Surprise!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

When the Holy Spirit Shows Up (Again),

All Expectations Are Dashed,

and Exceeded!

Psalms 89:15

Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.

Colossians 3:12

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Words of Grace For Today

How are we to live in this world that feels so much like a hell hole so many days?

Well it’s like this man who walks down the street, trips and falls into an open hole and cannot get out because the sides are so steep. He calls out for help but no one seems to hear him.

Finally a very wealthy man comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. Hearing the trapped man’s plea the rich man throws down a fist full of money and walks on.

Eventually a doctor comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. Hearing the trapped man’s plea the doctor throws down a prescription and walks away.

That’s what so much of our days look like. Either we are in the hole, or we are trying to help people stuck in holes, but there really is little change from day to day.

We all just keep walking on.

  1. But there’s more. There is the rest of the Hole Story.

Remember that man in the hole unable to get out. His sage continues after the rich man tosses in money and the doctor a prescription. A lawyer tosses down a brief. A drug dealer spills in some smack. Finally a farmer hands down a bag of produce. Some of that helps a bit, some certainly not.

Hours later a friend of the trapped man comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. The trapped man says with some relief, “Thank God you’ve found me. Find a rope or a ladder and help me get out of here.” The friend instead jumps into the hole.

See that’s the surprise that God provides for us each day. God sends good friends to jump right in with us, if they are not in the hole already!

The first man exclaims: “How stupid! Now we’re both trapped.”

We are right there, how stupid can God be to walk with us or send others down here. We want out, not company in the ‘hell holes’ we’ve gotten ourselves into. Then comes the next surprise.

God, like the friend responds, “It’s okay. I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” (story told on West Wing by Leo to Josh dealing with post trauma syndrome after he was shot. 2007 reworked and added rich man. Edited 2022)

So Christ calls us forgiven sinners made saints to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Then we will walk in God’s countenance and know the festal shout well, for each day will be a celebration of all that God can do in spite of us, for us, and through us for others. Each day is not like the last, except that God’s Grace abounds again and again, in surprising ways.

Staff or Ghost?

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The Holy Ghost,

Or

a Guiding Light Through the Night?

Or Both!

Exodus 14:21

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.

Hebrews 11:29

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.

Words of Grace For Today

Sometimes, okay honestly, quite often, I wish that I had Moses staff to ‘part the troubled waters’ that block my escape from my tormentors and from the challenges that threaten to do me in.

Or, as the Hebrews passage states it, I wish I had the faith to part the ‘troubled waters’ that hem me in and hold me fast to the slavery that has been forced upon me.

But then, it’s like waiting for God to rescue you from a flood, and along the way refusing help from neighbours in a truck driving out through the low waters rising quickly, and the rescue boat that comes when the waters have filled the streets and roads, and the helicopter that will pluck you from the roof top. Instead St. Peter gets to point out that those offers for rescue were God at work.

So, it’s on with the day’s work, trusting that I will wisely choose what to do today of the many I can do or at least start doing today (and maybe even some that I think are impossible yet!)

The light shines, so it’s time to work. Now if the solar system were not burned out that would translate into power to use for some of the work. That’s one thing that I need to work on, since I’m low on gasoline for the generator!

Small challenge of power. At least it is not someone else fight to take my power from me. For that I am always thankful.

On with the day. What will it bring, and what can be done. That will be seen and given thanks for as the sunsets and I lay down to rest.

And for you? What will the day bring? More wishes for Moses’ staff, or focusing on what is possible … even if it looks impossible to start with?!

Dust and Ash Heaps

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

God Created Not One Person to Live In the Dust and Ashes

1 Samuel 2:8

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Words of Grace For Today

God creates the universe, and, though evil and the results of it are always a necessary possibility (so that we can choose to love) God did not create people to live in the dust and ash heaps of life.

God created all people to live with honour,

with respect,

with sufficient clean air, pure water, adequate clothing and shelter,

meaningful labour,

being loved and able to love.

This is God’s blessing for us, that creation provides more than plenty for all to enjoy the necessities of life all their days on earth.

Through history (and certainly today) human greed and self-righteousness have driven so many into the dust and ash heaps of our excesses. What are we to do? Shake our heads in disgust at those living in the dust and ash heaps? Develop religions and ethics that allow us to ignore those poor, those without the necessities of a blessed life? Arrogantly assert that God created us and by our own hard work and merit we have earned and deserved more than the necessities of life even though that has thrown so many other people on to the slags heaps of life?

No!

God’s blessing pour over us.

We need not fear that there is not enough, no matter what the world (that’s all of us) tells us. We can share, and sharing every person will have the necessities of life. That may as well free those caught in the despair of having too much, for having more than enough drives one’s mind and way of living to become unnatural, other than as God created us to live.

God’s blessings pour over us,

with more than enough for all people.

Coming in First

Sunday, March 13, 2022

We spend so much energy trying to find the light of life.

Doch God gives it to us, freely and generously.

Psalm 33:16

A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

Mark 10:31

But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

Words of Grace For Today

When Solomon raced, he gave it his all. He was naturally fast. It was in his jeans. On the soccer pitch he had that full awareness and predictive vision which allowed him to know where everyone else was, was going, and when they would get there. He was also unnaturally competitive and disciplined, able to push his thin body to produce results that were amazing, on the oval track running, through the woods on cross-country races, and on the soccer pitch.

It was marvellous to watch him run. Everyone threw accolades at him for his winning.

Life, at first, appears to so many to be exactly this kind of event, a competition where the most gifted, wealthy, powerful, and famous people pit their wits against others in order to gain even more. The one with the most wins. Unfortunately, so many people live and die believing this, whether they are the ‘winners’ or the ‘losers’ in this frantic take on life.

God intends something entirely different for us. Ever since creation right through to the morning sunrise today, bright and brilliant that gave way to clouds and snow (again …) God intends for us a completely different measure of who wins and who loses, what it takes to win, and precisely what the ‘game’ or ‘competition’ actually is.

Not only are the first (according to the human ‘game’) actually last, and the last first, the ‘game’ is not to see who can get, have, and keep the most. God’s intention for us is to see how many people can actually live, live well, and living well be God’s instruments for bringing life, life abundant, to other people.

A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

We, each and every one of us, is saved only by God’s grace, by God’s free gifts that forgive us, renew us, and send us out equipped to be God’s grace for others … not through ‘winning’ but actually through ‘losing’, through self-sacrifice, always pointing to truth, love, and hope.

I, too, was proud of Solomon, but not as much for winning as for competing as he did, knowing how much he gave of himself to run as fast as he did, how hard he worked and pushed himself, and how little he received where it really counted for him.

The discipline of competing that we learn from life God uses (when we surrender to God’s Will) as a self-discipline to not be deterred, no matter the costs, from speaking the truth, loving the undeserving, and hoping for the hopeless.

Of Whom Shall We Be Afraid?

Saturday, February 26, 2022

We Live

In The Light Of Christ

And Need

Fear

Nothing

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’

Words of Grace For Today

There is the Ukraine, following Georgia and Crimea; just one place on earth where military force is used to invade neighbouring countries to control them.

These kinds of invasions rightfully create fear in us all.

Africa’s conflicts never end.

These kinds of invasions rightfully create fear in us all.

The Middle East is one conflict and war and invasion after another.

These kinds of invasions rightfully create fear in us all.

Police apply force unjustly against so many minorities, and also against now men falsely accused by vengeful or deranged women. For some women are blood thirsty as some are to destroy any man possible in order to avenge violence against women, which even though dramatic and terrible, today’s violence against women is still only a fraction of that conducted against men, some of it also by women against men, with the same deadly results. It’s all the same thing: violence aimed at innocent people, and the first victim is truth, and those impacted the worst are the children.

These kinds of invasions rightfully create fear in us all.

More subtle kinds of invasions happen all the time as truth is sacrificed in our own courts, and many, supposedly just, courts around the world.

These kinds of invasions rightfully create fear in us all.

There are so many more real reasons to be fearful of all the evil that is perpetrated indiscriminately and directed exactly against us.

What are we to do?

We have no other choice or option: we get to trust God’s promises: that Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life and

that the Lord is our light and our salvation, and therefore we have no reason to fear anything, nothing at all.

Nothing at all.

So we, no matter the reasons that are so many to fear, … we have no reason to fear … for no matter what evil happens or is done to us or other people,

God is with us, the Light of the World is with us, there is no darkness for us …

nor is there reason to fear anything, anything at all.

We live in the Light.

Of whom shall we be afraid?

Sliding Off Into the Devil’s Doo-doo.

Monday, January 31, 2022

On the Bright side:

There’s no grass to mow

mosquitoes to suffer

or wasps to interrupt one’s being outside.

No Matter the Season

The Devil’s always got enough doo-doo waiting.

Jeremiah 3:22

Return, O faithless children, I will heal your faithlessness. ‘Here we come to you; for you are the Lord our God.

1 Peter 2:25

For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Words of Grace For Today

The first kilometre out is a drive through the woods, which never gets plowed.

The tracks have, with the heavy snowfall onto which another foot is falling now, driven on many times over, have been packed down, while the snow across the rest of the trail remains relatively soft snow. Where the loose snow to be removed it would become obvious that the tracks are elevated above the rest of the trail … and when the temperatures rose to near and above freezing the tracks of hard packed snow turned to slippery snow or ice … and driving on the tracks became nearly impossible. The vehicle keeps slipping off into the foot to two feet deep snow that’s not been shovelled away, and beside the trail the snow has accumulated to 3 feet deep in places.

High on the tracks all is fine, but slipping down into the soft snow puts progress to a sudden halt.

Sheep go astray. Vehicles slide off the tracks. People slip on the Devil’s temptations into trouble, deep trouble, and life comes to a grinding halt … or not. Sometimes deep in the Devil’s temptations and trouble we keep living on blithely to the damage we do to ourselves and others around us, pleased as we are that even if we are caught in the Devil’s doo-doo, others are worse off than us (because we’ve put them there!)

God promises, I will heal your faithlessness.

God brings us back to the Good Shepherd and the guardian of our souls.

Thanks be to God.

Now what are we going to do with this renewed life? More wallowing in the Devil’s doo-doo, or work as the God-made saints God equips us to be?

It’s not easy doing God’s Will. It’s also not easy shovelling out a kilometre of tracks built up into hard packed snow ridges, crusty snow between and deep fluffy snow to each side. I trust that God will help immensely. It will take me about 2 months before I could possibly complete the task and by then God will have sent a bit of spring to melt away the snow … and the water will turn the tracks to mush. A whole other challenge made worse by the packed snow left on the trail.

It’s not easy doing what is right, but it is still right to do it. So off I go with a shovel as often and as long as my body will allow.

What are you going to do today with the life God renewed in you?

Mighty in Gentle Service

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Choose to

See the Pen of God Writing in the Heavens

‘Forgive and Heal and Love One Another’

or

see only the smoke that clouds our eyes of the beauty of reality.

Which will we choose to see today?

Psalm 24:8

Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.

Matthew 21:9

The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Words of Grace For Today

We have this vision from the earliest of times that God is mighty as we are mighty, when we are mighty (or think we are), namely when we are violent and fight in battles to make our way in the world.

So God (in our shared fictional image) is a mighty warrior who show God’s strength in fighting more mightily than we ever can.

Jesus, God’s son born in a most humble way to poor parents (not the privilege and comfort that so many enjoy and would demand their Saviour be born into as well), teaches and heals the people God’s way, God love, God strength in service and forgiveness. The people, having that image of God from of old as a mighty warrior, see Jesus taking over the ruling of the country, staging a revolution like many before have tried and failed to do. Jesus enters Jerusalem and the people are ready to throw off the injustice and oppression of their foreign and home-grown corrupt rulers, political and religious.

They throw down their palm leaves and garments for Jesus’ donkey to walk on as he enters Jerusalem. No one is wealthy enough to have found a horse for this ‘new king’?

No, that is not it. God is not about conquering our mighty corruption of the goodness of creation by being like us. Jesus enters as a humble ‘king’, a peasant at most, a teacher and guide, a healer, riding a small donkey.

It matters not really how we imagine Jesus enters our lives, enters our world. What matters is that God is not mighty as a warrior, for God created and rules the universe. God need not defeat any enemy. It is already accomplished. The work God seeks to accomplish is to let us, free willed creatures that God created us to be, God seeks to have us choose freely to love God and each other and all creation. That is a work that violent might simply cannot begin to accomplish.

Our choosing can only be accomplished by inspiring us to not be mighty in violence, but rather mighty in meekness, service, healing, and forgiving one another.

It’s your God-given choice! What will it be today?

Itchy Ears and God’s Truth

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Help Us

To Not Be Lost

In The Woods

Confused by the Devil’s Wiles and Smoke

That Obscures Your Light.

Psalm 119:43

Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your ordinances.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.

Words of Grace For Today

The time is coming, or it has arrived already, when society will fail, because “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Of course this was said by Socrates who lived from 470 to 399 BC, more than just a few generations ago … and it has been true in many generations (among the privileged of the world) ever since.

The time is coming ….

In every generation about many and various failings of humans it is repeatedly said (as if it were said for the first time) For the time is coming when people will [and then fill in the sinful thing of humans since the beginning of time.]

Some people of all generations have always refused to put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they have accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and have turned away from listening to the truth and wandered away to myths.

The truth has always been knowable if one would humbly listen to God’s Word, provided to us in many and various ways, and most clearly in the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

The danger in life is that one not only refuses to acknowledge that disaster has been part of human history since forever, but one builds up habits of denying reality (when reality is something one does not want to deal with.) The danger of this refusal is that one chooses to remain ignorant about what history can teach us, and ignorant one acts stupidly and often dangerously for oneself and those effected by one’s actions (which can be those distant in place and in time!) The danger of denying reality when one does not want to deal with it is that one ‘allows the lion’ to consume one’s family and oneself, and more significantly, one loses the ability to see God’s reality: that God created everything and everyone, oneself included. With that one loses the ability to know anything real of God, and anything real about oneself. One is truly lost in the clutches of the Devil’s hell on earth.

One is then not only a danger to oneself, but to everyone!

So we pray: Do not take the word of truth utterly out of our mouths, for our hope is in your Word. Save us from seeking comfort for our itchy ears in myths and falsehoods. According to your promises to us, guide us and use us as vessels of your truth and grace which brings life to all people.

De-story-ing OR God’s Story

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Blood Red Sun Sets

Through the Smoke

Telling Us, If We Listen

That There Is a Cost

As We Try to Breathe

For Ignoring Climate Change Warnings for Decades

Genesis 50:21

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

Ephesians 4:29

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

Words of Grace For Today

There is too much to fear these days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hang in There, Remember God’s Promises

Friday, July 23, 2021

Evil Uses Lots of Smoke and Mirrors!

By God’s Grace We Stand Tall

Leaning on God’s Truth and Promises!

Psalm 119:148

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

Luke 2:19

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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