Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – July 11

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Coming Together

Peace

One Piece at a Time

Psalm 29:11

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Acts 4:13

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.

Words of Grace For Today

God gives strength to the people of God’s Kingdom and blesses them with peace.

Peace is much more than the absence of conflict, and can enfold conflict as well. That seems contradictory, since we’ve ascribed the world’s application of peace (the absence of conflict) to God’s promises.

Caught in a war zone, literally or figuratively, one yearns for the end of conflict. Truth is the first casualty of war, then MIA are the children and the vulnerable. When the conflict starts to eat at one’s being, one’s conscience and heart, then one yearns for an end of the hostilities. Any other option, other than capitulation, would be welcomed by most reasonable people.

God’s promises are not about the absence of hostilities, though God surely is not much taken by our fighting. God’s promises are about peace. The kind of peace that surpasses all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds.

When we live with that kind of peace, then we approach the conflict that leads to open hostilities and killings differently, with hope. We approach the conflict that tears families apart differently, with empathy. We approach the conflict that tears communities apart differently, with compassion. We see that God never promised anyone the lack of challenges in life, one constant challenge being conflict. Conflict is an essential part of life. When there is more than one person involved, there will be conflict, or someone is being dishonest. Conflict, handled properly, motivates one to hope, empathy, and compassion for the other, and if one can operate with collaboration then one works for the other’s best interest, trusting they are working for yours.

The quick example is the poverty captive couple who each sacrifice their best in order to give to the other what the other would most treasure. She sells her beautiful long hair to buy him a chain to match his gold heirloom pocket watch. He pawns his grandfathers’, fathers’, and now his golden pocket watch to get her the jade hair combs she has adored in the shop window.

What is instructive from this example is that each cares for the other by giving what the other would most want. More importantly, though each ends up with combs without hair, and a chain without a watch, they end up with what is most valuable and cannot be taken from them: their love for and devotion to each other. With that they will face all challenges together, and even if they lose everything else, they will have each other.

That kind of love is why God created us!

God’s promises promise us that kind of love from God, which gives us an enduring peace which nothing can take from us. We know we are right with God, not dependent on what we do, but as a gift given to us, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, so that, marked with that cross, we can face whatever life brings to us.

That is real peace.

That is the kind of peace that does not require an education to receive from God. That is the kind of peace that ordinary and not so ordinary people can all receive from God. Even well educated people can receive it from God.

So no matter your circumstance: may God’s peace be with you.

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Bearing God’s Peace is kind of like wearing a mask because of Covid 19. It does not benefit you directly, but helps protect others from you – which indirectly protects everyone, including you.

Wear a mask because Covid 19 exists, bear the Peace of God because the Devil is always active in and around us all. They protect others from what you could infect them with that would destroy their lives.

God’s peace always brings life with it.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 14

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Well, I’ll Be!

Beavers build dams

We damn so much that God builds

Only the Holy Spirit can show us how love blesses everything and everyone.

Psalm 8:6

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Words of Grace For Today

God gave humans dominion over the works of God’s hands, over creation, putting all things under our feet.

It is true that we, humans, do appear to be able to work our will over many aspects and creatures in creation. Certainly we do not have dominion over everything in the universe.

Since we pretty much destroy so much of what we attempt to control, perverting even our own good intentions into things terrible beyond imagining (remember how nuclear bombs, declining faithfulness, and pastor shortages came to be), it is probably good we have not mastered the entire universe.

Where we show most fearfully our successes is in our efforts to control and/or destroy other people. Warfare has developed to the point where we can all too easily dispatch a drone to blow up a village, missiles from a plane, ship, submarine, or land based silo that can obliterate whole cities, or suicide bombers to blow up a crowd. Terrorist attacks come by land, sea, air, and cyber means delivering projectile, poisons, explosions. Infamous leaders turn words that have no bearing in reality into deadly weapons, inspiring hate crimes, that invite protests, that are hijacked as violent riots, which in turn are use as excuses for more hate crimes inspired by infamously dangerous and irrational power hungry leaders.

Where did all this hate come from?

From our fearful hearts!

We fear that our share of the pie is disappearing, so we want to blame someone else, instead of take our own responsibility for living lives that demand others destroy air, land, and sea … and people, in order to satisfy our insatiable appetites for things that do not satisfy the soul.

How different Jesus’ life story is, filled with healing words and touches, wise words that reach the soul with truth, actions that demonstrate God’s omi-present, all-powerful, self-sacrificial love.

Be imitators …

not of those who pursue dominion over creation and creatures, especially other people.

Be imitators …

of Jesus, extending love, especially to the strangers, to the ones who is different, to the ones who cannot return our love, to the most vulnerable, to the most needy and to our own selves.

You can tell, in a congregation, who the people are who do not love themselves as God loves them. They always worry and try to make something (usually something impossible) happen according to their own plans. They lie. They cheat. The sow chaos, trying to keep their plans in the dark until the destruction is beyond repair, as if they somehow win with their lies, secrets, and interpretations of constitutions, bylaws, and contracts that are only possible if one suspends normal manners of thinking. While they demand more and more of others, they produce less and less real, loving work. What appears as loving actions is really power games to gain influence in order to rise out of their own chaos as a saviour.

Unfortunately people always follow leaders who create chaos and false fears, like Hottelstedter, who will then say they really had no idea where all the people disappeared to, those the cattle cars carried through their village… on the way to the extermination camps.

One has to pity those who are so fearful that the best they can imagine for the future is to create chaos and false fears to drive people to do irrational and destructive things. Yes! the pitiful have exercised dominion, the kind of dominion the Devil tempts us to, the kind that eats out our own souls and corrupts each piece of creation it touches.

Thank God, Jesus’ love, which the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us to imitate and act out for all people, even the most pitifully corrupt, cannot be overpowered by the Devil and his evil work, no matter the guise they come in. We are not separated from the love of Christ, not even by the Devil himself, not as God’s love flows into us in overwhelming measures, nor as it flows over, around, and through us to everyone around us.

Thanks be to God.

Therefore we pause at all hours, to be astounded with gratitude for all God has done for us.

Therefore we pray each day: may we not forget the over-abundance of God’s Grace and Love which saves us, even from ourselves.

Therefore each day we pray: may this day bring us to share God’s love with those so thirsting and hungry that they succumb to the Devil’s empty promises.

Yes, let us have dominion over all creation, as we imitate Christ, for Jesus’ kind of dominion is to pour God’s unconditional, irrationally prodigal Love and Grace into life around us … at all costs to ourselves.

God has our backs. We need fear nothing.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 29

Friday, May 29, 2020

Bare Bear

Bare Bear

Face one of these up close without a wall and window between you

and you may give thanks for weeks.

Face the devil as we do each day

and there is cause to give thanks our whole life long.

Psalms 35:28

Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.

Luke 24:52-53

They worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Words of Grace For Today

If you have ever faced death, like in a car accident that should have killed you, and recovered from the shock, you may be familiar with that overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude at being alive!

On a late winter day we set out to a study conference. Unknown to us … well wait for that. Climbing a hill to a right full speed bend in the highway down to the hotel and lake that we would continue by on our way … with no warning the minivan started to fishtail.

The opposing lane was suddenly filled with vehicles and a semi. I held just a touch of power and barely held the van from spinning out. The turn finished I caught the fishtailing and it was just one moment from ending … when we hit the bridge over the railroad track very far below the van lost it completely as the tail end slowly spun counter clockwise, crossing the opposing lane, missing the railing on the far side of the bridge by less than a foot.

It hit the hard snow bank a few feet high already facing backwards and did a full flip in the air down the steep embankment, rolled twice more and stopped against the tree line at the bottom.

We walked to the hotel and when the highway patrol arrived he stayed only as long as it took to ensure we were okay and to share the news that he had 75 calls due to the ice storm that covered roads with black ice for hundreds of miles. Our near death accident was nothing compared to many fatalities that morning.

The next day, sore and stiff, with cuts on our hands and faces, we progressed through the usual work day … until … about supper time … we both told the other how fully alive, engaged and joyful we were. The day before we were not depressed but we had great cause to see life dimly, for the congregation we served had served up a real sour douzer.

This joy lasted for weeks.

This kind of surviving is exactly what Jesus does for us each day, forgiving us and setting us loose, free in the world to share the Good News … of Jesus’ forgiveness for everyone!

We get to be the feet, hands and voice of Jesus freely dispensing forgiveness that brings new life to everyone.

Give praise and worship God each day, all day long, even as we work, play, and relax.

This is what God created us to do.

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

A Riddle in Photos

An early morning stroll

Before Eucharist and Coffee with Breakfast

Brought me to the road towards the East and the rising sun.

Golden light and a sound alerted me to a photo about to be.

Can you see the sound?

Can you tell what is different in each photo? (ignore that the position of the camera moves slightly so that the view shifts, the edges are different.)

What is a wonderful Saturday morning, -2⁰ with clear sky and waning gibbous moon, a touch of frost and a good warm fire keeping ‘home’ warm, and the water for coffee boiling,

if not a perfect opportunity to play and make a small riddle-puzzle, seek-and-find photo series?

First View

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Second view

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Third View. See it yet?

.

Fourth View. Have your glasses on?

.

Fifth view. Get out the magnifying glass?

.

.

How long did it take you?

What is your time compared to God’s time?

Loon, Where to?

The signs of spring are well sprung

geese since weeks strut about

song birds galore fill the morning air

fishers drive through no more

the ice with cracks like rifle shots broke up, the wind pushed it to the shoreline and the warmer weather melted it off the lake, except for a few remnants on the windblown shore.

The occasional camper ventures out for a weekend.

Allergies return in force.

But my favourite by far is the return of the loons.

Calm after, Preparation for, Speck of Haunting Beauty

The question is always

where to this day, this month, this year, with this life, precious as Christ has claimed it to be?

The path toward the light at sunrise

Every moment opportunities to do well, do the right thing, are before us.

Which will you choose this day?

Will you walk to the light?

Or will you choose to remain in the darkness of greed, self interest, deception, and destruction in order to just make it through the days you’ve filled with such pain for others, and your own soul?

[replace the above with and fill in your own choice of sin, evil, and darkness – we all have our favourites!]

In the light is truth, grace, health, purpose, and peace.

And profound joy, even in the midst of grief.

Your choice?

The haunting loon returns with all the other signs of spring, by instinct, by the pull of nature, and for pure survival. Humans can choose more than survival and instinct. You can choose new life in the light, and choose to share it with everyone,

Or not.

Start of a Sweet Month

1 November,  All Saints Day
Start of a Sweet Month

It is a sweet month, November is, a month when winter is not set, though the sun sets early and rises late. The hard cold is not yet, and the water is still clear for canoeing.
A month to prepare, a month that is the end of the church year, a month when travelers are few and far between and solitude and peace are more easily found in old haunts and newly explored places.

Then on the first day of this sweet month, with temperatures already below zero often in October, the cold arrived over night at -7 with a low forecast of -4. In town it’s -3.
Halloween was a cold one again.
And November came in with just a skiff of snow.

 

Snow on the canoe.

 

 

 

 

A closer look at the obvious presence

 

Of a beaver, obvious because of the telltale tooth marks on the trees, as the beaver prepares for winter, setting the food of trees in storage next to the beaver house, not 50 meters distant downstream.

 

This, just a stone’s throw from the wake up view, is the outflow creek of the lake. The beaver have taken this creek, dammed and controlled it to keep the lake at high water marks and made a quiet pond, a home for them, and for us to canoe on just down the creek a bit, over a couch some fools left on the ice one winter past.

This the stillness of wonderful weather, quiet from the throngs, and distance from the noise of the city, but not out of reach of the military jet sonic booms as they reach out to distant sorties.

Here the soul, on All Souls Day, can live well.
Here the saint, on All Saints Day, can live well.
Here creation is good.
Money is scarce, fuel for transportation and electricity (generator made) is short, and propane for heat is dwindling.
Ah, a wood stove in a shelter on a trailer, which would provide dry heat, a system for heat that costs labour and chainsaw gas and oil, and truck gas to haul in the wood. But that’s a pipe dream.

Even so, here, whatever may come,

all is well, all is well, all manner of things are well.

The Lake Sings

The Lake Sings
When I woke this morning the cold night reaching its deepest minus C degrees the view out the door was still, quiet and refreshing (if one had on a good jacket, boots and gloves), or bleeping cold if one had no protected space to sleep under down with a wool hat, and no proper protection from what can simply take away one’s breath, molecule by molecule, as saline becomes solid.

Yesterday
on the beaver pond,
literally on the edge of the pond on frozen ice five feet away from open water flowing into the pond,
I was surprised to hear a melodious tone ring out as if the timpani were set as high as possible and drummed once giving the sweet tone of an oboe.
For a short moment it all did not compute …
Until the echoes began beneath the ice and I realized the lake was singing as the ice shifted.
I thought at first it was like the deep tone of a lake ice shifting, but higher since there was only a rim of ice to generate the tone.
Last night the lake sang again and again, sweet and melodic.
It dawned on me before I slept that the existing ice was not likely shifting,
But that the water freezing and becoming ice, shifting and taking up more space, expanding, was ringing out as new ice snapped out of its previous liquid state into the larger solids.

Whether physics are correctly portrayed, it made sense to my quieted synapses as sleep took hold and the moon light continued to press magnetic force on the just-enough-cooled liquid to randomly move it out of liquid to the solid of ice.

The morning light confirmed what I had suspected, that most if not all the water surface was now insulated from the cold by a sheer cap of solid ice. Great for skating if one could weigh in at an ounce and no more.

All around the shores were solid through to the shallow sands, and out there where due to my weight I certainly could not walk on even this solidified water, the sheen did not waver in the wind, the water did not rise to greet the sun, as the solid and simple sheen held the barrier from liquid below to bleeping cold freezing air above in reflective repose.

The reeds fully encased in ice, an ice decoration left inches above the root as the last of the waves stuck frozen before the water below succumbed to the inevitable solidification.

Between the reeds in the trace of snow an animal’s track survives.
Singing sweetly the lake has become the winter home of fish below and soon fishers above.
And always, the photographer’s wonderland.

Morning Seeing Dimly

Morning Seeing Dimly
Morning on the Lake with hardly a clue where the rest of the world is.

 

 

 

The view from the door, promising a wonderful photographic morning

 

 

 

 

The ‘home’ birch.

 

 

Wiffs and Waffs.

 

 

 

 

A small hint of something out there.

 

 

 

 

The sun begins to give a clue it exists.

 

 

 

Is that blue sky there?

 

 

 

The sun is there.
 

Or is it there?

 

 

 

 

 

Or there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trees start to appear.

 

 

 

Ducks flying into the fog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A birch wood of years gone by.
 

Birch and Reeds with Nuttin’ Else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The point out the door, after the return, and the fog is lifted – ing.

 

 

 

There will always come a time when we will see clearly, as the light shines

and the truth will be known and the truth will makes us free.

Beaver Block

Beaver Block
Tonight after supper we headed out for a canoe paddle, exploring the outlet to the lake.
A beaver has dammed up the outlet, thus the ever higher water levels.

The calm beaver ponds were ringed with flowers purple, lush green reeds, and pussy willows.

The dam showed signs that the beaver are of course building higher and higher to contain the water, anxious as they become at the sound of flowing water, thus the ever rising level of the lake, inch by inch higher with each substantial rainfall.
Signs of grace and beauty that one can only explore in a canoe.