[Remember the glorious acts of God,] things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Words of Grace For Today
While living a life, self-sustained and self-determined, no great mishaps interrupting one’s plans and trajectory, it is all too easy to forget so much.
How one’s ancestors worked so hard to bring us to the beginning we were given as a gift.
How God provided for their survival in wondrous ways.
And how at each turn in our own lives, God is there, walking with us, calling us, blessing us, begging us to return to God.
Then disaster strikes. Small or huge, particular or general. And our self-sustained life is no longer possible, as if it ever were that.
Then we will only survive if we remember what our ancestors have taught us about God’s great blessings, and we return to God.
Simple: Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
One day awaits us each morning, filled with opportunities to remember, to return, to serve others with the love that cures, raises, cleanses, and casts out.
It’s not 16 tons and deeper in debt to the company store, but it is that each day we receive more than we can possible give back, and we live blessed to be deeper and deeper in debt to God for all the blessings poured over us. It is impossible to repay that debt, and it will never be called. Miracles and wonders.
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Words of Grace For Today
The messenger comes.
But what news does the messenger bring.
Is it a bicycle messenger, quickly able to navigate the congested city streets where cars have clogged the life out of the city centre, bringing a small piece of news that greases the cogs of the economy as some win and most lose?
Is it a military dressed soldier bringing news of a comrade’s falling in service to his family of their loss, always covering up any disgrace or uselessness of such a life lost?
Is it a policeman bringing news of a car accident or other disaster that has claimed the life of a loved one?
No. While these are messengers that make up a real part of life for all too many of us, the messenger that God sends is the prepatory party for God’s own arrival on earth to live as one among us.
This is good news, the best news, better than great economic news, better than an engagement announcement between friends long over due (for us watching from outside their precious relationship.) This is God’s news that God has come to deal with our mess, fix it, heal it, and bring good order to the world once again.
Except that is not the news!
God gives us the freedom to love, and thus the freedom not to love, and that brings all sorts of chaos as we continually choose other than to love creation and all God’s creatures in it.
Jesus comes to demonstrate God’s steadfast attitude towards our chaos and sin: God forgives, heals, and sends us back into the fray, equipped to likewise forgive, heal, and assist people to return to the fray of this chaotic life that we humans are.
That is the best new possible, because our chaos is not going away any time soon. It is the only news that can enable us to carry on, and not succumb completely to the chaos and serve evil in all we do.
And what does Jesus get when he comes: nothing but grief from our chaos in this worlds and the Devil’s great power to seduce us to live other than as God’s own children.
God does not desert him to the Devil’s wiles, anymore than God abandons us to our chaos and sin. God sends angels, messengers again, to tend to Jesus in the wilderness among the wild beasts.
I’m quite sure that the wild beasts and the wilderness and even the Devil himself are no match for the chaos and destructive power of humans that Jesus will face, that we face each day. And eventually it kills Jesus, as we too all one day will die. Then we get to go home to Jesus, where a room is prepared for us, again by angels and messengers.
Until that day, we have the messengers and angels who tend to us in our wildernesses.
As it is today all around.
Thus with God’s own providing for us and protecting us we return to the fray, come what may, unafraid and at peace with God and the world around us.
Finding Our Way in the Cold, Is Less Life-Threatening, Than in Extreme Heat.
His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Words of Grace For Today
Around here lots of things grow, in the spring and summer anyway. That is wonderful if you are not allergic to the things that fly around as grass, bugs, trees, bugs, flowers, did I say bugs, and molds and mosquitoes, flies, and wasps … and ants.
Ants have taken on the woods pretty much wholesale and trees are toppling over from the base, the roots weakened by ants eating at them, and then beneath the stresses of wind on tall, heavy trunks, the just give up standing. Trees are also toppling over from any point between the base and the top where ants have attacked the wood, making their homes and eating the sap, or so they say.
We’ve reached the season where the grass does not need to be mowed every week. The evening light becomes darkness at an hour reasonable to sleep deep. The bugs have stopped multiplying exponentially and the pollen count is down.
One hopes that as the winter season closes in the trees have grown strong enough to withstand the storms and thereby provide protection from the winds that howl as snow swirls and the night is fast on the land before supper and holds tight until well after breakfast.
Many times and in many ways we’ve recognized that as trees are rooted in the ground and grow solid trunks that support many branches and branches support many twigs and twigs support many leaves. The comparison to our lives rooted in God abound, and well that they do.
We do not do well without a solid trunk (Christ) anchored with solid roots in the ground (Creation). Nor do we do well without exposure (like leaves) to the light of Christ so that we can grow each day and not succumb to the forces (like ants, like the devil’s minions) that would eat away at our existence, leaving us vulnerable to the winter winds (of evil.)
Therefore we celebrate the gift God gives us of anchoring us creation, growing us from Christ and making us reach the light (by the power of the Holy Spirit.)
It is no wonder that study after study shows that the noises of highways and industry limit growth in animals and people alike, and that we and most animals do better in the presence of naturally growing things (like trees and grasses) and flowing or collected waters (like streams, rivers, and lakes).
The sweet smell of Lebanon’s famous oak trees abounds for those rooted in Creation and grown in Christ, and in that fragrance we are able to produce much fruit, the fruit of sharing God’s abundant blessings with so many people.
On these hot summer days, it is helpful to remember that trees help relieve the heat. If it gets too bad you can always take a branch and hit yourself over the head. When you wake up it likely be cooler. OR you can prepare and spend your days in the shade, near cool waters, and in ground surrounded depths, for there God arranged for it to be 10⁰ C, everything else being equal. Ah, basements have a great purpose in the summer, the deeper the better!
Looking into the depths of our hearts this day to encounter again the Holy Spirit, chillin’.
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Words of Grace For Today
There is no shortage of destruction by evil working through people, directed against other people, seeking to destroy and destory others in order to work some supposed ‘advantage’ in their lives, their ‘world’.
The question is who do we, the ones pursued to be destroyed and destoried, who do we choose to be?
The lies told about us do not determine who we are, even if they can determine a whole lot of shtako that we will experience like jail, being shunned, outcast, left to die, and actively killed … all in an effort to take the truth of who we are and what our lives have been and destroy our stories of truth.
The lies told about us never become the truth. It does not matter how many lies are piled together. It does not matter how often or for how long those lies are repeated or by whom they are repeated. It does not matter how many police create more lies about us. It does not matter how many lawyers and prosecutors create more lies about us. It certainly does not matter how many courts repeat all those lies and how many more lies the courts create on their own about us. None of the lies ever become the truth, not ever. Their lies do not determine who we are, no matter how hard they try to make it so. Their lies reveal so much of who the liars are. Their lies belie them as agents of evil in our midst, agents who undermine everything good about civilization. They cause chaos to flow permeating everywhere in society. In that chaos they try to establish a new ‘truth’, a ‘truth’ that they can control, or at least benefit from. They may seem to benefit from it, but the chaos corrodes civil society leaving it vulnerable to barbarism, and that barbarism knows no favourites: it consumes everyone in its path, from within and with external destructive forces. The lies are in fact the tip of barbarism eating away at everyone, the liars first, the people they lie about, and all sorts of those caught in the wake of the lies.
Truth is truth forever.
So who do we, the victims of these lies, want to be?
The victims are so many: from our local towns and cities, to the outcasts in our country, to the indigenous and Metis most would rather not remember, to those similarly lied about in every country, to those left to die of preventable illnesses, to those killed by unjust military assaults – like in the Ukraine, though that is only one of many unjust military actions now across the globe – to those murdered in cold blood each day.
Who do we want to be?
We can be victims. That’s easy. That’s obvious. That’s hard to not be. But can we be someone else rather than victims?
Lots of tales from history recount how people have ‘pulled themselves by their bootstraps’ and overcome the assault on their lives and on their stories. Those stories are unbelievable; there are no ‘bootstraps’ by which to pull oneself up out of such attacks, not that will work for other people.
The only sure survival is to surrender, not to one’s enemies, but to God’s Will. Even then not all of us will survive in this life, though some have survived, like Jeremiah (until he did not), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, St. Paul (until he did not), Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Sarah Collins Rudolph, Freddie Knoller, Toby Biber, Premsyl Dobias, Maria Ossowski, Albin (Alex) Ossowski, Daniel Falkner, Magdalena Kusserow Reuter, and the list could go on.
More than those who survive are those who are jailed and killed or just killed. That list seems not to find an end. Remember Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhöffer, Socrates, Jesus, Stephan, Bishop Juan Gerardi, and Archbishop Oscar Romero?
Who do we want to be? Who do we want to be like?
The question is pertinent every day, but more pertinent is how God answers: what does God want from us? Are we the people God created us to be?
How can we be as God created us to be, after some one agent of evil or so many agents of evil (who appear to be ordinary people at first) have sought (and still are seeking) to kill us?
We surrender to God’s Will, and pray we will say truthfully to God:
Und reichst du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand, so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern aus deiner guten und geliebten Hand.
(And may you offer the heavy bitter cup of grief, filled to the very rim We´ll take it thankfully without trembling from your good and beloved hand.)
For we know that those who mourn will be comforted, even our loved ones. We trust fully that God is with us and our enemies can do no other than retreat when facing God. They will be undone as God puts the truth before them, and before all people. The truth will be known.
So come what may we can thankfully and without trembling face each new day.
For the Lord will vindicate his people, and have compassion on his servants.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Words of Grace For Today
Today there is little to say other than prayer on prayer for the good people of the Ukraine, who have lost so much, and now so much more is taken from them … and for all the people for generations to come who will loose again and again because of this occupation and stealing of land by Russia.
So we pray that the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, and that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.’
Words of Grace For Today
Most humans have never thought to listen at all to God. Their loss, literally, as they plow through life, destroying more than they could imagine.
Most humans who have thought to listen to God, have learned just enough in such a way to make God’s Will into their own will, and they blithely continue on plowing through life, destroying more than they can imagine.
Those who strive to listen to God … well …
It’s really no different for us either: we continue to plow through life, destroying more than we can imagine.
So we, we who would live life in order to give life to others … so we pray constantly that we would be able to hear God’s will for us and follow God’s will with our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Yet without the Holy Spirit it is hopeless for us and our prayers.
Jesus was a different kind of person, one who knew and followed God’s will, not his own will made to appear to be God’s will. Rather Jesus knew, followed, and received nourishment by following.
Sometimes it is not hard to think that we are more like Hansel and Gretel trying to find the bread crumbs of Jesus, and receiving mere snippets of nourishment for the little treasures we find, sometimes most unexpectedly on what we thought was certainly not a path Jesus ever trod or sent us out on to tread one step at a time.
The most precious gift we receive from the Holy Spirit is to see, hear, and touch the presence of Jesus in our lives each day, in the most unexpected manners.
To see, we look …
To hear, we listen …
To touch, we reach out ….
Another day, this day, and we pray nourish us Jesus, with your bread of life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit most precious.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
Words of Grace For Today
Lead me in your truth and teach me …
You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Life is not a journey with a final destination that we can reach or achieve or earn or miss out on. Life is a journey always becoming in the next moment what is next, whether that is new, old and oft repeated, or old and first for us. So we look forward with goals and plans that guide us, yet always these goals and plans are secondary to celebrating that God gives us the journey each day and walks with us no matter what we encounter, no matter what our enemies do to us, no matter anything and everything. Our goals and plans are chosen to reflect that everything we have and everything we are right down to the latest breath we’ve taken God gives to us, freely, lovingly, wonderfully.
When I was much younger I worked at the airport in Fargo, on the line of a small flight school and charter service. The chief pilot (the only pilot) drove his black Grand Prix out on to the apron where fueled up the airplanes on day, got out and started chatting with me. Usually I was not even noticed other than to be given orders on what to do with my time.
He pointed to his car. I wasn’t impressed. Cars were not something I was interested in other than as a means of transport. Airplanes of course were a different matter, though even they were for flying somewhere fast, or getting somewhere and being able to land with little to no runway, or doing aerobatics in.
He continued with his tale that he’d dreamed of having one since he was a young teen. Other than becoming a pilot that was what consumed him. He’d dreamed and planned and dreamed and worked. Finally he had one. He was in his early thirties, growing a bit of a paunch. He never had been athletic. The business he worked for was owned and run by his friend, and it turned out it was losing money hard and fast as the two of them ran it into the ground. It had been a gift to the friend from his father who’d built it up from nothing and now was not wealthy but comfortably retired.
The chief pilot finally got to the reason he was telling me his story about his wonderful jet black Grand Prix. “Now that I have it I don’t know what else to do with my life.”
I worked there a few summers during college, and then one final semester when I audited classes since I had more than enough credits to graduate (in 3.5 years) but there was nothing like graduating at any time except after the spring semester. So I was waiting for graduation, and then I’d be off to Yale Divinity School, except a full scholarship year in Germany sandwiched it’s way in first.
I did not understand a life focused on attaining a thing, a piece of metal, plastic, and rubber, as fancy as we humans have been able to make things of a great number of materials.
I can understand it sort of now, but not really. That kind of a life is, as the chief pilot said, pretty empty after one attains one’s dreamed goal. In fact that orientation for life empties life of life itself step by step as the goals is pursued. Things just do not make life worthwhile. They never have and never will, and there are countless stories from history that bear witness to this.
What we know, as followers of Christ, is that all the things in the world cannot fill one’s life with meaning. We receive things, skills, and everything else as gifts from God so that we can give life, abundant life, meaningful life, blessed life, to others.
Continuing in Jesus’ Word is not a choice we make, though our choices, especially our choices of goals and things we hope to attain or achieve in life, reflect whether we have surrendered and continue to surrender our own will and hopes and dreams to God’s Will for us each day.
We pray that we will continue in Jesus’ Word, giving as Jesus gave of himself, so that others can live and living they can know (as the Spirit teaches us) that God’s abundant, unconditional love, is the guide to a meaningful life.
This is the truth that frees us to know that God walks with us each step of our journey from the present into the next present, giving us stories of blessed lives (no matter what our enemies do to us).
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
Words of Grace For Today
Each day, each moment of decision, we can respond to all that challenges or threatens us with our wits and strength, ready to fight for ourselves,
or we meet all challenges and threats first resigning to God’s Will.
In our resignation we can either expect the almighty God’s wrath to wipe us off our feet with a mighty cleansing fire, leaving little left of us,
OR we can resign and expect to celebrate and feast with Christ.
The choice seems simple: struggle and death or feasting and celebrating with God!
Yet we cannot on our own make the choice other than to engage our wits and strength. That requires trusting God, whom we think we cannot see, whom we know will let us suffer defeat and death for we have seen so much defeat and so many friends meeting their death.
So how is it that we can hear Jesus knocking and actually open the door? That is the question of life … or death!
It is only possible for us to hear and answer if God has given us faith to hear, faith to trust, faith to know how to resign ourselves to God’s way of unconditional love and forgiveness and blessing and gratitude and generosity and living abundantly … no matter our circumstances, no matter the challenges we face, no matter the threats made against us.
Thank God daily for the faith given to us, for we hear and see the door opened … by faith. And we feast with Christ each day.