Hear the Word

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Even In Our Darkest Darkness God’s Light Guides Us, If We But Hear …

God Help Us Hear!

Jeremiah 31:10

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’

John 17:20-21

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Words of Grace For Today

Humans always have a difficult time hearing God.

Maybe it is primarily because we want to hear something that God does not say.

Or

Because we do not want to hear what God does say.

Or

Because we are so afraid of what we do hear!

Or

Because we’ve let the Devil fill our ears with temptations and promises that actually suck the life right out of us!

God provides lots of guidance, even what we see as punishments (like being exiled from our home lands as Israel has been many times), in order to ‘get through’ our thick skins, stiff necks, and thicker heads what God intends for us, God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and blessed renewed purposeful life.

God does not merely work to get us to see, hear and trust God. God works so that the whole world will know how God deals with us and all the people of God’s good creation.

God wants us to be as one, without division, without conflict between ourselves, blatant witnesses to God’s good and generous grace, which overcomes all challenges to a blessed life.

Living in community, trying to be guided by the Spirit, is no simple feat, and success is never achieved. It is at best approximated, striven for, and hoped for, as a guiding light in our darkness.

This darkness God works to get through to us, that God walks with us through all of life’s challenges, and that our conflict with one another does nothing for us, that our forgiveness of one another is the key to living well in this God’s good creation.

As we forgive, we stand like bright lights for the world to see: this is how God deals with us, so that likewise, we can deal with others.

Now for this day … what will come our way?

Snatched from the Burning Coals

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Cool, Clear, Water

of Life.

Amos 4:11

I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a brand snatched from the fire; yet you did not return to me, says the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:13

Even if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

Words of Grace For Today

God works in all sorts of ways to bring us to participate in creation the way God created us to fit into creation.

We seldom cooperate, so driven are we to get somewhere in life. We turn what is good and blessed into trouble upon trouble for ourselves. We build castles and kingdoms, enslaving others to produce bread and wine for us.

God takes our castles and kingdoms, and our schemes of enslaving God’s people and overthrows them, so that we have nothing left. In that nothingness God demonstrates to us how much God has given us. God takes our self-assuredness and faithlessness to God and offers us a new beginning. Always God remains faithful to us, to what we need in life.

God’s faithfulness is the one sure thing in life, and most of us wave it off as easily as waving away a beggar or a homeless family or a refugee.

As sure as a day’s worth of steady spring snow covers everything with a fresh and pristine blanket that glistens in the next day’s sun, so God spreads blessings to everyone.

The faithful are those who notice, and share the blessings with others. The rest melt in the brilliant light of Christ faster than the snow on a warm spring day.

When the fires we create would consume us quicker than a dry log in the hot coals of a wood stove, Christ reaches in and delivers us, renews us, refreshes us with clear water, and sends us out to share the cooling water of life.

Boldly Going Where …?

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Head for the Light?!?

It’s Not the Light at the End of the Tunnel (a train coming at us!)

It’s a Full Moon Setting at Dawn.

Jonah 2:7

As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

2 Timothy 2:19

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’, and, ‘Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.’

Words of Grace For Today

Of course, it is a common story: A person has had no place for God in their life …

until …

until everything goes wrong …

health-wise …

and …

death comes knocking.

Suddenly everything is about ‘God’ …

And ‘God blessing and saving the person who has ignored God lifelong!’

The old thought always comes back: the way one lives lifelong has to mean something in the end, right. So there really is not last minute salvation. There really is no last hour baptism to guarantee one’s salvation. We are judged by God by our full record!

That’s right, isn’t it? It has to be! Otherwise why did I try so hard to do the right things all my life, giving up all the opportunities that would have benefited me greatly though they would have compromised my soul!?

Ah, were it so simple, so that we could judge who is God’s and who is not God’s; who has been good enough, and who has not been good enough.

Or rather, thank God it is not so simple, so that humans can actually judge each other … because, well, humans have a really bad track record of getting everything wrong and really messing things up, royally!

What we can trust fully is that God knows! God knows who are God’s and who are not.

By Grace God gives those who are not, another breath, and another, and another ad nauseam, all so that they have another and another, and another ad nauseam opportunity to repent and convert, and to learn what we who are God’s have learned and relearn again and again, namely that

We are saved only by God’s Grace (God’s choice) through faith (given to us as a free gift, though we do not deserve it at all.)

So we go into each new day, boldly going where all humans have gone before, into the fray of returning lies with truth, hate with love, despair with hope … as God makes us able.

The Same Moon Casting (Faint) Shadows

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen

Sheltered Wonderfully by God’s Loving Powers

Monday, February 7, 2022

In Every Darkness

Surrounded silently by faithful powers of goodness

Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

Philippians 4:7

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Words of Grace For Today

There are days when one must wonder about the dark present God has brought one to, and what the future may hold. Many people have such days. Many more people have had such days.

Then one is reminded of words by a man imprisoned and likely soon to be killed (as he was in fact, to our great loss), words that friends shared so many years ago in East Germany, words that carry God’s blessings and hope into every dark corner (under his wings you will find refuge):

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

(Surrounded silently by faithful loving powers
protected and comforted wonderfully
thus I would live these days with you all
and go with you into a new year.)

[Kehrvers:]

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen
und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

 (Sheltered wonderfully by God’s loving powers
We are looking forward confidently to what may come
God is with us in the evening and in the morning
and surely on every new day.)

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen
das Heil, für das du uns geschaffen hast.

(Still the past would torment our hearts
Still the heavy load of evil days weighs on us.
Oh Lord, for our angst-struck souls
prepare the health for which you have made us.)

[Kehrvers]

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 if you offer the heavy cup, the bitterness
of grief, filled to the very rim,
we´ll take it thankfully without trembling
from your good and beloved hand.)

[Kehrvers]

Doch willst du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört dir unser Leben ganz.

(But if you choose to give us your joy once more
for this world and the splendour of its sun
then we will choose to remember all this past
and that our whole lives belong to you.)

[Kehrvers]

Laß warm und hell die Kerzen heute flammen,
die du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

(Let the candles that you brought into our darkness
burn warm and bright today.
If possible bring us back together again.
We know this, your light shines in the night.)

[Kehrvers]

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

(As the silence now spreads thick around us
let us hear those full sounds of the world
which permeate invisibly all around us,
all your children raising hymns of praise.)

[Kehrvers]

These were, of course, Dietrich Bonhöffer’s words, and now they are one of God’s many gifts for us … to share.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The music for the beloved hymn was written by Siegfried Fietz. He sings the first few verse here.

The translation started with that at https://lyricstranslate.com but I worked further on it.

It is Fitting …

Monday, January 17, 2022

Moonset,

Waiting for Sunrise,

Trusting God’s Gifts,

Singing God’s Praise

As It Is Fitting!

Psalm 147:1

Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.

Ephesians 5:19

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.

Words of Grace For Today

Cell phones across the world produce pictures and videos at an astounding rate each day.

From Statista: “In 2021, the number of mobile devices operating worldwide stood at almost 15 billion….” https://www.statista.com/statistics/245501/multiple-mobile-device-ownership-worldwide/

This means that we have an overwhelming plethora of images of our world, manipulated to look better than reality by software written and rewritten by programmers … so much so that our imagination of what the world is has been bent, skewed, and perverted to such an extent that experiencing the real world has become extra-ordinary. Some find it marvellous to experience the real world. Others (those so disconnected from reality through their reliance on digital ‘connections’) find it outright daunting and even frightening.

The music of the spheres, as it was named centuries ago, plays through the universe, from the deepest points in space to the tiniest piece of creation on earth …

and

we are privileged to be able to sing along

with

wondrous praise

for the Creator of this magnificent creation

in which we were created to live, flourish, love, hope, and find connection with each other and with creation.

A great photo (in comparison to a snapshot or picture or video) uses all the tools at hand (in the camera and available to the photographer) and

imagines

the wonders that can be produced from a particular perspective of creation,

in order to create (as God made us able to be creative, not mere tools manipulated by software)

an image that speaks volumes

(of praise)

about

the Creator, us creatures, and this amazing planet we live on (and some of us are so privileged to have shelter to call home on.)

So we sing songs of praise that are fitting to the gifts God gives us, and we sing and make melody to the Lord in our hearts.

What will we do this day with all God’s gifts?

Will we selfishly destroy and destory other people’s connection to reality in order that we can ‘get ahead’ or

will we sing God’s praises?

What will you do this day with all God’s gifts?

Will you selfishly destroy and destory other people’s connection to reality in order that you can ‘get ahead’ or

will you sing God’s praises?

Choose as you will, but as for me and mine, we will serve the Lord, and sing and sing and sing God’s praises in our hearts and in all we do each day, as God makes us saints able.

A World of Deep Darkness … Lit Brightly by Christ

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Darkness and Cold Will Come Soon.

So Prepare With Hard Work

and

Trust the Light of Christ

to Guide and Heal Us.

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

John 16:24

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Words of Grace For Today

November is the month when the short days, long nights reach their 4 month long dark winter, lack of light, phase. As one who suffers a slight attitude problem with extended darkness (slight SADS) I prepare well, plan to be in the daylight as much as possible, and save for gasoline to run the generator to supply electricity for the many lights set to stun the living daylights back into me. I often unscrew a few bulbs from the set of 8 that shine from each end of my warm space (warm if the furnace is burning hot enough!)

Before I heard about and understood the effect of the lack of sunlight on my mind, I loved to joke about the darkness, and about the light at the end of the tunnel. … I still do, though now the humour is a bit darker, since I know ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ is most likely a freight train of Covid19 delayed goods, running late and fast and long and heavy, coming this way … and we’ve got no where to go to get out of the tunnel, so throwing ourselves between the tracks on the dirty ties, and keeping our heads down is probably the best way to survive what’s coming at us. Except keeping our heads down pretty much means giving up on life until the train leaves us in the tunnel in the dark, marching, marching, marching over the ties to get out of the tunnel. The advice fits well: when you find yourself having/having-been marched into hell, keep moving until you are out!

This is only a caricature of the deep shtako that so many people through history and in so many places have found themselves. It is the deep darkness that Isaiah and many others speak about. It is the darkness that can be forced upon us by our reaction to the dark seasons, by other people’s intent to destroy and de-story us, and by the cascading and accumulating effects of sins massed into evil that simply consumes all life in its wake.

We need the promise that Isaiah and so many others have provided: on them and on us a great light has shined. Even in the darkness consuming us and those around us, there is a light that shines, a great light that shines in every darkness, a light that exposes and overcomes all darkness: every lie, every deceit, every greedy theft, and even death. It is the light of Christ.

This light provides us simple respite from the darkness: we ask. Jesus delivers. We live in the light and are the saints who reflect Christ’s light to all around us.

November is the month when the short days, long nights reach their 4 month long dark winter, lack of light, phase. There is a light that overcomes all darkness, and we are God-made saints who get to reflect that light in the darkness to all people around.

Christ has dealt with all our past sins. Christ has overcome all the past evil and darkness. Christ has prepared us and all the saints for every coming darkness no matter how dark it gets.

That’s a promise to live out today! Work hard for the coming winter. Prepare well. And always trust Christ to be with with us, no matter what comes!

Odor or Audor

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Moonlight.

Even in the Dark

God Provides Light for Us

Genesis 8:21

When the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly.

Words of Grace For Today

The inclination of our hearts is evil from our youth.

What happens next is … well … our history of destroying one another in the most creative and repetitive ways.

Kind of a mess.

So God decides to fix it all and start over. Come waters all and flood the evil people to death. God plans to start over … so Noah, the righteous man and his family, along with two of every kind of animal on earth are loaded into an ark, that will float out the flood. Noah and company find dry land when the waters recede and they give a wonderful aroma wafting offering as thanks to God.

God is pleased, and promises never to flood away the evil inclinations of all the human hearts, ever again. (Thank God for that, and for Noah for reminding God that we might be worth the bother.)

Bother is what God does, and God sends Jesus to demonstrate clearly the inclination of God’s heart is to be gracious and provide salvation to us all.

A huge bother, costing Jesus his life, though it does actually provide the greatest salvation for us that we could ever imagine.

Worldly passions and all kinds of all impiety do not hold a candle in comparison to God’s gracious gift of salvation for us.

A little gratitude can fill our lives and spill over to many people around us. It’s not the trickle down theory, leaving those under the trickle with less than those on top. It is the overfull blessing that is equally generous to all.

God provides everything we need: promises we can count on, and generosity we can share with everyone.

Adversity and True Strength

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Life is a series of reflections

on us.

What have we,

What will we,

do

for others to enjoy an abundant life?

Isaiah 48:10

See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Words of Grace For Today

This life may be terrible and even horrendous, but it will be all right in heaven, so this is all right, too, right?

What doesn’t kill you, makes you strong, right?

Too often these rather stupid simplifications of valid ideas are used as excuses to allow psychological or physical violence and abuse to continue. The truth is there are scars from many things that do not make one stronger.

Perhaps the worse use of these is to justify that some people can enjoy great wealth, privilege, and comfort, while others struggle to stay alive, and others die very ignoble deaths, all in order to make the ‘chosen’ few able to be wealthy, privileged, and comfortable.

God did not make creation for us to live in a while and then escape from it’s injustices to heaven. God made all of creation, saw the accomplished work of creating, and said, “It is Good!”

Life for all people is designed to be GOOD!

GOOD does not mean without pain or suffering evil, for then there is also no possibility to love and experience joy. Pain and suffering – and – love and joy are part and parcel of the kind of life God created us for.

We live and love and experience joy. Some day the people we love will suffer and die. We will then also suffer and experience pain.

And it is all Good.

It is true that those who enjoy wealth, privilege, and comforts now at the expense of others being able to live abundant lives will, for eternity, suffer their choices to be blind and deaf to what they do to others.

It is also true that those who suffer and know only pain, will for eternity be released from that horrible kind of experience and they will know joy forever.

Our lives here and now are not to simply accept all suffering and pain as necessary. It is to work as hard as we can to mitigate and minimize all pain and suffering, to provide an abundant life for everyone!

That’s a life full and long of hard, dedicated work of love, not the sentimental kind of love, the real kind of love that puts one into action and pulls one to sacrifice so that others can live well.

What makes us strong, truly strong, is to know that even as we suffer and are in pain God walks with us, still creating, still seeing all that God does through us, and God says, “It is Good.”

Therefore we know that already today all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Choice Stock, Broken Stock

Friday, March 26, 2021

Where Will This Day Take Us?

The First Step is Always

Confess, Repent, and Be Gratefully Gracious

Jeremiah 2:21

Yet I planted you as a choice vine, from the purest stock. How then did you turn degenerate and become a wild vine?

Revelation 2:5

Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Words of Grace For Today

Humble pie, these readings are for today.

God creates us good, choice vines from the purest stock.

We degenerate and become wild vines, producing little good!

We have fallen from the greatness that God created us to be, to live out in creation.

What are we to do?

The most common human response is …

Denial.

No, we are not that bad. No, we have not fallen. No, God did not create us to be good only.

And on go our denials, some quite marvellous in their creativity.

What is God to do?

We expect that God will punish us, removing our lampstands, unless we return to being good and doing good works.

This expectation is more denial. It is not just that we have fallen. We cannot rescue ourselves or ever again but sin, behave as wild vines, fail to do the good works that God created us for to do.

Doch, God does not punish us. God has mercy on us and is prodigiously gracious with us. God forgives us. God promises to forgive us. God invites us to face reality. God invites us to repent.

To repent is to turn about: we cannot ‘turn about’ and be and do good; but we can ‘turn about’ our pride and arrogance that denies our prolific sins. We can acknowledge, confess, and rely solely on God’s forgiveness … and then move forward relying solely on God’s Grace each day, each moment.

We become humble, grateful, and gracious with ourselves and others.

We recognized that we are broken, somewhat repaired, vessels that carry in our brokenness witness to God’s overwhelming mercy, grace, and love for us (and for all people, and for all creation).

Creation needs our good hard work. We need our hard, diligent, and good work … for our own survival and for the survival of all other people … and more than survival we work to provide abundant life for all people.

This day has it’s fullness waiting.

Are we ready to repent … and let God guide us to (with joyful thanks) accomplish the work that is ours this day?

God! Where ARE YOU?!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

W hen the dark storms of evil threaten …

Judges 6:13

Gideon answered him, ‘But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, “Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?” But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.’

Mark 4:38

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

Words of Grace For Today

Why is this happening to us?

Where is God?

Does God not care?

When unjust judges take life from us …

When the one who said, ‘I love you. Marry me?’, turns on you with physical violence or worse (because it is unseen) psychological gaslighting, lying to police and to church and to courts, destroying your reputation, leaving you so far in debt you will never get out, and your health plummets into pain and disarray …

When friends, bishops, and seemingly good people join the gaslighting as if you were a social pariah or dangerous sexual deviant, scapegoating you instead of dealing with their own failings to deal with reality and truth …

When there are no friends left to stand by you …

When flood waters wash away your home and life and hope …

When wildfires rage wiping out your home and life and hope …

When petty warlords churn your homeland into a war-wasted horror of death, bombs, night raids and killings, rape, torture, and dread of your neighbour falsely (or rightly) betraying you bringing death squads to your door to take you away never to be seen again …

When powers turn on your way of life, destroy it, and work to extract resources and power from your home land, leaving masses of your people without the necessities of life …

When you have lived in the wilderness for years, eking out a living of a kind, and you read of the wondrous deeds of God, as God saved our ancestors from these, similar and other worse assaults on their lives,

Then you and we will rightly ask, “God! Where are You!?! Do you not care for us!? Will you not save us, NOW! Before it is too late!”

Gideon asked this for his people. In time, as God instructed him, ((his ‘army’ blew the trumpets marching around Jericho, bringing down it’s walls, delivering it and then the rest of the Promised Land into their hands. — That was not Gideon. That was God delivering Joshua and the people. God did this so many times.))

In time, as God instructed him, Gideon with just a small army, drove out a great army and captured it’s kings … using surprise and loud noise making.

The disciples asked this as the storm of un-creation on the sea tossed their small boat about at whim between the tall waves and battered it with wind. They knew their deaths into the deep of the void (what was before creation) was imminent. Jesus wakes and speaks only a word. The un-creation void of the deep waters and winds of the storm settle into the fresh breeze and calm waters on which life was sustainable as the fishers knew so well.

God may not resolve the danger that threatens our lives. God is not a puppeteer, interrupting our freewill and others’ freewill as we choose our ragged paths forward in life through creation and human-made un-creation as we go (which we and others must then try to survive if it possible at all!)

God loves us.

God stands with us.

God suffers and weeps with us … at the loss of any of creation and any of God’s creatures … for God loves creation and all in it, and created it GOOD!

God does give us, sometimes, the possibilities to struggle against the evil that threatens us and to survive. If we live, God is with us. If we die, God is with us and gathers us home … home at last.

So whether we live or whether we die, we are God’s beloveds, blessed and grateful for whatever life we get to live in this miracle of creation!

God does not ever abandon us. Not ever. Not even during a pandemic. The stories of God rescuing our ancestors provides us witness to God’s love and care.

Thus, no matter how great the waves of evil pound over us, we do not lose hope.

As we live, we are God’s people who stand with others as the great waves of evil pound over them.

This is love. This is grateful, hope-filled living.

This is life abundant.