Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 23

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lost but Now Found Again! and Again! … and Again!

This photo somehow ended up in a folder it had no business being in.

Why? Don’t know.

Like us, when we are lost, though God claims us, we need to be put back online where we belong.

Being on track doesn’t make us God’s children, being God’s children gets us back on track, sometimes.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Moses said, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.”

Colossians 3:24-25

Since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.

Words of Grace For Today

Blessing for obedience. Curse for disobedience. Payback for doing wrong. Serving in order to gain an inheritance.

All of this is religious language of coercion; a well organized chorus of controlling others.

It frames life as nothing more than doing what is right and being rewarded; or doing what is wrong and being punished. This is the thought of a two year old, dressed up to look like an adult’s thinking. It is the most common thought pattern applied in most every situation and from nearly all perspectives. It is still childish and falls short of the reality of life as God created us to live it. It is the perversion of the Devil that takes something profoundly good and turns it just a few degrees and lets it loose on us, until down the road we are light years away from the goal God has set for our life on earth: to give God glory in all we do, bringing abundant life to the poor, disadvantaged, and outcasts; and bringing a life of God’s meaning and worthy purpose to the wealthy, privileged and powerful.

Before we get too far along uncovering this devilish perversion of life’s meaning, let us affirm that there is a blessing and a curse in obedience or disobedience. Obeying God does bring blessings to others (rarely to ourselves), and disobeying brings curses to others ( most often to ourselves as well.)

The reality of God’s creation is that God rewards us with an inheritance as God’s own adopted children, and therefore we serve Christ. The direction of causation between our behaviour and God’s rewards correctly stated is simple. Because God acts, rewarding us with blessings, therefore we serve and obey.

The devilish perversion is to think and live as if we act either obeying and serving or disobeying then on the basis of our thoughts and actions God either rewards us with blessings or punishes us with curses.

It is a childish approach to life to think and live as if one’s actions determined God’s blessings and curses. On first blush we might well wish that our thoughts and actions had such influence on God’s response to us. An honest appraisal of human history and our own experiences lays bare the reality that we can never do enough things well enough to please God, or event o accomplish something profoundly good enough to actually FIX a problem the world faces. Every good thing we do is tainted by incompleteness and unintended disastrous consequences … and sinful motivations and results.

It does not matter how hard or diligently we try, or how much self -disciplined we apply to our attempts, one just has to read the honest words written by good thinkers to realize … every human attempt to FIX a problem is a failure. Self-discipline and self improvement is only a mad dash from one hot issue slightly tamed to the next hot issue, only to have a host of previously tames issues raise their hot little heads as major impediments to our living well.

The project of being good enough in life is a futile chasing of one’s tail to no good end, or worse to the destruction of one’s self and many others.

If our actions determined God’s response to us, there would be no hope for us at all! Thank God our actions do not determine God’s response to us!

An old pastor spoke up at a cigar smoke filled room with Scotch glasses set next to the second deck of cards: Looking back at my ministry I pray mostly that I have not harmed anyone.

Relatively young (in my 40’s) at the time I thought it was an odd prayer. Why not pray that the good one did would actually bear fruit in a cascading style through many generations?

Now I understand all too well. Life is really not about how much good we can accomplish, if one is (trying to be) a good and kind person. Doing Good is wholly dependent upon God working in and through us, so that we get good things done almost by accident (actually its by the Holy Spirit ‘accidentally’ getting good things out of us.) Not doing intentional harm to others is something that is much more in the realm of our possible control. The old pastor’s prayer though deals with the unintentional harm one can hardly avoid doing, and from which only God can save us and those whom we have offered ministry to and still harmed.

The true project of human life is simple: to Give God Glory, by

1. confessing one needs saving, cannot save oneself, and God has through Jesus’ sacrifice redeemed us and set us free to …

2. sacrifice what may be seen as ‘our‘ ‘rights’ and ‘possessions’, so that others will experience through us Christ’s redemption of them, and God’s love that holds the universe together.

The world thinks reality is: IF we x, THEN God y.

God’s reality is this:

BECAUSE God blesses us, THEREFORE we can offer ourselves as servants who joyfully obey God’s commandments, loving God with all our heart, mind and strength: particularly obeying Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourselves, and even our enemy.

There is great blessing in obeying God, it is that God gets more done through us for others. There is great curse in disobeying God, and it is that we have failed to recognize the blessing God has already given us.

The challenges of Covid 19 intensify the need for us to see reality clearly, to trust God’s Blessings, and to listen to creation groaning under and rebelling because of our disobedience to God’s commands to love and protect all of creation, as stewards which God has made us to be.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 19

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Fog Covers Our Horizons

As Our Sin Perverts our Spirits

Yet God Takes Delight

Only in our Turning Back

to God.

Ezekiel 33:11

Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, Ohouse of Israel?

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’

Words of Grace For Today

Amazing Grace that saved wretches like us, though we did not deserve anything good from God!

Why does God choose to save such wretches?

Because God lives and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but eagerly waits for the wicked wretches to turn from their evil ways that produce nothing but death. Instead God desires the wicked to turn from their evil ways and live!

There are obvious wicked ways and not so obvious ways, ways wherein we may even deceive ourselves into thinking the way we proceed is not evil. Evil remains evil. It robs life from us and all around us. This is not the end-of-physical-life death. This is the many little deaths of our spirit that we suffer until there is nothing left of us as creatures of God, though we continue to walk and haunt and destroy the earth with our terrible ways.

Sometimes turning from our evil ways, which have netted us great ‘security’ in power, wealth and reputation, will cost us more than it ever netted us in the first place.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who only made money when he cheated people by collecting more taxes than he had to pay to Rome. Whatever difference he collected was his to keep as his own. Here he will return half of everything he has to the poor. Then as he defrauded everyone out of their money which really was not due for taxes, he will return to them fourfold what he stole from them. Either he will not be able to …. He will be broke long before he repays everyone. OR There is a new definition of fraud.

We play these games often, telling ourselves that what we do is not sinful Rather we redefine sin to exclude what we do, and include what others do, so that we can condemn them and feel ‘good’ about ourselves. It only works if we are very self-deluded. We always know our own lies.

Still, God wants us to take time for the amendment of our lives … to change our lives for the better (measured by our Creator’s intention for us.)

That shift, that transformation, that redirection of our lives is what God hopes for from all of us.

Covid 19 gives us the opportunity to reflect more honestly on what we have measured our living by, and to adjust it to fit our Creator’s intention for us more closely.

It can feel like a losing battle, finding our Creator’s intention for us ….

We have no real excuse, though. For Jesus has shown us God’s will for us.

We often do not like it.

But we know what it is … and doing it will give us life, and life abundant.

Only a fool would pass up that opportunity.

Still God rescues the fool along with the rest of us wretched sinners.

Thanks be to God.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 14

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Through the fog

See

the Sticks and Stones

of Reality.

Job 13:9

Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives another?

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!

Words of Grace For Today

An exam, sample exams, test scores, failing marks, proving oneself.

All of these come into play for human examinations.

God works differently.

First, there is actually a kind of failing, of standing against the work of the Holy Spirit so doggedly and determinedly and persistently and … or something else (we simply do not know what it is that we can do to fail.) Certainly we know we all fail to be good enough; we are saved only by the Grace of God, through faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

That’s exactly the breaking point of our trying to determine when we fail God’s Grace so completely that we are outside God’s abundant love. We humans cannot judge it.

All we know is that God’s Grace is for us and for all others, even the most wretched sinners … as we all were before Jesus saves us …

and

still are!

There are serious deceptions that humans carry out in daily life to get the better of others for themselves. None of these work on God.

God sees right through us to the core and all the way to the core and back. God knows everything about us.

If we were planning … no (it is not IF, it is since … so) Since we all plan to try to deceive God about ourselves this is definitely something to worry about, to be fearful of, and to become existentially anxious about.

The freedom we seek is to realize our attempts at deceiving God and how futile the are, and to once again throw ourselves into God’s mercy.

We can test ourselves. If we are so out of touch with our place with God it is a good place to start some finite self-awareness. The real test has already been played out on the cross, and with the resurrection we have all passed … on Jesus’ coat-tails.

When we realize how dependent our existence is on God’s Grace, then we more often, perhaps more quickly, give up on our efforts to deceive God … and other humans … about ourselves. We learn to point to God’s Grace, and offer it to others.

The greatest freedom is ours when we no longer need to depend on our own performances at all the tests life puts in front of us. We can boldly, courageously, faithfully, and lovingly trust that Jesus is with us each step of the way … and use all our energies and focus to work to give God glory in all we attempt, give God thanks in all we accomplish, and be even more grateful that we survive all the times our attempts fail.

Covid 19 is more than a test of our health. It is a test of our ability to work with and for other humans. We will fail. We will succeed, only as God gives us the abilities and we work diligently with them.

Covid 19 may be in many ways a test of our faith.

Consider that every day we face tests of our faith.

Consider there is much we each can do, even in these times.

Testing our faith does not produce a grade or pass/fail. It is not a measure of our pasts. It is a preparation for the future. It gives us a measure compared to the saints in light, which helps us answer the question, “Is there more we can do! If so, show us!”

Prepare us. Guide us. Rescue us.

one day at a time.

Ain’t life wonderful!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 11

Monday, May 11, 2020

Tree of Life, Since Forever

From of Old

From of Now

From of Then

Psalms 44:2

We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old.

Luke 10:39

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

Words of Grace For Today

We have received great gifts from God … many through other faithful people.

We have received the ability:

To listen …

To learn …

To listen to Jesus …

To listen to our ancestors …

What would happen if we could listen to the generations yet to come?

God has performed many great deeds, that we remember, that we can listen to as others tell the stories handed down for generations.

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, … God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good….”

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there …. When the Egyptians treated us harshly … we cried to the Lord…. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey….”

“In the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and gave thanks …”

God has preformed many great deeds even in our time that we can share with each other and give time to listen to and learn from.

An elderly woman’s car would not start in the grocery store parking lot. Covid 19 limited the interactions others could have with her … still a man noticed her distress, walked over and offered to help. Diagnosing it as a battery too drained to start her car, he offered and then insisted that he would run home, grab some jumper cables and set it right. She suggested instead that she could call AMA. He said it was not necessary. Within minutes her car started and he advised her to take a drive to recharge the battery. It worked.

A long term care facility was, like all others, cut off from everyone except the workers coming and going. A staff person volunteered her iPhone to allow video calls to family and the staff started collecting contact numbers for each resident. Even though many suffer dementia they are afraid and lonely. Now they are connected again regularly with family.

With the increased danger of wild fires, a resident of a spread out rural community started noticing almost no one had ‘fire safe’ areas around their properties or homes. He organized a list of the elderly who needed the help first, a list of the properties that needed and wanted help fire-safe-ing, and a list of equipment available. Coordinating it all, with safe physical distances maintained, he organized equipment, people and locations to do the minimum fire-safe work. Almost done, he’s starting a list of more thorough fire-safe-ing and wide fire break paths to stop a wildfire from spreading over more than a quarter section. Of course that is getting organized as well. Everyone contributes. Everyone is safer. There is less risk that a wildfire will necessitate an evacuation, or if it does that any property will be damaged by anything other than smoke.

What stories of God’s great deeds can you share? What stories of God’s great deeds have you listened to and learned from?

What if we could also listen to those from future generations, looking back at our time, so that we could listen, learn, and live more responsibly.

Are we listening?

Are we learning?

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 10

Sunday, May 10, 2020

One Mother

See the Beauty, See the Wonder

1 Samuel 10:7

Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you.

2 Timothy 2:7

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.

Words of Grace For Today

Happy Mother’s Day, to the mothers in my life (and in yours.)

How can we meet the expectations that we and others have for how we honour our mothers on this day … when we cannot go see them, give them flowers, ….

There are telephones, and the internet, thankfully.

How can we hug the precious mother who gave us life?

and hopefully astounding love?

In these times this is not possible, or legal, or even advisable … since even if we are asymptomatic we could be contagious and hugging our mothers could share more than we wanted to. We could share that nasty virus that is likely much more dangerous for our mother than for us.

So let words and gestures abound.

Let humour abound.

Let our imaginations abound.

Like the care facility that made a mock up of Tim’s to allow the residents a bit of normalcy: an opportunity to place and receive an order for coffee and Timbits.

Or the children who showed up outside their grandmother’s care-home window, called her to tell her to look out the window, and they danced in a ring, well a sort-of-ring, that turned out to be the shape of a heart! before they rolled all over the ground before standing up in a line to take their bows.

Whatever is required, when we live immersed in God’s Word day in and day out, no matter the challenge that we face, God will be with us as we find our way forward.

Courage, Faith, Love and Hope, all this God provides aplenty for us.

Yearning 3

Yearning for Everythings to be put Right

In darkness of our enemies’ making
we are yearning for the light,
for the moon to shine,
for the end of night.

A Little more moon

We are yearning for things

Skewed by the Devil’s might

to be put back right.

Christ alone can douse us rags

in the Spirit’s precious light,

safe in God’s forgiving crags,

resetting all things coloured bright.

All Right?

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 7

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Daffodile

A Rose by any name is still a Rose

even if we have a daffodile

Nehemiah 9:17

You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

2 Timothy 2:13

If we are faithless, God remains faithful – for God cannot deny Godself.

Words of Grace For Today

God is often seen (as God is reflected often in Scripture) as a wrathful, judging, and destroying God … God who we need fear, obey, and worship.

Amidst this rough view of God, a reflection of our image of ourselves on to God, these words of God’s character repeat often in scripture:

God is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

These words are taken up into our liturgy. We repeat them Sunday after Sunday (perhaps not every Sunday if our congregation uses many of the liturgies available to keep our hearts and minds freshly engaged by the Word, also the Word in liturgies.) That is one of the benefits of liturgies moulded for centuries on scripture, repeated and repeated and repeated … the words are so familiar that we know them as our Good Shepherd’s voice for us!

This promise of God is … amazing!

It is filled with that amazing grace that saves wretches like us!

We all need forgiveness, from God and countless other people. We need God to be gracious and merciful to us, to be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

As God is to us, God creates us, Jesus calls us, and the Holy Spirit equips and inspires us to be to all other people:

forgiving,

gracious and merciful,

slow to anger,

and abounding in steadfast love!

Even when we no longer have even a tiny trace of faith or hope or love or mercy or grace or forgiveness in us, (due to whatever Evil or stress, even Covid 19 and it’s side effects on us all) God is still faithful.

God is still faithful!

God remains always faithful to even the most terrible wretches, like us.

God is always faithful,

simply because that is who God is!

wild rose

A Rose

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 5

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

God Created Wondrously and Created us in God’s own Image

Job 9:8 – 9

God alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the Sea; God made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south.

Colossians 1:15-16

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.

Words of Grace For Today

There are endless wonders visible to us in creation.

Covid 19 has throttled back our use of fossil fuels. Out of country flights are cancelled across the planet. In country travel is limited to essential movement only.

Gasoline sells for on average between 71.6 and 94.9 per litre. I bought gas for $.43 last week! The price I used to pay was as high as $1.20, and usually around $.95. Oil sold last week under $13 a barrel. It was as high as $113 in 2011 and from 2010 to 2019 averaged $72.5.

This virus has given us a reason to give creation a reprieve from our onslaught of carbon emissions. Areas that have had impossible air pollution over the past decades are showing air qualities the likes of which 40 year-olds have never seen there! That certainly is not the intent, but it’s likely a better reason for the global economic lock-down!

See https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/covid-19-air-pollution-1.5501810 for some astounding images of air pollution clearing.

The real connection is interesting. Air pollution taxes our immune systems, making us more vulnerable, also to viruses like the corona virus of Covid 19.

The wonders of creation in Canada are all around us, especially if you live outside the cities, near a real lake or near the mountains. Others cannot travel to enjoy this, but even in the cities there are parks where one can (still) walk by yourself or with your family, as long as one keeps physical distance from others.

The greatest marvel is that of all the wonders God created, God created us humans in God’s own image. We are not to try to be gods as if we were creators or controllers or destroyers of all creation. The later we’ve come close enough to accomplishing in this last century. This is the evil in us destroying all things around us, as we rationalize that we are doing what is necessary and good.

Humans are again and again capable of extra-ordinarily reflecting God’s Grace for each other, and for creation.

We notice these. Celebrate these. Share these. And we overflow with thanks and gratitude for the wonders of all creation, from sky to sea, to mountains, to the sinner/saints we see each day.

OpenCanoeBuggyGiveMeIce

Good Bye Ice

No Ice in A Day

Open water is nice.

Canoe come ply the deep and shallow alike.

Drat that buzzing buggy mosquito, and that and millions more

sent to feed the birds, and eat my blood, leaving a terrible reaction

that sends my eyes, nose, and throat into conniptions.

Oh give me ice, that would be nice!

Gold Water

Touched with scrambled ice left overs

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 3

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Balance is not easy to find.

Beauty and Peace are as difficult.

God guides us to both, as gift and blessing unearned.

2 Samuel 2:26

Then Abner called to Joab, ‘Is the sword to keep devouring for ever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you order your people to turn from the pursuit of their kinsmen?’

1 Corinthians 7:15

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you.

Words of Grace For Today

God calls us to peace.

Peace between nations, between people, between spouses, and peace within ourselves.

Peace is much more than the absence of conflict.

Given merely the absence of conflict we humans always find our way into open conflict quite easily. It is because everyone is wrong about something, and they still think they are right. [Except of course me. I’m always right. Right?]

Girard provides that it is more complex than that, involving mimetic desires that lead to competition, which is ‘resolved’ through scapegoating. We compete with each other for what we see as limited resources/things. Aware we cannot afford open conflict with our closest friends we project our conflict on to some innocent, vulnerable bystander. Seeing that innocent as the source of our problem we destroy that person. Our urge to compete and destroy is ‘satisfied’, the thing we competed for becomes insignificant, and we are able to return to a ‘peaceful’ co-existence.

Except for the innocent person we’ve gaslit, attacked, destroyed and most often exiled or killed.

And except that, since we are not entirely oblivious to reality, we know we are now guilty of ruining an innocent person, of not working out our conflict with each other, and the root cause of that conflict is not addressed. It just goes underground in both of us, in our relationship, only to re-emerge at a later date. Then it will be an even less comprehensible conflict, which we will ‘resolve’ by destroying yet another innocent bystander.

Peace must be diligently sought anew each hour of each day, or it is lost. And it is lost long before anyone notices any conflict arising.

Peace is lost when we no longer see the souls of other people, for whom Jesus died, as the most important part of our own lives, when we no longer give everything we are to provide care for those in our daily lives, or when we no longer work to meet the needs and satisfy the yearnings of those with whom our lives are intertwined.

Peace is a marvellous way of being. It is fragile and can disappear in an instant with a [wrong] word or deed. It is threatened most by an errant thought.

God gives us peace. We can treasure it, with our hearts, minds, and strength.