Small gods or …?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

God Created It All,

The Good,

The Bad,

The Ugly.

Which Are We Going To Be Today?

1 Chronicles 29:11

Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all — this was attested at the right time.

Words of Grace For Today

Today, as in many times before, most people pick and choose what they accept as ‘god’ for themselves. The other options in other times is for people to accept blindly what others have chosen to declare as ‘god’ for others (usually in order to control them better, and rarely to provide a better life for people), or people can take all that others say about ‘god’ and just declare they refuse to accept any of it.

Most everyone claims that, with their choice of ‘god’s’ attributes, they worship the one, true ‘god’, and all other people are just plain wrong in their false beliefs. Through history this has gotten more wars started, people killed, and the attributes claimed for ‘god’ to be wholly undermined by the people’s thoughts, words, and deeds.

When we start with the declarations like 1 Chronicles provides: Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all then what should, and at best, follows, is our humble confession that we simply cannot know God enough to choose God’s attributes at all. It’s not only above our pay grade, the kind of knowledge that such choices require belong to a completely different kind of existence that begins outside of creation itself.

And we are mere creatures in this, God’s creation.

So how can we know anything about God at all?

Only as God chooses to reveal God’s attributes and attitudes towards us, can we know anything about God at all.

Jesus, as fully God, born as a full human, living and ministering to all kinds of people (especially the poor, the ill, and the outcasts), dying on a cross crucified on false charges (brought by the religious leaders of the day), being buried in a rock tomb, and rising from the dead on the third day, … Jesus is God’s clearest revelation to us: God loves us, sacrifices everything to let us know that we do not need to sacrifice others, certainly not to please God, and that we are forgiven, as are our enemies and our lives are given to us so that we can be God’s love and forgiveness for all other people.

Now that’s a good beginning to giving God attributes that are fitting.

It is a beginning which places God for us, and beyond our control, and involved in our lives, and wishing and doing everything possible to give us the ability to love and live and choose to:

1) love God above all else

2) love our neighbours

3) love ourselves

4) love even our enemies,

and to do so humbly.

The problem we all run into when we choose ‘god’s’ attributes to accept is that our ‘god’ ends up to be a small ‘god’, a ‘god’ that can do only what we want ‘god’ to do.

Small ‘gods’ lead us right to the Devil’s doorstep, and fuel great arguments for refusing to accept that God even exists. Everyone’s lives would be so much better if we could all refuse to accept all small ‘gods’, and begin each day with a similar declaration as in Chronicles.

In short it might go like this: God is greater than anything I can know. I am just clay enlivened by God’s spirit. God’s first and foremost attitude towards me, and all people, is love. God asks first and foremost that I love God, all people, and even myself. Thank you, God, for everything that gives me life. Now there’s a day to live, work to do, gracious things to say, people to love, forgiveness to beg for, and courage to be Christ’s voice, feet, and hands for all people. Never a slow day, thank you, God, for everything.

Well, what are we waiting for. Sun is up. Day is begun. Onward into the fray.

Love always leaves us feeling a bit frayed. It’s not cheap. It like life is precious.

Fire!?

Monday, May 23, 2022

This Way Is Blocked.

How To Break Through?

Zechariah 13:9

And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on my name, and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’

1 Peter 1:6-7

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Words of Grace For Today

This world does provide an ample sample of suffering for anyone who chooses to live ‘eyes wide open’. While some may say it is ‘now for a little while’, the suffering never seems anything like ‘little’ to those who are caught in it.

The image often referred to in scripture, as in these two passages, is that through our suffering our faith is refined, and it becomes more precious. This may be a great philosophical perspective on other’s suffering, though I’m not sure it helps those who suffer now. Yet it is repeated, and repeated, and repeated … as if the repetition would help or that the writers and thinkers just cannot come up with something more helpful.

Maybe there is nothing helpful!

That would, of course, depend on one’s perspective of towards what end, what goal, what value, those who suffer will be helped.

If the end, goal, and value is to not suffer, then there seems (as history well attests to what we humans are capable and eager to do to others) to be no shortage or end to suffering.

What if the end, the goal, and the value is something else than ending suffering?!

What if it the end, goal and value is how one lives, when one is in the midst of suffering, when one is free from suffering, and in fact in all circumstances of life?

Say (given the scriptural witness to this) that the end, goal and value is that we humans live in a love with God, and therefore we love all people, even our enemies and ourselves (which is usually the most difficult kind of love, since we know how little we deserve love.)

This first long weekend of the summer the crowds returned to the random camping area, first dribbling in on Wednesday already to secure a campsite for themselves and their group, most often a group using at least 2 camping units and numerous tents, trucks, cars, and noisy cycles, quads and side-by-sides. By Friday night all but the chilly spots along the lake (all well within 30 metres of the water) were overfilled, most bursting with drink, drugs, and loud music though a few had children and kept a quieter presence.

My nights’ sleep was more than once disrupted by the throbbing base of a piece of ‘music’ that spoke to a visceral, instinctual encounter with nature (having nothing to do with the peaceful nature that surrounds this lake until it is so disrupted by humans trying to escape reality.)

Saturday the kicker came. I made my usual walk along the high road and immediately saw something was wrong. A camping unit sat in the trees where no vehicle had ever sat before. A family had moved in two shorter, older campers, parked them on and on each side of the road easement that forms the border between crown and private land. The easement is only a trail passable by careful off road driving of something more robust than a 4×4 truck. They camped on each side and across the road that is the only way to bring in a camping unit to this end of the random camping area and into the private land where I rent and camp. There is another lower, closer to the lake roadway, with tight turns, many roots and holes where stumps have been removed that exits in the lake side of the random camping area. There everyone sees me coming and going, and it’s impossible to bring water in and out since the rough road spills more water than not. In other words they were blocking my roadway out and back in.

The father said they were not completely set up yet, claimed they (with weed and alcohol in hand) that they wanted to camp away from the noise and partying of the other campers because of the children with them, and refused to consider moving to other established camping sites that were still available where they could fit both their campers.

The threats voiced towards me, the belligerence and profanity, the open threats, and the orders to leave belied … well it belied a fear in them. And an animal that is caught in fear can be unpredictable and destructive. I could well be caught in their unpredictable violence that certainly more than bubbled to the surface of one young man.

I returned a second time later, after continuing to work on the writing due that evening, as I had been before this unwelcomed surprise. I asked how long they would be there. The young man, bursting with profanity and incomprehensible challenges, came so close to striking me that I was shocked. Another man, broken with age, a long grey beard, challenged me as well. Because neither would engage in a meaningful exchange of words I turned to the father who had come around one of the campers to join the ‘not conversation’ and said they would be there until tomorrow.

Tomorrow has come and gone and they camp still there in the way, promising to vacate the roadway if I need to use it, but blocking it from all practical use.

The real threat they pose to me is, since they can see when I come and go, they and others have clear opportunity to come up to my camp and ransack it or sabotage pieces of essential equipment, loaned to me to help me survive year around here, or worse.

How to put an end to this?!

Remove them from the face of the earth? That method has been tried so often in history and the results are ugly and never successful, or if they appear to be successful the backlash is worse than than the problem one sought to solve.

Ignore them and let them block my roadway, and the roadway for others. Another family came in last night to a site along that lower, lakeside road … and busted up the awning on a tree. The road is not wide enough, the turns too tight, and the holes tip a camper into trees one is trying to avoid. Ignoring them campers blocking the roadway is a passable solution, and really the only option for now. The danger is that they will stay with whole summer, or that others will move in when they leave, and the block will continue, and the danger that comes with it.

Or I can reframe my mind about what constitutes a danger, and trust beyond reasonable trust, that though so many will know my comings and goings my camp will not be damaged (again, for the theft and sabotage has already happened more than a few times.)

Or I can work to build some trust with these fearful people, ameliorate their fear, and defuse their under-the-surface anger so that they are less unpredictable, and less likely to vent on me or my camp.

Which is the raw, unfaithful response?

Which is the immature faith response?

Which is the ‘refined gold’ response?

Which provides for ‘us’ and ‘them’ that which every soul yearns for: to be heard, to be treasured, to be encouraged, to be welcomed and accepted just as one is?

May God provide the ‘fire’ needed to refine our faith, so that in all we think, say, and do others will hear us rejoicing and calling on God’s name saying ‘The Lord is our God’, so that the Spirit may reveal with our praise, Jesus Christ’ glory and honour … and love for all people, those that threaten us and that part of us that lives in fear.

May God provide, through us, that every soul will b be heard, be treasured, be encouraged, be welcomed and accepted just as one is!

Striving for Greeds Rots Us at the Core

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Will We Choose to See Beyond Our Own Greeds, to Other’s Needs?

Ecclesiastes 5:10

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.

1 Timothy 6:8-9

If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Words of Grace For Today

It would seem to be common sense that money is necessary for life and a lot of money will make for a better life. Much of humanity has lived so. Before there was money it was wealth of whatever kind was recognized in their day.

Wisdom has always taught that pursuing money/wealth is a sure route to despair and futility. The writer of Ecclesiastes is right, such pursuits are all vanity, and vanity that serve nothing in life or in death. In fact they hasten death even though one may still walk, talk, breathe and chase after more money/wealth.

The writer of 1 Timothy has it correct if incompletely so. When we have the necessities of life we can be content, though the necessities of life are more than just food and clothing. They also include clean air and water, adequate shelter, meaningful labour and being able to love and be loved. With these we ought to be content, though we rarely are.

Built into our DNA, our survival, is the drive to make things better for ourselves and those with us. So even after we have the necessities of life we strive to have more … and that striving is rots our souls at the core.

Our ability to labour on earth is not intended to be used for ourselves alone. It is to be labour that makes life possible and better for everyone.

Today, just another today, is a day …

when we are able

by Grace

to labour

for God’s bountiful blessings to be enjoyed by more and more people.

So – what’s up for you today?

God Save Us! Do Not Forsake Us in Our Darkness!

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Oh, God, Save

Those Caught In The Darkness of The Bright Days

And Those Who Cannot See, Hear, or Imagine …

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by a road they do not know,
by paths they have not known I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

Words of Grace For Today

Jim sat in the darkness of the bright day.

He could not see the horizon out there where the sun should have been. Not that many years ago he’d met Beatrice and she swept him off his feet before he knew what was happening. She was in her mid-thirties. Jim was 8 years older. Then he’d fallen in love and given everything to her. They proclaimed their love for each other and promised their lives to each other, until death did them part. They were madly in love with each other and everything looked so wonderful.

Jim moved in with Bea in her grand house and he worked to turn it into their shared home. They travelled to France and then to the Maritimes. They went sailing in the Caribbean for a week. It was all a dream come true. Their second year together their twins arrived, a girl and a boy. As agreed he stayed home to raise the children so she could go back to work. He put his career on hold. That first year was a dream come true.

The honeymoon shine wore off soon after Bea became pregnant with twins. He did everything he could to support her. She flew off the handle at him and others, making wild accusations. Her screaming at him cut him to the quick and he’d be silent trying to ‘fix’ whatever Bea ‘needed fixing’. He interpreted everything she did in the best possible light and went out of his way to bolster her fragile ego. She tore strips of him, saw everything he did in the worst possible light and worse blamed him for things he had nothing to do with.

Jim tried valiantly to reconnect her to her parents and siblings, though she seemed to hate them for no real reason. He met them and they were pretty good people, and as in-laws they were very supportive of him, even in awe of him. Bea refused to have anything to do with his family or his friends. She’d have a wild tantrum, throwing things, and even beating on him every time he spent time on the phone with them. Visiting any of them was out of the question. Soon he gave up keeping any contact with them.

Then Bea started telling ‘stories’ about Jim to her family. They were things he had never done. Some Bea had done to him. When she told them that he was the one beating on her, they stopped talking to him all together. He heard from their daughter’s teacher at school that she said he was sexual with her. It wasn’t true but soon it was impossible to go to school with the children for anything. People at church started to avoid him.

That had been more than a year ago. Jim could barely sleep. The doctor put him on one drug, then another, then another until he was taking 5 medications besides his allergy medicine and the sleep apnea machine he wore at night. Every two weeks he got either a testosterone or a B12 shot. He was so dragged out he could barely get anything done. He would often sit down alone after everyone left for school and not notice anything until the bus arrived to deliver the twins home. He talked with two different therapists by phone, and once a month travel 3 hours to see one of them. His hair turned grey and already the first year with Bea he’d lost 50 lbs trying to please her. He just went hungry and did not eat. No one could tell him what the matter was with him. He prayed, he meditated, he gave Bea gifts for no special occasion. He had worked out at the gym for a year but gave up on it when he injured his shoulder. He tried to walk but it was slow going, nothing like the running he’d done when he was in his 20’s. He told his doctors and therapists that he felt like he was 85 or 90 and barely able to think, work, sleep or even exist.

Bea’s promise to him, and his to her, that they would love each other until death did them part, looped endlessly in his mind. The only sense he could make of anything was that he needed to die, to be free of the weight, to finally be accepted by someone somewhere. He already had a new bottle of sleeping pills. He bought 2 large bottles of the cheapest whisky he saw at the liquor store. He cleaned the house, sorted the garaged, and their two vehicles. He made sure the groceries were bought for the coming two weeks. The fridge was bursting. He even took the recycle bottles to the depot and the garbage and recycling to the transfer station. Months ago he’d made sure his life insurance was in order. There was nothing more he could do to make things better.

Jim sat in the darkness of the bright day.

There was no distance between the end of the horizon and his arms stretched out pleading in prayer. No one heard his voice. No one had heard his voice for longer than he could remember.

It was a Sunday evening. He read a story to the twins and said good night. He made sure everything was secure in the house. He grabbed his backpack with the whisky in it. He put the sleeping pills in his pocket, put on a warm jacket and walked a mile to the woods. He sat on his special log, took all the sleeping pills, drank one bottle and most of the second before he was numbed and so tired. Finally he would be able to sleep and be free and be home.

Jim knew well most of the Bible. He was familiar with Isaiah’s words: I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them.

He had to trust that this path he’d taken was the only one God had for him.

There were no shelters for abused men. People could not imagine that men are abused just like women are, not the therapist and certainly not the doctors or the teachers or their pastor or any of Bea’s family … or any one at all.

Not one single person could imagine a man being abused, not one person Jim had talked to in the last 9 years as he suffered … until he could not take any more.

Many of them may have been members of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that they may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.

But no one thought they could help Jim find the light of life, because, well, women may beat on men, but they do not abuse them, not women. Reports are abuse kills ten times as many men than women, many of them by abuse that drives them to suicide. It is important to stop men abusing women, because it always ends in death for the abused. But, they say, men are not abused,

so they say.

So Jim is just another statistic that is ignored. And Bea will find another man to raise the children for her, and abuse him and the children. He will likely die, and they will become abusers if they survive.

But women do not abuse men or

so they say.

Oh, God, save us!

Save us all, though it is too late for Jim and millions like him, God, save us!

Turn the darkness before us into light, the rough places into level ground.

Do not forsake us!

Do not forsake the men who are abused to death!

Do not forsake the children who never have a chance to know what love really is.

.

Today, many men will sit in the darkness of the bright day. No one will see them. No one will hear them.

Oh, God save them and us who do not see and do not hear and cannot imagine the darkness of their reality of being abused.

Be Careful What Success You Pray For?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

See the Light,

And God’s Hand.

All Things in God’s Hands.

Psalm 118:25

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Words of Grace For Today

What is success, that we ask God for it?

To save us is clear. We are in trouble (what’s new, mostly of our own doing) and we’ve exhausted our own ideas on getting ourselves back in the clear, so we turn to God, our last hope and refuge.

But to ask for success! That’s another huge step up the rung of audacity in begging from God!

Success as a Christian has always had the colour of offering oneself to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, which leads to a cross and sure death. Which, for most people, looks quite different than the success that we humans pursue in our short, cruel, and brutish existences on earth. Do we intend to ask for this success, that our lives be offered as a sacrifice so that others may live. NOT usually, unless …

unless the Holy Spirit guides us to understand and live out the love by which the world will know the followers of Jesus. This love is unconditional, self-sacrificial, life altering, powers undermining, universe transforming, living water love.

When that is the love we indeed live then the whole world is changed for us. The New Jerusalem is arrived and we are at home in it, and God dwells with us, and

wonders never cease.

For God has indeed made us complete in everything good so that we may do God’s will.

Examples are endless through the history of the saints.

Consider Chai-Shin Yu, who is an ordained (Korean) Presbyterian pastor and professor of Korean culture and religion as the University of Toronto. In 1950 the North Korean Communists invaded South Korea. Chai-Shin Yu, then a student and heavily involved in church work, managed to hide for some months, knowing that as a Christian he was a prime suspect. In September 1950, S. Korean and United Nations troops landed in Inchon Harbor and the N. Korean soldiers began to prepare their retreat. Yu was apprehended by the Chief of the Communist Intelligence Bureau and so began days of interrogation and torture. Finally, along with others, he was taken to what he was sure was the execution ground, for he could hear gunfire. Instead, he and the other captives were forced to carry arms & supplies for the retreating N. Korean soldiers! Day after day they were forced to carry heavy burdens, ever on the lookout for strafing American planes.

By early October they were deep in the mountains. They began to come upon wounded Communist soldiers abandoned by the side of the road. One wounded soldier was staring vacantly, his leg covered with clotted blood. But he seemed familiar, and Yu stopped to look in his face. He recoiled; it was the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau! “Move on,” Yu told himself, but a voice within replied, “no, his life can be saved if he gets some help.” So Yu argued within himself, until a voice said, “But don’t you believe in Jesus Christ? He told you to love your enemy. What would Jesus do if he were here?”

The Chief finally recognized Yu as the reactionary he had planned to kill. He closed his eyes, expecting to be killed in revenge. But Yu said, “Get on my back.” The argument raging inside him was resolved. After some persuading the wounded Chief crawled on his back. Yu’s feet were blistered and bleeding from 150 miles of dreadful walking, and he was exhausted. But he gritted his teeth and kept on. Once he tripped & they both fell. The Chief finally broke the silence. “Friend,” he said, “you know that I hated you and wanted to kill you, don’t you?” “Of course I do.” “Then why are you going to all this trouble to save me? All my fellow soldiers have deserted me. Why are you trying to save your enemy?”

After a long silence, Yu said, ” Love is stronger than hatred. Even though you planned to have me killed, I still love you. Love is stronger than death. I hate your hatred, but I love you as a person” The man wept and confessed, “I have killed so many people. I don’t deserve to be saved.” And they wept together.

They Yu took the Chief up again & moved on. Ten miles down the road he found an ambulance being repaired, & arranged to have his passenger taken to the Pyongyang Military Hospital. The Chief protested, “I won’t go to the hospital. I’d rather stay with you and die. Where ever you go, I want to go with you.” But Yu forced him into the ambulance. “You ought to live,” he insisted.

By the end of October Chai-Shin Yu & the others had walked 200 miles. During an attack by American paratroopers he escaped & walked all the way back to Seoul, and eventually was reunited with his family. (Source Unknown)

Blizzard Fools

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Is This the Path, The Life, That Christ Calls Us To?

Where from Comes Our Strength to Carry on

Into the Wilderness?

Only from God Who Walks with Us!

Isaiah 45:23-24

By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.’
Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.

John 6:51

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

Words of Grace For Today

Yesterday the snow started in SE Saskatchewan, cm and cm fell. Then the wind up to 90km/hour blew it around like a chauffeur on meth.

The CBC article was well organized. A truck headed east to Brandon stopped to wait out the storm. Not his life, not his cargo is worth the risk of piling it up in the ditch or worse into other vehicles.

A young couple from Brandon travelled to a concert in Regina and they are on their way back, interviewed at the same spot the trucker has parked his rig, along with a collection of 18-wheelers. Who goes to a concert now in Covid times when all the restrictions are lifted leaving everyone so vulnerably exposed!?! A photo from the RCMP shows the visibility, which is forecast to get worse out of SE Saskatchewan into Manitoba. The road disappears into the white of snow and cloud ahead at 100 feet at most. The young couple says they are going to keep heading east until they come across a barrier across the road, or they simply cannot go further.

RCMP photo near Estevan SK

They are hell bent on getting back home.

What a contrast to the trucker who wisely sits out the danger of killing himself or others.

The arrogant leader portrayed in Isaiah at least knows where from his righteousness and strength come from: it comes from the Lord. I suppose that kind of arrogance could see him head out into a blizzard, ‘knowing’ that God calls him to travel!

But not likely.

For no matter how haughty we humans become, and even foolish, for those who recognize that their only righteousness and strength is not their own but that given as a gift to them by God, do not test fate for little to no reason. Risks are taken only to do God’s work.

So we know, that our lives are not anything, in fact we would not still be breathing, except that God has fed us the bread of life, Christ’ body. In him there is no darkness at all, the night and the day are all alike. In him we do not succumb to the fear of life, the fear of having to make our own way, the fear that we must achieve in order to have value. We know that our value is given in Christ’ body, and no one can take it from us. We are free and forever righteous and full of strength!

Therefore we follow Christ’ example: ministering to the poor, the marginalized, those whose voices have been taken from them. We bring God’s promise of life abundant, in sacrifice, giving life to others.

Come what may, blizzard or heat wave, floods or drought, war or barbarians ruining peace, we know that we live to Christ. We will die to Christ. And then we will live again with Christ.

So now we trust that God walks with us, and rests with us, as we stop to wait out the blizzards of life.

Out of Bounds?! Brought Home, Again!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Go This Far

Not Past The Treeline!

Or Do You Live Outside the Boundaries?

2 Samuel 12:13

David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.’

Colossians 2:13

When you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses.

Words of Grace For Today

Going out of bounds.

Growing up in Tanzania before the land was so densely populated so that our backyard went on for miles and miles of bush once we crossed the dry creek bed (which flowed strong and dangerously in the wet season) and on two different farms in ‘northern’ Minnesota both of which were surrounded by open land for miles, and in the Twin Cities where our back yard bordered on an old farm yard surrounded by acres and acres of undeveloped land which continued across the road into a huge impenetrable swamp, when we played we had free reign for miles. In each place there were boundaries as to how far we would venture, sometimes how far we were allowed to venture, sometimes how far we had agreed with each other to venture when we played. There had to be boundaries so that the games we played would work.

We did venture outside the boundaries, of course. We were after all children.

We did venture outside the invisible boundaries, like the time my older brothers killed a bird, started a fire, roasted it, and we each had a small bite. So exciting, in part because killing was ‘out of bounds’, starting a fire was ‘out of bounds’, and eating a wild bird was ‘out of bounds’. Thinking about it today the fire was reasonably dangerous, but eating a wild bird was ridiculously dangerous. Today, with all the ‘new’ diseases around it would be even more so.

Then there was the time that I just absently minded, not yet 5 years old, ventured beyond where my three older brothers were playing in that dry creek bed behind our house in Kiomboi. I was making what-I-cannot-remember in the sand and gravel. Darkness approached. My brothers probably yelled for me to come with them. They took off for the safety of the house. I continued to play, unawares of what was falling fast all around me. It was a short hike back home. Twilight lasted a mere 24 minutes at best. Once it was into dusk …

At night in the dark, as we were tucked into bed, each in our own bed, four beds, four older boys, in one large room with windows on one long side and one shorter side of the oblong room, the shrill piercing vicious cries and growls, the gaping mouths filled with big teeth, the yellow eyes and long noses of the hyenas more than often enough would jar us back awake and keep us awake for hours. Not that the hyenas wasted that much time at the windows, but our hearts would make up all sorts of terrible scenarios of them breaking in through the glass and/or the screens if the windows were open to cool the room for the ‘quiet’ of the night.

There I was, out of bounds playing in the sand and gravel of the creek bed, darkness falling fast as I was unawares. And then it fell. I jumped up in terror-alarm, and sped as fast as my panic fuelled short legs would carry me along the path between the bushes. The growls began behind me, the shrill cries pierced my little mind and my legs just would not pump any faster.

When I reached the closest door, the door to the kitchen, I grabbed it with what strength I had and …

Susanne, our house helper, pulled me in, closed the door behind me, and soothed my fears, before she stepped out the door for her walk home.

I was safe, and that welcome from Susanne told my little heart and mind that, though I had strayed outside the boundaries of safety, I was welcomed home, even if that welcome cost her her own safety as she made the trek to her own home of safety somewhere out there past the dark boundaries for us little boys, though well within her boundaries.

David steps many times outside the boundaries God has set for the ruler-warrior of the Israelite nation from its infancy to its heyday. The time he must pay with his life is when he has not only taken Bathsheba for his own, but he has ensured that her husband, his good general on the battlefield, will not return. David arranges for ‘friendly fire’ to kill Uriah, so that he can keep her, and cover up that she is pregnant with his child.

Nathan steps up to give David a lesson, a lesson that proud, powerful David needs, in order that David can confess once again how far out of bounds David has ventured, this time worse than many other times. The punishment must be David’s own life in exchange for Uriah’s.

Like Susanne at the kitchen door, once David has confessed his terrible sin, Nathan pronounces God’s forgiveness and welcoming of David, back ‘into bounds’, back into the safety of living in God’s house, in God’s creation, within God’s boundaries, boundaries that keep us safe from ourselves and from the evil ‘hyenas’ out there ready to tear us apart without hesitation.

So it is as always that God’s unconditional and steadfast love restores us to life. We can trust that even when we stray ‘out of bounds’, as we confess God promises us that we shall not die. Indeed God makes us alive together with Christ, forgiving us all our trespasses.

Stay safe today, and always. Know that even when we stray, God welcomes us home to safety with open arms, and the honest love of friends like Nathan, and soothing comfort of people like Suzanne.

Covid Costs! Listening to Whom?

Monday, April 4, 2022

What Do We See?

What Do We Hear?

Whose Voice Do We Follow?

Psalm 23:2-3

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

John 10:27-28

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

Words of Grace For Today

Covid has exacted a huge cost on us. Not to mention the cost to global, national, and local economies. Not to mention the many people Covid has killed in one of the most excruciatingly painful ways. Not to mention many of those who survive serious Covid symptoms continue seemingly without end for years long-covid: fatigue, pains, circulation and nerve malfunctions, organ malfunction, brain fog, and depression. So much depression.

The greatest number of people suffer even though they have not had Covid, or the symptoms were so mild they barely noticed more than as if they had a light bout of the flu or a bad cold. The suffering is part and parcel, we are told, of living through a pandemic.

Mark Gollom described it this way:

“pandemic fatigue”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently said that, despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the country, Canadians may be at their “outer limits” of what further public-health restrictions they’re willing to accept.
While many people are “burnt out” on COVID and COVID-related news, many [say]
‘We’re sick of it. We hate it, but we’ve got to do it anyway.’
However, the researchers also discovered that pandemic fatigue affects “a substantial minority of people” who tended to have “greater levels of emotional burnout, pessimism, apathy, and cynical or negative beliefs” about the pandemic.
“In other words, pandemic fatigue was associated with heightened self-interest to the expense of community needs,”
That has led to a form of “systematic desensitization…. it’s as if we had built up antibodies against fear.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/pandemic-fatigue-omicron-covid-19-1.6290026 Dec 18, 2021

There are many, many more things going on with all of us, not all of us equally, and some of us to the point that we are nearly totally debilitated, unable to live anything like normal, even taking into account that we may be isolated physically from others.

The words that describe what we suffer go on and on like this: languishing, languor, lethargy, apathy, listlessness, supine (laying on one’s back), supineness, anxiety, fearlessness, angst, dread, disquiet, foolhardy, imprudent, reckless, irresponsible, depression, desolation, despondency, gloominess, dispirited, bleakness, Weltschmerz ….

Or as University of Calgary classics professor Peter Toohey put it in an interview with CBC’s Chattopadhyay: We’re experiencing the ancient state of “acedia”

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1800018499786 1 year ago

There are so many voices blaring all over the place, whispering in corners, projecting over crowds and chat rooms, telling us what to think, what to do, who to blame, how to ‘return to normal’, how to be done with Covid, how to cope with Covid, how to live with Covid, for while we may be done with Covid, Covid certainly is not done with us!

Which voices will we listen to?

Like never before, like always before for every person in every generation how we see the world greatly determines what we see, how we feel (the emotional response that takes in all our perceptions, mixes them up with our convolutions from our past experiences), which in turn forms our ‘take’ on the world happenings, which in large part determines how we respond.

So how do we start each day?

Do we enter the new day with angst, panic, depression, apathy, detachment and fear?

Or

Do we listen to the voice that we know, the voice of the One who knows us completely, who created us and loves us and forgives us and renews us.

The One who makes us lie down in green pastures; who leads us beside still waters; who restores our souls. Who leads us in right paths for God’s name’s sake.

Whatever else we know about this day, first and foremost we know that No one will snatch us out of Jesus’ hand.

With that assurance, we are ready come what may.

Seeing ‘Airplanes’, Seeing Jesus

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Marvels

Of Airplanes

Fishers,

and God’s Creation

Are Everywhere to Be Seen

And Recognized

Psalm 118:24

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Luke 19:5-6

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

Words of Grace For Today

What do you see?

How do you see?

Can you see more if you look more closely?

Can you see better if you remember … well for instance if you remember how kind someone was to you when you most needed someone to see you and respond with kindness?

When I flew all those years as an oil pipeline patrol pilot, ‘100 mph 100 feet off the ground, bored spitless for hours always 30 seconds from death’ (as I used to say, though it was really 110 mph and often 50 feet or even 25 feet above the ground – so 5 seconds from death-, and sometimes between fields a relaxing 500 feet) we pilots knew that in an emergency landing on a busy road was a terrible option. Roads always presented a danger of an unseen power line crossing the road (and if you hit it that would ruin your day for the last time), of a big pothole (a nuisance to road vehicles, but a day-ender for the planes we flew), or a whole host of other ‘challenges’ (like bicyclists, pedestrians, wild animals or pets or livestock, or – the worst to imagine – children).

All that was scary enough so that when we did land on roads which was quite often, for bodily needs (we were in the air for 4 to 12 hours otherwise) we were very alert with wide vision before landing, and we chose remote roads, though that meant gravel and gravel can be slick as ice and snow can be in the winter.

Then when we made it safely down onto the road we knew that the greatest danger was still always immanent. You might think we could relax once the wheels were down and, better, stopped on the road, but NO! That’s when the danger was even higher yet … because if a moving vehicle encountered the plane moving on the road, or even parked on the road, the driver would not likely recognize what was in front of him or her.

When the brain receives information from any of the senses, eyes included, it takes shortcuts, built from experiences, so that it can process quickly how to respond. Seeing a plane on the road is not an experience that any driver is likely to have had even once, yet alone often enough for the brain to build a path for that information coming into the brain to result in a quick enough reaction. Worse, the brain will most likely choose one or more familiar pathways with the result that the driver will not get the impulse to react until more information pours into the brain to even more slowly dislodge the already processed results in the brain and force a new take on the data that is there.

Instead of a plane the driver bearing down on the plane may well ‘see’ a ghost, or a large animal, or a plane in the sky instead of on the road, or tractor or a car or truck, or shimmering reflections of clouds or … the sky is the limit of the possibilities. The brain simply ‘runs back to mama’ to make sense of the extra-ordinary data the eyes have sent it.

By the time the brain has run down a few memory lanes and then finally been jolted back to reprocess from scratch the information still pouring in from the eyes, so much time passes that it is unlikely that the driver will react quickly enough to avoid hitting the plane.

So the newspaper will report: “Safely landed plane smashed to bits by a pickup truck. Pilot dead in the pilot’s seat. Truck totalled when the propeller cuts into it and it’s occupants. Crash discovered hours later by farmer ….”

The planes we flew at 100×100 were marvels of technology, most of it more than 50 years old. The planes were sufficient for the job, but not at all built to hit things, or be hit by things. In that regard they were rather ‘fragile’, shall we say. Still the planes were quite wondrous for all the things we got them to do. There were no pilots among us that were not highly skilled, the top 1% of pilots … or you would get yourself killed in so many ways that did not involve vehicles hitting the plane!

God created the universe. It is more wondrous than any airplane, or any of the marvellous things we did with them, no matter how wondrous the planes may be or the skills with which we flew them. God created all the wonders of the universe, including humans, most of whom are more skilled and wondrous than God’s other creatures.

The question is: how come we humans keep trying to ‘land on busy roadways’ with our lives in this wondrous universe?

The question is: how come we humans keep missing out on seeing ‘the airplanes on the road’, i.e. the wonders of God’s creation before us?

It takes training for the brain to process what the eyes actually see. One has to practice ‘seeing Jesus’ each day. God’s gift to us all is that there are so many opportunities to practice (like pilot training, really) seeing Jesus, when our lives are not on the line. When we practice, then when the real emergencies of life come at us, we will still be able to ‘see the airplane on the road’ for what it is, and we will be able to respond as God designed us to respond. We will be able to ‘fly’. We will be able to respond with Grace.

When we do that then we easily say with the Psalmist: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

When we’ve gone down roads so often, roads where we destroy and destory other people to make our way taking their lives for our own gain (driving ‘fortified Hummers’ to take on even ‘moose in our way’ without damage to ourselves), like Zacchaeus the tax collector had, we pray and beg that we will ‘see Jesus’ and know what we are looking at soon enough to ‘climb a tree for a better view’.

What we can count on is that Jesus will always respond to us with grace, and say to us: hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.

For then we can surely say: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

‘Reframability’ & Possibility

Monday, March 21, 2022

Shadows Point to The Light

Each Morning, Noon, and Night

Psalm 143:8

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

1 Timothy 6:6-7

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.

Words of Grace For Today

While many strive to gain comforts, privileges, and securities (of many kinds, all futile), we seek the only gain that is sure: that God provides us love and faith (by Grace, ie as free gifts) and contentment in our lives, for while we come into life with nothing and we can take nothing with us, we do leave behind our own story.

What will that story be?

Will others gain faith from our stories? Or will they only learn to chase after what cannot offer them life?

It is not insignificant what story others have from us (as opposed to the stories that are untrue that many tell about us – those untrue stories work against the liars who create them and tell and retell them). It is not insignificant what story others have from us because each day, we humans are privileged to be able to ‘reframe’ our new day with how we think about life past, present and future.

That is: we are not written in stone from one day to the next. Some take this as opportunity to lie about their past and to scheme to ‘improve’ their future with more lies. Oh, what a waste that brings misery and despair to so many people, those liars and so many impacted by their lies.

God provides this opportunity to us each day (actually every minute), so that we can repent, that is so that we can turn our lives around, reframe them according to God’s Grace, Love and Hope for us (demonstrated in Jesus’ story), and proceed to be more of who God created us to be!

So we pray with the Psalmist: Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

It is not that we have never heard of God’s steadfast love, or that we do not know God’s way for us, or that our lives are in ruin and need to be rescued from the hand of the Devil, the Great Deceiver (though too often that is the case). It is simply that since we get to reframe our lives, we also must reframe our lives. If we do not turn to God to receive the Word that will reframe our lives according to God’s steadfast love for us, the Devil will certainly provide all sorts of words, lies always, that will draw us in, slowly turn us away from God, and consume us, until we are nothing like the creatures of steadfast love that God created us to be.

So what do we want to be today?

What word will reframe your day, this morning?

May God save us from the Deceiver’s tempting words that suck us in to the downward spiral away from life itself.

May God provide wondrous words to communicate God’s steadfast love, grace, and hope for us.

In a Word, we pray (it is not too much to ask, and it is everything so we beg):

May we see Jesus each morning!