David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’
1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Words of Grace For Today
Going into battle with nothing more than trust in God is wholly foolhardy.
David has brought provisions from their father to his brothers who serve in Saul’s army, now facing the Philistines. He hears of Goliath’s challenge. He witnesses the Israelis cowering in fear. He speaks up that facing such an enemy and putting him to defeat would surely win the king’s favour.
That just gets his brothers angry with him for his seeming foolishness.
David’s words reach Saul’s ears, he is summon, and David offers to be the one to fight Goliath. Saul rebukes him. David is just a boy. Then the verse above is David’s response. He has faced down lions and bears. Certainly he can face down one man. Saul, with few other options, sends David as a last hope, or rather as a meaningless sacrifice to let Goliath demonstrate his battle powers.
Saul dresses David in Saul’s own armour, and David takes it off because he cannot move in it. Instead he takes staff and 5 smooth stones from the wadi.
The rest is history.
Goliath falls. David rises to become the celebrated king of Israel.
Most of us, fortunately, will not have to go into battle, nor serve as king. Instead our battles will be less fatal by all appearances. Our callings will be varied, and God sends us out to be as courageous (not to be confused with foolhardy) as David in what we do.
Most of all, just as David relies fully on the little skills he has and the great faith that he has in God, so we are to rely on our God-given skills and more so on the great faith God gives us.
It is our attitude of gratitude (for God saving us and giving us renewed life each day) more than anything else that will carry us through adversity.
God did not create us all so that we can seek our own glory. God created, redeems, and renews us so that all people will know how great God’s mercy is, how abundant God’s grace is, and how beautifully unconditional God’s love for us is.
That’s something to start the day with: knowing that we, whatever we are called to be and do, do it all as God’s people.
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!
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.
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 sufficient clean air, pure water, adequate clothing and shelter,
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?
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.
Sons and daughters are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb and a reward.
Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
Words of Grace For Today
In Jesus’ day, children were a nuisance of too much trouble to be ignored. One had to actively work to keep them … away, out from under foot. They were less than human and they died in droves. Why care for them? Why bother with them? Why? Why? Why?
Today we have a different attitude towards children, at least in some parts of the world. In other places they are soldier fodder, as long as they are big enough to carry guns. In some places they are sexual fodder, no size minimum. In some places they are labour fodder. In some places the girls are necessary for future wives, married off even prepuberty, and then boys carry on the family privileges. In other places only girls are valued and boys are ridiculed into self-loathing and shame (well that’s getting to be the case here at home too.)
No matter how we value them, children are a challenge. As infants until (hopefully) they are teenagers, they require care in order to survive, though there is no shortage of children having to fend for themselves at much younger ages.
So how do we appropriate them?
Like so many humans that we put less worth on, our appropriation of them, our valuing them, influences how they develop and how they live.
When we do not give value to others we diminish their lives.
Elders, revered by their culture, live longer. Not only that they live more capable much longer as well, thinking more clearly, moving more ably, contributing more value to their culture longer.
People we classify as ‘mentally ill’ herded into institutions, fared much more poorly (generally) than when they receive appropriate care, supports, and self determination living ‘in the population’. So today the ‘mental institutions’ that flourished in the 50’s and on have all but disappeared.
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) first came out in 1880 in the USA. While the history of recognizing and suppressing (killing usually) expressions of neurodiversities is long and cruel, the ‘modern’ era certainly does not improve much on the damage done to people identified as mentally ill, though we’d like to think so.
The truth is neurodiversity is the evolutionary mechanism in the human brain allowing us as a whole species to adapt to a far greater spectrum of circumstances than would be possible otherwise. The list of artists, inventors, designers, discoverers, explorers, and geniuses is occupied almost entirely by neurodiverse persons. Why? Because they are capable of ‘thinking outside the box’, which is exactly how their brains work from the get go!
This does not minimize that many neurodiverse people face huge challenges just ‘getting along.’ I should say, though I am no genius, that I am one of this group, and have paid heavily for thinking and being different throughout my lifetime.
The real cost, as I have experienced is the cruelty shown me in the last decade by so many (also the courts). It goes like this: people tell you you are X (some kind of different), and they ridicule and devalue and silence and shun and incarcerate and shame you for being different, then one’s ability to ‘fit in’ becomes life threatening.
Not only do we experience the world differently and often more accurately than ‘normal’ people, we also have to dig deep in history and in ourselves to find our own worth, in the face of so many people cruelly devaluing us in order to try to establish their worth to be more than it is. Being ‘normal’ is not that great!
And then many sociopaths having risen to exceptionally powerful positions and extracted their power from the ‘normal’ masses. One can look at Putin today pouring soldiers lives into over running Ukraine, or Trump amassing popular support while he continues the stripping of money and opportunity from the ‘normal’ masses, the middle class, to provide for the huge corporations, whose legally defined primary value has to be profits (ie, taking from others for themselves.)
It’s been like this, with variations in players and their ways and means, since the beginning of time. How can one, even as a ‘normal’ person, live well yet alone survive in such a world order?
God’s shows us that this is not, this most certainly NOT, anything like what God intends for us. This is the cruel sin that God would save us from inflicting on each other and on ourselves.
For each person life starts in infancy, and one develops through childhood. During that time huge parameters are made as to how one lives thereafter. Some are hard parameters and one never outlives them. Many are ‘soft’ parameters, which one butts up against throughout one’s life though one can overcome them, maybe.
As Jesus came to love and save all people, Jesus certainly does not dismiss the children, devaluing them. Instead, Jesus demonstrates that children (like all people we devalue and cast out) can be appreciated and given attention, and therein give abundant life!
Some of us neurodiverse people have special gifts of receiving children, treating them so as to communicate to them that they are of great value (which they are!)
It is a deep, dark mark of sin on our culture that as we rush to value women (and falsely blame men wholesale for all the problems of the world) we play it out as a zero sum game. We make men lose as if that will help women! Worse, we devalue and falsely accuse and exile men who are so gifted with children (as if all so gifted men were instead sexually deviant and a threat to children!) The price is paid by us all, first by the children, and then by our collective loss of people who know their own value and give to life and to all people.
Such a loss.
Jesus would have it otherwise: ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
The children are our future. How we teach them to value themselves and all creation and all creatures is our legacy. We set the parameters that our species will have to deal with in the future.
Ahh, people, treasure what is precious. Different is precious!
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
… just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will ….
Words of Grace For Today
Oh Ephesians, Ephesians! The end of one thought ending a sentence and the beginning of another in the next sentence, and both thoughts could stand separate from their sentences, to be placed together as they are here, in one sentence, and since there was no punctuation in the original Greek maybe we can get away with it, and maybe not. Though I’d think so, for now.
By contrast the thoughts in the Isaiah reading are repeated often enough in scripture: God created long ago, marvellously created the entire universe and it was good; and it is all created as God planned and we are a part of that.
So the Ephesians writer (psuedo-Paul) is on track: God created us. More than just create our species and let it run its course in time, God planned for each of us in the particular, knowing we would sin, and answering that with a plan for salvation for us all. In that salvation plan, demonstrated to us in Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, we are not merely grabbed and dragged along for the remainder of our lives. We are given a history (Jesus’ record) of being holy, pure and blameless, filled with God’s love for all of creation and all people, and then sent out free.
More than free we are adopted, and destined to be adopted long before time began, – adopted we are as God’s own children. Just because God so chose this for us. And as God’s own we get to be God’s grace for all other people!
Covid Blues, and anything else that may come our way, you are nothing compared to the life, pure and blameless that God adopts us into. Come what may, God has prepared us for all that, and for being God’s adopted for other people.
A 5th wheel 40 foot camper unit was moved in last fall before the snows fell. The owner said he was there, homeless with no where else to go, but there only for two weeks, the legal limit. Two months later his truck still came and went until …
Spring melt came, traffic came.
Still no truck.
Still no guy.
Still the 5th wheeler sat unattended back off the road, yet so visible along the entrance road to the random camping area.
Fishing season is done.
Very little traffic comes and goes.
The two huge dips in the entrance road fill with ice-water-slush.
For weeks it takes an off road, raised 4×4 to get in or out.
Then two guys, one tall and lean the other shorter and stocky, show up in a red diesel truck on a Sunday afternoon, ‘just back from working up north’ and they wanted some peace from their women, or they say.
The next day with no sign of any other traffic in and out the locks on the 5th wheeler are broken, the door left swinging in the wind, and things have disappeared out of and from around the camper.
The next day a crossover stalls after getting through those water-ice-slush filled dips in the road into the random camping area. Lucky for the couple within a small infant, with an hour a truck comes along, and pulls that poor wheel-locked crossover back through one of those dips (the deepest one) and out of the way. But the crossover sits there for two days, unmoved before the couple returns to retrieve it.
The 5th Wheeler, though, still sits there abandoned as it has all winter long, though now it’s door swings in the breeze.
For this, the owner of that old camper, homeless as he may have been, certainly was not prepared.
Maybe no one can be prepared for losing nearly everything and then having the little bit that is left vandalized and open to wild animals (especially the real wild and dangerous kind on two legs).
Even if that were to happen to us, we are adopted, and given new life, pure and blameless, as God’s own.
God save us!
Still we pray fervently to be spared this further indignity and threat to our very life … and we work diligently to prepare that nothing is left unattended, un-watched, secured as best anything can be. It cannot be God’s plan, that homeless people are victims of thievery, losing the last bit of everything they have to keep them alive. So we pray, God save us. And we work to be ready for all the tomorrows that we may yet live to enjoy.
Especially in the face of dangerous wild animals,
We trust God,
and since God has chosen us as children, long before the beginning of time, so that in this time all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
But hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.
2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.
Words of Grace For Today
How does one remain focused, determined, clear headed, and adamantly sure of one’s identity when …
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by hunger (can faith feed one’s body?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the struggle to survive in an environment that would do one in were one not vigilant, determined, and persistently at work preparing for the next challenge to life itself (can faith protect one from minus 40⁰ cold, plus 40⁰ heat, wasps, mosquitoes, bear, and coyotes?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by dependence on the good will of those who would strip one of any identity they cannot bear to acknowledge (can faith please the demands to be other than faithful, when those demands are made by those who provide the necessities of life?),
when one’s very physical existence is challenged each day by the overwhelming apparent ‘successes’ of those who have surrendered their identity to become other than God’s people and the overwhelming apparent ‘failure’ of one’s own life while maintaining one’s identity as God’s chosen, forgiven, restored, and sent messenger of Grace embodied in thought, word and deed? (Can faith provide success when there is none in the past, present, or future to be seen?)
Old Joshua, after years of leading the people to conquer and claim their place in the Promised Land, reminds the people to remember Moses’ Law and not to deviate to the beliefs of the foreigners taken into their midst and the ways of their new neighbours.
Paul reminds the cantankerous Corinthians to trust that their competence in all matters depends not on themselves, but on God’s work in and through them.
Does that help us maintain our faith and identity, when it is under siege? Will God send us a competent new ‘Joshua’ to lead us to claim a place in our ‘Promised Land?’ Is there a ‘Promised Land’ for us here on earth?
Will God provide clarity in Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) for us so that we will receive justice when we stand before the courts that continually work from the lies presented to them, and the lies they add on to the pile of lies, to further rob the security of life that even the government would provide to seniors caught in poverty, a poverty created by the courts injustice?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence build us sufficient shelter each season to protect us from the increasingly dangerous climate and the animals of the wilderness?
Does Moses’ Law (interpreted through Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) or God’s competence preserve our identity and continue to provide us the basics of life in the face of our generous providers who demand we become someone else, more like them as hypocrites who profess faith in God and yet live by lies and destruction of others to cover their sins, instead of accepting forgiveness and restoration and being that restored truth-justice-grace for all other people?
These all seem to be impossibilities that leave us vulnerable to the demands and challenges placed on us by the injustice based on lies worked against us.
This is not the end of the story! Not by any means!
God sends messengers to revive faith in us amidst the greatest challenges.
A scriptural passage, a devotion, a commentary, an insightful sermon, a soul probing song and melody, a book, a news report, a quote: all of these God uses to restore faith in us, to remind us of who (and whose) we are, and to rejuvenate hope in us, a hope that carries us forward through all challenges, blessed to be a blessing to all people.
Malala Yousafzai Malik is one such person. Her book, I Am Malala, is full of inspiration as she spoke out for education for girls (and boys). Wikipedia provides the following among many words about her that inspire one to persevere as God’s chosen:
She left Jon Stewart speechless when she described her thoughts after learning the Pakistani Taliban wanted her dead, saying:
“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
Stewart visibly moved by her words ended the conversation saying: “I am humbled to speak with you.“
Stewart would again have her as a guest on the show after the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, in which he started the show citing no jokes saying, “our guest is a incredible person who suffered unspeakable violence by extremists and her perseverance and determination through that to continue on is an incredible inspiration and to be quite honestly with you, I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world I would rather talk to tonight than Malala so that’s what we’ll do and sorry about no jokes.”
In the face of violence that threatens her life, she would eschew violence of any kind and speak, offering education and then say ‘now do what you want.’
May we all acknowledge that we have the Peace of God, the competence of God, the guidance in the Law of Moses which we need in order to remain faithful, always, even in the face of those who would kill us, undo us, try to corrupt us, and name us as failures.
So we pray: Help us Lord, to remember the successes you have brought in our lives to many others, the faith you have shared with many through us, and the hope that you have poured through us to so many people. In gratitude we acknowledge all your people whose thoughts, words and deeds inspire us (and many others) to trust in your promises to walk with us, and, in the end, to bring us home with all the saints in light.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
Words of Grace For Today
God made us so that we could live, and live well, healthy and abundant lives. This God intends for us.
The Devil intends that life not be for us, but against us. All the devil’s works, done so well by so many humans, and by all humans, look to cheat us of life.
It is done slowly, tempting and pulling us into a way of living that consumes us, our hearts, minds and souls. And then the trap is sprung and whether we notice or not, we are trapped in a life that is horrendous.
Dietrich Bonhöffer wrote:
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.
Siegfried Feitz translated it to sing:
The worst of the old year still torment us we’re troubled still by long and wicked days Lord give our frightened souls the healing for which you have chastened us in many ways.
Much of the meaning is changed to keep the meter I would presume.
A not at all meter-keeping translation might go like this:
[after the first verse ends wishing to enter a new year with you the second verse continues]
Yet the old [year or times] are wont to torment our hearts, Yet the heavy burdens of evil days weigh us [down] Oh Lord, give our startled and fearful souls that healing, for which you had created us.
The bolded word ‘Heil’ carries with it a great connotation that one can hardly avoid noticing, as Bonhöffer wrote this while imprisoned by the Nazis, shortly before he was shot on suspicion of being part of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.
No matter one’s language, one must recognize the phrase ‘Heil Hitler’, which was required of the German people by the Nazis many times a day. It’s translation is hardly ‘Health Hitler’. The literal meaning would be something like ‘Long health for Hitler’, but the actual meaning is closer to Hail Ceaser, or Long Live the King, and it certainly indicated one’s submission to Hitler’s rule.
So when Bonhöffer writes: Oh Lord, give us the Heil, for which you had created us, the connotation is unmistakable:
God give us back the word Heil, so that it once again is the health for which you created us, instead of being used as crowd rendered submission to Hilter’s dictatorship and all it’s cruelties to so many people.
As every temptation presented to us by the Devil, at first the invitation is given so that it sounds just so right. This is, the crowds say unawares, just what we’ve always wished for, dreamt of, thirsted for.
The Taliban did it, winning the hearts of the people by raising critiques of their imperfect world, government, and even their faith. They then, with small perversions at first and blatantly bombastic perversions by the end, turned the good faith of Islam against the people, against the women, against their critics, and finally they brought in brutal force to ensure compliance with measures no sane person would every wish for or support, except the perverted minds who wish to control the masses in barbaric ways.
Dictators in all times in all places have used similar methods, from the Thirty Tyrants in Athens (who killed Socrates among so many), to the cruel Caesars of Rome, to Russian dictators from Lenin to Putin, to the ‘Populist’ rulers like Trump. The first sacrifice is truth.
They cannot have truth hang around, for it will expose the lies that are told the people, the lies that cover for their collecting and exercising cruel powers against so many people. Inevitably what follows is the extermination of whole ‘kinds’ of people.
Martin Niemöller’s words are powerful reminders:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
Niemöller admitted in 1963 he harboured antisemitism yet he was one of the first to speak out (in his book Über die deutsche Schuld, Not und Hoffnung – published in English Of Guilt and Hope)“Dear Friend, I stand in front of you, but we can not get together, for there is guilt between us. I have sinned and my people has sinned against your people and against yourself.”
Life is not simple for any of us, with our biases, prejudices, and bigotries. And once the Devil has got us down that road of self-righteous condemnation of ‘them people over there’ it leaves so many perversions of truth in it’s wake it is humanly impossible to bring things back to some semblance of life as God created us to live it.
Thus we pray: Guide us, Lord, continually, and satisfy our needs in parched places, and make our bones strong; make us like watered gardens, like springs of water, whose waters never fail. Bring us to be the springs of your water gushing up to eternal life from which many may drink and never again thirst for truth, or for life as you have created us to live it.
Save us and all people from cruel dictators, unjust judges, corrupt police, and evil bishops and pastors. Save us from the temptations to pervert truth for our own interests, and from scapegoating innocents to hide from and cover up our own dreadful sins.
Instead, give us the water of eternal life that we might not ever again thirst for justice or for truth.
Instead, give all people the water of eternal life that no one will ever again thirst for justice or for truth.
Instead, forgive us our sins. Forgive our enemies their sins. Forgive the tyrants and bullies their sins, that they may know, as we do, the wonders of your love.
Oh Lord, give our startled and fearful souls that healing, for which you had created us all.
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.
Words of Grace For Today
When the ‘chips are down’ is when one’s true character is revealed.
Or as Michelle Obama said at the Democratic convention that nominated Barack to return for another four years in the White House about her initial misgivings of what the presidency would do her husband, “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
So the Hebrew people are dismembered into fragments by their enemies. Yet Amos urges the people to conduct themselves against evil, for good, and to establish justice in the gate. Perhaps God will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph and they may become a great people again. When they do, they will need to be able to govern themselves with honour and truth, and justice.
It is said many times, we, the children of light, should bear the fruit of living in the light. We should be the people of all that is good and right and true.
My guest’s reaction was unexpected. A blow to my minimal comfort, to my dignity, and my face is hardly what one expects from such a humble guest. I should have known better.
Like so many who fight wars, who live lives of constant deceptions to ‘get ahead’ at all costs (as long as others pay the costs), and the many who work in, feed and feed on, and who benefit from the corruption in our province, our nation, all nations, and around the world, I had gone at the lives of my guest’s relatives without regard. But then no one could expect me not to, could they (as all tyrants and liars are wont to say!?)
So what if I cut them off from the rest of their ‘family’ and even from their own identity as standing tall and strong against the winds of change. Their life’s work as carbon negative beings had come to an end. So why not take them for my own purposes? So what if I cut them to bits and burned them to provide for myself. They were nothing any more, right? Besides it’s not like there are not plenty more like them where they came from!
So what if I had knocked them down to size for my purposes. So what if I split them up? Then this one guest, so odd a guest it was heading off apparently in it’s life from all expectations to take twists and turns that seemed unnatural in a world that is all about being natural!
I had not taken time to reduce this one to the simplest forms, so I was stuck using force to cut it down to size. That’s right I used the crudest and sharpest tools available to me, and added my own brute force, minimal as that may be.
Then that errant guest decided to fight back, and landed me a punch right to the lip, breaking skin, pouring blood about, and dazing me to stagger back and away. At first I wondered what had happened. Then it came back to me. That twisted guest had decided to fly at my face with unexpected speed. Could I have anticipated such a counter move? Maybe, but no guest had ever done anything remotely like this.
So what am I to do?
I will have to get out the chainsaw and go at the remains of that guest, cut it to small pieces, and feed it to the fire.
That is what one does, right?
This guest is after all, a very spirited, very twisted
piece of a tree.
Am I not right in pleading that this is how we deal with trees as guests? We cut them up, split them to size, and feed them to the fire to provide warmth so that we can survive.
It’s one thing to do this to trees fallen in the woods, something quite acceptable, right!?
But what can we say
about all those who do this to their guests, their neighbours, their family members, all who are real people?
Don’t think for a minute that this same treatment is not dealt out to millions of people each day. We can look at the Ukraine, but our view around the world would hardly have begun. We should not be hesitant to look at how this same behaviour flourishes right in our own backyards, our own acreages, our own houses and apartments, our own cities and towns, and similarly around the world.
We just treat guests terribly, and family, and neighbours, and strangers, and our enemies.
Oh how much better my own life would be if this guest were the only one taking potshots at me, unexpected punches to my ‘face’, and delivering knock out blows to my efforts to continue to live in God’s good creation.
How much better life would be for billions of people if all people hated evil and loved good, and established justice in the gate!
“Being [alive and under stresses unimagined] doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
So Covid reveals much about us as a species, as a people, and as individuals.
When and how will God be able to call us back to all that is good and right and true as people who live in the light of Christ?
When and how will our character be revealed as the people God created, redeemed, and renewed us to have?
What will it take?
Christ already died for us, to show us God’s steadfast love for us all!
What will it take?
Another punch to the face!?
Another dismembering of the people?
Pray that today God’s Spirit of the people of light will shine in and through you, and in and through each of us, and in and through all of us,
and that justice will be established in the gate, and everywhere including in our homes and churches,
Breaking Into Our Darkness God’s Light Invites Us to God’s Feast
of the Bread of Life and the Water of Eternal Life
Which Satisfy Us As We Were Created to Be.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Words of Grace For Today
There are gifts that we give each other, some are things. They bear preciousness less in how much they can be sold for, as they are an object not unlike a savings account.
Though, as an aside, a ‘savings account’ that can be mobile and carried with one as one runs for one’s life, as refugees of many kinds do and as war has forced so many to do … these ‘mobile savings accounts’ can make the difference between life and death. The value therein can be bartered for the necessities of life as one runs … and/or one’s life can be taken by someone who wants to steal the ‘thing of value.’
The gift that God gives freely, generously, prodigiously cannot be taken from us. It is the water of life that satisfies our thirsts.
So we thirst for God.
We thirst for God like people trying to cross a great desert, a great parched land as our lives too often become.
We thirst in the wilderness of our hearts and souls for God.
We thirst from within our parched bodies, hearts and minds for God.
We plead with God to come.
We plead for God to come now and
to make right what is done wrongly to us,
to make right what is done wrongly to others,
to make right what we have done wrongly to ourselves and to others.
And God comes, breaking in on us like the heavens parting to shower light on a darkened world.
God comes, breaking into the cacophony we’ve allowed our lives to become in this noisy, information saturated world … with stillness, with calm, with silence.
God’s silence absorbs the cacophony of drivel and evil and lands us in a peace which is beyond our comprehension abilities.
God invites us to the fountain of the water of life, and says, “Drink and take all that you need.”
The wonders of life well watered can only overwhelm our senses, our thoughts, our histories, our stories, our minds and our hearts.
And we say a quiet thanks, allowing God’s generosity to pour over us on to those around us who are so parched they do not even know they are thirsty.
Into this day we go, swimming in the Light that no one can ignore, even though many deny it, wishing to hide their deceptions, schemes, and destruction of people and God’s creation.
Into this day we go, with a peace that deflects the noise of distraction from life.
Into this day we go, full of wonder and gratitude.
How else could it be, for us, who are so blessed by God’s many gifts?
Taken on June 19, 2021, for The New York Times, Amber Bracken’s photo titled Kamloops Residential School was named World Press Photo of the Year on Thursday[7 April 2022]. (Amber Bracken for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP, via CBC)
The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
If we live now in God’s Kingdom, not for food and drink, but for righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, then how can we think that God’s Kingdom is here already – or ever -, when such things happen as genocide through the kidnapping, jailing in ‘enlightened schools’, and indoctrination or death of young indigenous children, and the so many other blatant injustices that are perpetrated by our leaders, our own police, our own courts, and of course everywhere else in the world as well??!
On that hillside near Kamloops, the evening specular light of the sunset and the rainbow set in the sky speaks more loudly than we can think possible. Therein we see a clue.
While the dark past is marked having been discovered and uncovered and declared and denounced loudly around the world, God provides the specular light of beautiful life, the rainbow of hope, and the talent of photographer A. Braken at the right time to capture all in one photo the horror of the past and the goodness of the present and the hope for our future.
We would like to see perfect beauty all around: NO MORE destruction of other humans, no more war, no more violence, no more lies and deceit and destorying of people. Yet God provides us freewill. From that always flows the possibilities that we humans seem incapable of passing up, the possibility to try to get ahead at other people’s expense, death, and extinction.
Thank God for specular light.
Thank God for rainbows.
Thank God for photographers of great dedication and talent, and so many others, who remind us of the goodness of life and of the hope for our future in the face of …
… well, in the face evil,
especially evil in us, which we see most clearly as reflections in others’ evil deeds.
Today, why not: let us work diligently and intensely to live righteousness and peace and joy
remembering always that such living is only possible in the Holy Spirit.