. All of them were of little help. She turned to her doctor who was also Arnold’s doctor. The doctor kept prescribing more and more medications that had side effects that required more medications and treatments and even a breathing machine for nights. Night sweats started to drench Tina each night. She was tired all the time. She lost 60 pounds in two months. She tried to read and could not focus. It was a living hell. Always Arnold was there to tell her she was not doing things correctly. She noticed that when Arnold did something wrong he often blamed her as if she had done it. But he loved her, so he would not do that would he? She told herself it was her fault or he was grieving the death of his first wife. When her divorce was finalized Arnold refused to plan a wedding. He just promised that it would be just like they were married.

Tina planned for months to finish this and that for Arnold and then she was going to kill herself. Arnold told such great stories about his first wife, even though she abused him! It was the only way Arnold would start to love Tina.

The planned day was coming up that week, but Arnold laid into Tina and she moved her plans ahead to that day. She bought a bottle of alcohol, and later that night after the kids were put to bed, she took half the 38 sleeping pills left in her prescription bottle, sat in her truck in the drive (so as not to devalue the home as Arnold’s first wife had), locked the doors and drank the alcohol.

Fading in and out of consciousness Tina noted that one of the children found her, later that the oldest came and did little to help, then a friend of Arnold’s showed up, a mean conniving man. Finally Arnold showed up. He and his friend dragged Tina inside. On the couch the friend said they should just let Tina ‘sleep it off.’ But Arnold insisted they take her to the hospital. It was too late.

Too late to pump Tina’s stomach. She woke up three days later.

The doctor took her off the medication that Arnold had suggested she take, which had the possible side effect of making one suicidal. She was free!

Free of all the fatigue, the depression, the unrelenting anxiety. She was not free of Arnold’s abuse though. She did not recognize the abuse for what it was, yet. She struggled each time Arnold told her she was going to kill herself. He wanted her to try again, and succeed this time.

Each time Tina was beside herself, though she had no inkling how terrible it would still get.

She prayed each morning, each night, and many times each day. She called on God’s promise to be with her. She remembered that Mary had heard promises, and suffered terribly as her son was crucified. She worked to be a blessing, to recognize the blessing God gave her, that she had enjoyed for years and that she had survived her attempt to escape. Not even now was she free.

She knew she was immune to killing herself. She knew the dark whirlpool of darkness that had sunk down over her, and would again if she let it. She practised each time it showed up at resisting even the shadow of that darkness. She knew she was immune to killing herself. She told Arnold exactly that as many times as he accused her that she would kill herself, tried to drive her to it. She would survive but she had no idea what Arnold would do to her.

She pondered all the things she knew, and to this day cannot comprehend the cruelty of all the people Arnold convinced to do her harm, as if she were the one that was a threat to him! She still cannot believe the lies that Arnold told and tells; and the illness that he must suffer to be able to lie so and convince himself and others it may all be true, or at least true enough to have fun at her expense.

She pondered, and prayed, and held on to God’s promises. None of that would save her from the amassed cruelty that would be focused and dumped on her. So many people joined in the lies, knowing it all to be lies. They recorded their laughter, their fun, their lies, even the judges that convicted her. She had no idea how cruel people could be to a kind, loving, caring step-parent.

This also is the life God gives us, that people are free to choose to turn from God, from truth, from reality, and then to torture others trying to force them into exile or to death.

To counter the power of evil that is real and powerful against goodness and us in this life, we need to pray at each watch of the night, meditating on God’s promises so that we can treasure all God’s words and ponder them in our hearts each day.

Only by Grace can we survive the onslaught of evil that will be worked against us, like Tina and so many others, though perhaps in more or less obvious ways.

God promises us this Grace. Hang on to it, for our lives depend on it.