Fire!?

Monday, May 23, 2022

This Way Is Blocked.

How To Break Through?

Zechariah 13:9

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

1 Peter 1:6-7

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

Maybe there is nothing helpful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to put an end to this?!

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

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

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

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

Which is the raw, unfaithful response?

Which is the immature faith response?

Which is the ‘refined gold’ response?

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

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

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

Ready or Foul, Here It Comes

Friday, May 20, 2022

Where to Today?

Where from Today?

Where Ever, What Ever, Always

God’s Power of Love

All Around Us!

Psalm 38:5

My wounds grow foul and fester because of my foolishness.

Colossians 2:11-14

In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

Words of Grace For Today

There is really only one huge challenge in life, and that is: to perceive, comprehend, and wisely respond to the reality one faces each day.

Our minds are marvellously powerful organs, capable of visions and imagining a better tomorrow. We are also able to hide from the reality that we face, and make life going forward next to impossible for ourselves and/or for people around us, even people around the globe (now and in the future!) Oh, what power we have!

When one is ill, the symptoms can be mild. One can try to ignore them, continue with the aid of medication to minimize the symptoms, share the illness with unsuspecting contacts, and likely end up with worsening illness if not in the short term then as a chronic condition (which one may not even recognize as being a result of one’s ‘carrying-on with a stiff upper lip’.)

When the symptoms become severe, as the Psalmist reflects today, with fouling and festering, the illness is hard to ignore. A stiff upper lip will not do. Yet one may be so out of it that one cannot figure out how to or be able to provide the necessary care to bring about healing. The psalmist makes clear that the challenge is to find the cause of ones illness. Admitting that the cause is ones own foolishness is difficult, or at least all too often avoided by us humans.

The Colossians passage puts it right out there: we humans are very successful at … sinning. And it leaves us spiritually rotting, festering, and fouled. God uses Jesus’ story to convince us that, no matter the power of our minds to deny reality and our successes in building a perspective of life for ourselves that excludes God and God’s saving love for us, – no matter what God works to save us. Our sins are nailed to the cross. The illness of our spirits are healed. We are spiritually ‘circumcised’, so that God’s mark is made on us, a protection from all illness is provided to our souls, and we are set free to live as God created us to live: being the reflectors of, the voices of, and the hands of God’s saving love for all people.

Young William McCormick Sudbury, ON, with a group of two dozen people was awarded the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers this last Apri;. Only one piece of his volunteer, work McCormick started A Place to Call Their Home with his brother, with a goal of reaching out to underrepresented or underserved populations by sending care packages of school supplies, and providing clothing to groups in need. He said, “My parents have always tried to instill in us a deep sense of gratitude for the situation we’re in.” Then came his rare words of recognition of the blessings he enjoys through no merit of his own: “I’ve been provided a loving family and all the support I could ever need. It was really important to try to give back.”CBC Morning Brief <info@newsletters.cbc.ca> for Friday 20 May 2022

If we could only see the true reality of the day we face each day, and our place in it (for most of us that is a place of privilege so great it has been unimaginable for most humans who have ever lived!)

Since we rarely do see God’s reality for us which includes both our foul and festering souls and God’s healing, loving grace, God uses every means possible to open our eyes, ears, minds and souls to the day that comes our way.

Ready or not here it comes.

God’s Time

Thursday, May 19, 2022

No Matter the Darkness We Face,

God Keeps an Eye On Us,

a Gracious Eye.

Psalm 77:9-10

Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’ Selah

And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’

Romans 5:20

But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!

Words of Grace For Today

It hurts.

That sums up much of the evil that we encounter in life, whether we are the cause or others are the cause.

It hurts.

We cry to God, but it seems God does not answer.

Selah

[Selah is an unknown word in Hebrew that shows up as a refrain in the Psalms – ‘God be gracious!’ or ‘God hear us!’ … or it may mean ‘so it is’ … or it may just mean ‘Sigh!’ or some other onomatopoeia.]

There is nothing more hurtful than to have all the evidence before us that God has turned from us and condemned us, that God has ‘forgotten to be gracious and in anger shut up his compassion!

Were God to abandon us to our own ways and means and the Devil’s guile, deceptions, and seductions there would be no rescue, no respite, no release from such a terrible state.

In all circumstances, though, no matter who convinced we are otherwise, God does not abandon us. From all evil and the hurt it does to us people, God still reaps greater demonstrations of grace. While we dig ourselves deeper and deeper in the muck of life, God shows how powerful Jesus’ saving love is for us. God’s love is always more powerful than any evil we can make or be subject to.

A young man pulled a 32’ foot bumper pull camper in to the random camping area a few nights ago. He tried to pull it on the ‘Low Road’, through trees and turns that no one has ever even tried to pull a camper except for the first 30 feet, and that only with a 12’ camper. He did not smash the camper sides against any tree, though. Instead he caught the roots of the first tree with the hitch jack, bending it back 30⁰. Which means he probably did not have a weight distributing hitch in place. He left the foot by the root where it was ripped off the jack. The propane tanks were taken off and the regulator left hanging in disarray. The battery was missing as was the cover to the battery case. On one side half the lug nuts were missing on one wheel, and the lug nuts were loose on the other wheel (one barely still on it’s lug). A support set of boards, screwed together for stability was dropped 100’ away.

It had all the signs of being a stolen camper, though the young man and woman returned last night at 3 am, and ‘parked’ their big Ram truck next to the camper where they had left it, backed into Lake3 or Wet3, which is always soggy unless it’s near drought conditions. When they tried to pull out with the truck the front end sank into the soggy grass covered ground and (from the hours of the truck roaring ways) they spun it deeper and deeper into the muck.

This morning the truck sits on it’s oil pan and lower frame under the engine, a jack is set up half way back on one side, rocks and branches are on the ground or poked into the holes made by the wheels. A straight edge shovel stands poked into the soft ground.

He needs it lifted off the frame or a big tow truck to pull him out. By grace there are people who will help him, people who have big equipment. People who once helped me out of my folly of trying to pull a camper through soft sand. I had three days more to work my way out of that and the winch pulled the camper and truck back up on top the sand and out. The truck and camper were not bottomed out, though. I had enough sense not to keep spinning the wheels when there was no movement forward or back.

When we try to get ourselves out by spinning our wheels, they act as little shovels, round and round they go, digging a deeper hole in the muck of life, sending us deeper and deeper.

Selah.

Our only hope is help, help sent by God.

Grace abounds.

Love is more powerful than Evil.

God’s creative power flows through the universe, like a great big tow truck and winch, pulling us up out of the muck, healing and restoring us. The greater the mess we get ourselves into the more obvious the power of God’s great love becomes, as we are set free.

God’s right hand has not changed, neither God’s left.

Grace brings renewed life to us, every day and every moment that we need it, often before we know we need it so badly.

Be of good courage today, this is (another of) God’s time with us!

Tears and Ears

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

God Gave Us Many Things.

One Would Hope Enough Brains to Figure Out Something Better for the Environment,

Like Haul It Out (As The Law Requires)

1 Samuel 3:19

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

Luke 10:16

Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

Words of Grace For Today

Letting one’s words fall to the ground.

That’s a great image of losing one’s voice, of not being heard, of not being enough that one’s voice reaches any ear and merely peters out like a plane out of fuel and they bite the dust.

But

To have God ensure that one’s words do not fall to the ground! Now that is something blessed.

We really don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. And then when we lose our voice, and people shun us (though we’ve done nothing to deserve it, it’s all lies and deception made up to cover other’s sins), and we are cast out, unable to work, or earn a living, and we become dependent at best and desperate at least, and dead at worst.

So after one has been made to be nothing by other people’s cruelties that seem to have no end, when God comes along and promises to ‘not let your words fall to the ground’, it is to be raised from the dead and to be brought home again.

So it is.

Whoever listens, listens. And whoever rejects a person, rejects the one who gives life to that person.

May we learn to listen more carefully, kindly, with empathy to those ‘cast out’ by the world’s ways.

That’s what those two good ears God gave us are for, after all! Holding glasses in place and hanging ear rings from them may be good and even beautiful, but listening …

now that’s what God created those ears for,

and our minds for,

and our hearts for.

Be Careful What Success You Pray For?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

See the Light,

And God’s Hand.

All Things in God’s Hands.

Psalm 118:25

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

Hebrews 13:20-21

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

Words of Grace For Today

What is success, that we ask God for it?

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

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

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

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

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

wonders never cease.

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

Examples are endless through the history of the saints.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different? Precious!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Francesco Melzi’s Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

As Neurodiverse as We Get!

As Many Children Are,

If We Would But Notice!

Psalm 127:3

Sons and daughters are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb and a reward.

Mark 9:36-37

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!

People of Light?

Thursday, April 21, 2022

One Guest Took Exception

to the Hospitality

I Offered

and

This Was the Result!

Amos 5:15

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.

Ephesians 5:8-9

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,

and in our courts especially.

Easter Blow-Out Celebrations

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Glory of God

All Around

In and Through Us, Too?

1 Kings :2:1-3

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.

John 20:21

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

Words of Grace For Today

The Easter story, like a song for our hearts, reminds us again and again how precious Jesus’ resurrection is for us. In our blow-out celebration ‘Whether we whisper it in prayer before the darkness, or dive in to grasp hold of it and pull it forth like saving a drowning man, we proclaim, Christ is risen!’[Jeffrey A. Merkel, in Homilies for the Christian People, pp. 454-55. reworked TL]

Christ is Risen!

It will be sung, shouted, and

hoped for by many, many people today.

It is not that we do not believe Christ is Risen.

We do believe.

We celebrate that Christ is Risen and all that means for us!

Yet

Like all seeing, hearing, thinking and loving people, we know

that the world is in such a mess, it is as if Jesus were still dead,

for so many people suffer needlessly, while others fight for supremacy over the mess we’ve made of this planet earth, making the mess even more dangerous for us all and more difficult to contain, and

the fighting always costs the poor the most.

There is a wise saying in Africa and Asia, When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that loses.

We are not to let any person be like grass, having the life trampled out of them while the elephants of this world duke it out, and duke it out for what?

Let it not be that people can quote Ghandi saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Let it not be that, when asked what people around you think of Christianity, they can only say, ‘It would be great.’

It is one thing to proclaim with empty hearts that Christ is Risen. This has been common for centuries among so many people.

It is another thing to be, by Christ’ resurrection, the ones healed, freed, and sent to serve all people, and in that service make ‘Christ is Risen!’ a reality for more and more people.

We cannot do this on our own, but only as the Holy Spirit works in us.

Ghandi also said much that can to guide every human life and every Christian soul:
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
[Christ commands us to love God above all, our neighbour and ourselves, and our enemies. To be so bold requires that the Holy Spirit give us that courage!]
An ounce of practice is worth a thousand words.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.
[Only by The Holy Spirit can we be that strong.]
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
[That is why forgiveness is how God begins with us, and how we begin with the all people.]
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Today, like every day gifted to us on this good planet earth, let us be the hands and feet of Christ serving others, feeding the hungry, making homes for the refugees, giving voice to the outcasts. Let us be be the music of the soul that reaches those lost beyond hope. Let us be the spice that covers the stink of death and the devil’s evil deeds. Let us be those who live each day as if it were our last day to serve Christ, and let us learn to serve as if we would live forever, for, since Christ is Risen, we have died and will live forever.

In a gentle way, Christ shakes the world through us, a little shake at a time towards the Kingdom of God.

That’s worth a celebration like no other!

Covid Costs! Listening to Whom?

Monday, April 4, 2022

What Do We See?

What Do We Hear?

Whose Voice Do We Follow?

Psalm 23:2-3

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

John 10:27-28

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

Words of Grace For Today

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

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

Mark Gollom described it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which voices will we listen to?

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

So how do we start each day?

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

Or

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

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

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

With that assurance, we are ready come what may.

Mags and Hagar

Sunday, April 3, 2022

No Matter the Wilderness We Find Ourselves In

God is There with Us.

Genesis 21:17-18

God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’

Hebrews 12:12-13

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Words of Grace For Today

Mags met Silvia at one of her first DNA and nanobot treatments. ‘Met’ is a bit much. Mags saw Silvia laying unconscious, her treatment almost done. Mags was next. Margaret was her real name, but that’s what they called her grandmother, and Maggie was her aunt, so she’d been tagged as Mags since she could remember.

Mags and Silvia had little in common. Where Silvia was single, Mags was married with three kids just pushing into teenage traumas. Where Silvia had years of treatments behind her, this was Mags first round of cancer. Where Silvia worked with refugees, Mags stayed home with the kids and volunteered at her church as the secretary, in the office two mornings and one afternoon a week and working from home the rest of the week.

Where Silvia doubted God more than trusted God, Mags was faithful in everything. She trusted God, thanked God for her blessings, her three kids and a wonderful husband.

Mags knew the Bible pretty well, and certainly the stories of Sarah and Abraham, and the ugliness of their stories, especially what they did to Hagar and her son. She could not imagine how anyone God chose could do such a thing to another person. Yet she trusted that God would do for many, many people what God did for Hagar and Ishmael; God encouraged them, strengthened them, guided them, and saved them. Mags trusted that God would continue to save her and her family. She had almost died as a teenager, stupid as she had been playing with dangerous drugs for the thrill of it. She hoped that her lesson would be clearly remembered by her kids.

A month ago her last physical showed something wrong in her blood, and the follow up was a chance discovery: even though she did not feel it, she was terribly sick, with less than a few months to live as cancer ran rampant through her blood, bones, nerves, muscles and all her connecting tissue. She’d been a bit tired, and then this news ran her into the ground. The treatments started, her Mondays and Tuesdays disappeared and she woke up in her bed on Wednesdays, unable to move even if she’d wanted to.

The day after Silvia received her shocking and wonderful ‘miracle’ news, the doctor sat next to Mags’ stretcher and explained that the treatments were working for her, but her body was falling apart faster than the treatments could rebuild it. He told her she might have a few more weeks. Certainly not more.

A few hours later Mags sat up to talk with her kids and her husband. Why not sit up, it would make no difference anyway. She encouraged her kids to trust God in everything, and to pray constantly. Her suffering from cancer would be short, her death quick. They planned her funeral together to be a simple worship service streamed and recorded for the congregation to take part in online. Her burial would be simple, since most of her organs and limbs were going to be used in science research for how the DNA manipulation and nanobots had worked and not worked for her. The little part of her body that was not taken would be cremated. They picked out a simple urn for her ashes. They bought a cemetery plot online. They would dig the little grave together. All ten family members would gather as their pastor led them in a short service of thanks.

When the kids were about to head off to bed after the funeral planning, she reminded them of Hagar and Ishmael’s story. If God could take care of those two in the dessert, certainly God would guide, provide for, and save them as well … after she was gone.