God Questions, Like: Where is God?

Monday, April 18, 2022

Is God Here With Us, Buried Under the Snow?

Is God Out There, Far Beyond Our Horizons?

1 Kings 8:27-31

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Have regard to your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house, the place of which you said, “My name shall be there”, that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray towards this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling-place; heed and forgive.

John 20:19

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

Words of Grace For Today

Since the beginning of time humans have asked questions about God, and the questions keep coming up again for each generation of people who think and care, and hope.

David wanted to build God a temple, after he’d built himself a palace and a kingdom, by his sword, his wits, his charm and his faith in God (and his trust of God’s faith in him.)

God says no thanks, I do not live contained in a ‘house.’

Solomon inherits the kingdom from his father and commences to build a temple for God and asks the question God had answered for David: Will God live on earth? And he answers the obvious that God is too great to be contained in any temple.

Solomon goes on, in his dedication speech-prayer, to tell the people that the temple is for them (not to contain God). The temple will give them a place, given God’s name, to which they can direct their prayers. Solomon prays-begs God to honour the temple and the prayers given there and in it’s direction; Solomon asks God to hear the prayers,

to hear all the people’s prayers and

to forgive.

Nothing more than forgive.

An old pastor (now I am older than he was when he said it) about to retire said to his friends gathered around at their annual card game and scotch sharing time, ‘I pray that I did not hurt anyone [in doing my ministry – in congregations and in prisons.]’

We begin each service, and each honest prayer to God, by asking for forgiveness.

Why?

Because God is good, and gracious, and generous, and

we are miserable sinners, always no matter what we try to become, we always remain miserable sinners (or actually we are very good at sinning, so maybe we are such good sinners that it makes us miserable people?)

Our relationship to God, God’s good creation, all other people, and even to ourselves, starts there: us miserable sinners, God greater than anything can contain, and we approach God trusting, like David, in God’s faith in us.

That is hardly the end of it.

For Jesus comes to live as one of us, heals and inspires us all, dies for us, swaps out our pasts for his future to give us renewed life, and then

then Jesus sends us out.

Often we become so afraid of the what others will do to us, for we are different. Like the disciples we hide. We may have boldly hoped that God would make our world different, better, just, honourable, livable, and then we run smack dab into the evil of others trying to do us an early death or more. So we hide.

Jesus comes and does not make us safe.

Jesus comes and does not tell us we have no reason to fear.

Jesus comes and does not make us so powerful no one will dare harm us.

Jesus comes and offers us the most precious thing, Peace.

Even caught up in very honest and realistic fears that make us wonder if we will live yet one more day, even there in that turmoil, Jesus comes and offers us Peace.

That’s something, like forgiveness, that given our miserable state of affairs, only God can give to us.

So …

so we humbly accept yet another precious gift from God,

and turn to face another day filled with miserable sin, ours and other’s focused at us, trying to do us in.

We take up the only posture possible: that of the servant, who on Christ’s behalf, serves all people, even our enemies.

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!

Out of Bounds?! Brought Home, Again!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Go This Far

Not Past The Treeline!

Or Do You Live Outside the Boundaries?

2 Samuel 12:13

David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.’

Colossians 2:13

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.

Words of Grace For Today

Going out of bounds.

Growing up in Tanzania before the land was so densely populated so that our backyard went on for miles and miles of bush once we crossed the dry creek bed (which flowed strong and dangerously in the wet season) and on two different farms in ‘northern’ Minnesota both of which were surrounded by open land for miles, and in the Twin Cities where our back yard bordered on an old farm yard surrounded by acres and acres of undeveloped land which continued across the road into a huge impenetrable swamp, when we played we had free reign for miles. In each place there were boundaries as to how far we would venture, sometimes how far we were allowed to venture, sometimes how far we had agreed with each other to venture when we played. There had to be boundaries so that the games we played would work.

We did venture outside the boundaries, of course. We were after all children.

We did venture outside the invisible boundaries, like the time my older brothers killed a bird, started a fire, roasted it, and we each had a small bite. So exciting, in part because killing was ‘out of bounds’, starting a fire was ‘out of bounds’, and eating a wild bird was ‘out of bounds’. Thinking about it today the fire was reasonably dangerous, but eating a wild bird was ridiculously dangerous. Today, with all the ‘new’ diseases around it would be even more so.

Then there was the time that I just absently minded, not yet 5 years old, ventured beyond where my three older brothers were playing in that dry creek bed behind our house in Kiomboi. I was making what-I-cannot-remember in the sand and gravel. Darkness approached. My brothers probably yelled for me to come with them. They took off for the safety of the house. I continued to play, unawares of what was falling fast all around me. It was a short hike back home. Twilight lasted a mere 24 minutes at best. Once it was into dusk …

At night in the dark, as we were tucked into bed, each in our own bed, four beds, four older boys, in one large room with windows on one long side and one shorter side of the oblong room, the shrill piercing vicious cries and growls, the gaping mouths filled with big teeth, the yellow eyes and long noses of the hyenas more than often enough would jar us back awake and keep us awake for hours. Not that the hyenas wasted that much time at the windows, but our hearts would make up all sorts of terrible scenarios of them breaking in through the glass and/or the screens if the windows were open to cool the room for the ‘quiet’ of the night.

There I was, out of bounds playing in the sand and gravel of the creek bed, darkness falling fast as I was unawares. And then it fell. I jumped up in terror-alarm, and sped as fast as my panic fuelled short legs would carry me along the path between the bushes. The growls began behind me, the shrill cries pierced my little mind and my legs just would not pump any faster.

When I reached the closest door, the door to the kitchen, I grabbed it with what strength I had and …

Susanne, our house helper, pulled me in, closed the door behind me, and soothed my fears, before she stepped out the door for her walk home.

I was safe, and that welcome from Susanne told my little heart and mind that, though I had strayed outside the boundaries of safety, I was welcomed home, even if that welcome cost her her own safety as she made the trek to her own home of safety somewhere out there past the dark boundaries for us little boys, though well within her boundaries.

David steps many times outside the boundaries God has set for the ruler-warrior of the Israelite nation from its infancy to its heyday. The time he must pay with his life is when he has not only taken Bathsheba for his own, but he has ensured that her husband, his good general on the battlefield, will not return. David arranges for ‘friendly fire’ to kill Uriah, so that he can keep her, and cover up that she is pregnant with his child.

Nathan steps up to give David a lesson, a lesson that proud, powerful David needs, in order that David can confess once again how far out of bounds David has ventured, this time worse than many other times. The punishment must be David’s own life in exchange for Uriah’s.

Like Susanne at the kitchen door, once David has confessed his terrible sin, Nathan pronounces God’s forgiveness and welcoming of David, back ‘into bounds’, back into the safety of living in God’s house, in God’s creation, within God’s boundaries, boundaries that keep us safe from ourselves and from the evil ‘hyenas’ out there ready to tear us apart without hesitation.

So it is as always that God’s unconditional and steadfast love restores us to life. We can trust that even when we stray ‘out of bounds’, as we confess God promises us that we shall not die. Indeed God makes us alive together with Christ, forgiving us all our trespasses.

Stay safe today, and always. Know that even when we stray, God welcomes us home to safety with open arms, and the honest love of friends like Nathan, and soothing comfort of people like Suzanne.

Humble Hubris

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Falling

Snow

Should Take Our Pride With It

to the Ground.

Isaiah 40:13

Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counsellor has instructed him?

Romans 11:33

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are God’s judgments and how inscrutable God’s ways!

Words of Grace For Today

I have often prayed for what I needed, or at least what I thought I needed. I have often prayed for more than I needed, for what I wanted, and I still do and will as long as I live. Sometimes I know the difference. I am sure sometimes I certainly do not.

It probably is that way for most people, to varying degrees. The variation in the degree of knowing the difference seems to astound me. Maybe people are astounded by what I do not know as well.

The bottom line is this: none of us know everything that we should, could, and would if only … if only we knew what we’ve been taught and what our ancestors have experienced and should have taught us. But that is how it is with us, we just do not learn all that we could by being alive in God’s creation.

The most challenging piece of wisdom to grasp, and nearly impossible to hang on to for very long, is how humble we really ought to be.

Listen to our prayers.

Listen to our wishes.

Listen to the words we write.

Listen to the words we speak in private and in public.

From the sum total of all that we humans have thought, prayed, said quietly and cried out loudly for all to hear … from this sum total (if we could grasp it all, so even a small slice of it will have to do as an illustration here) we would deduce that we humans thought we controlled the universe down to the last detail, or at least some of us do, and the rest are alive to suffer what the others determine for us.

God

did

not

create

us

so.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are God’s judgments and how inscrutable God’s ways!

Mostly, we humans seem to have the smallest of clues at best of what God chooses and executes for us and for all creation!

Yet we think we can control God. Fully name and explicate God. Roll down on others God’s commands and judgments!

But Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counsellor has instructed him?

None, not a one.

Only by Grace do we know anything at all about God, and through Jesus, the Christ, we know that God’s primary attitude to us in one of unconditional, forgiving, and restoring love.

Our place is not to understand God, or God’s ways. Our place is to exercise God’s primary attitude of unconditional, forgiving, and restoring love in all we do and say, so that others will know the little bit we understand of God.

Where are you this morning? Where is God this day?

It’s rained all night. The cold water streaming steadily on to the 3 feet of heavy snow covering the ground and the deep ice still on the lake. The smoke from the fire wafts this way and that, steamy in the damp morning light. Not another scent can penetrate the air. The green bows of the spruce trees, the tuffs of green grass showing in the few spots where the sun has burned away the snow pack lowered by shovelling my way through the winter, not even the Moose droppings next to the large spruce where it spent a frigid night alone.

It is as if the world is reduced to sights and sounds: geese arriving and staking out territories, the fighter jets smashing air aside as they return to base, wheels and flaps down, throttle set at half for full noise below the sound barrier, the drip of the water falling from the leaves and tarps around my camp, the steady stream of snow flakes dropping, dropping, dropping on to the rain-sodden snow pack, the music floating in my mind, haunting oboe, intricate turns of words of comfort amid ordinary and extraordinary disasters. Thankfully the fire continues to burn, contained and directed to provide a duration of heat, for warmth, for heating water to wash with, and for cooking.

In this morning, so ordinary, so extraordinary, how can one see and know God? How can one not?! For my enemies have long since sought my death, seldom directly, constantly indirectly. And if not my death then my exile to some far distant location from which I could not be heard to speak the truth. In this morning of rain and snow, quiet and solitude, beauty and wonder, that I breathe is a miracle provided by God.

Likewise, I think, it is for all of us, should we be able to notice all God does to bring us breathing into a new day.

For God is everywhere! And we are here in God’s creation … likely not as humble as we ought to be, but wondrously comforted by God with us and thus emboldened for all we can do this day.

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.

Roundabouts

Saturday, April 2, 2022

God Works in the Most Roundabout Ways to Bring Us New Life

Like Traffic Circles Now Called Roundabouts,

Moving Traffic Through Intersections Most Efficiently

Saving Fuel and Carbon Footprints

Exodus 13:18

So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle.

Romans 8:28

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Words of Grace For Today

Silvia lay, unable and unwilling to move for fear of what might happen next. Maybe everything would disappear and she’d find herself waking up in her own bed as the sun rose casting rays of warmth across her bed … and she’d still be unable to move … or would she, hope against hope, be able to get up out of bed and stand on her own two feet. The news was expected, feared, and finally hoped for. Even the worst news would be the best news. It’d be her last possible escape from the pain and spiralling descent into despair her life had become.

Silvia had heard that God works in roundabout ways, almost always. That our challenge is to trust that God works for our good as those God has called to love God and all God’s people and all of creation. She had heard that so long ago in a different lifetime, but she had not been able to believe it, back when the world made sense. Back then she’d worked to help refugees settle in safety in her neighbourhood and across her city, and prayed every opportunity she could for them and for the many refugees who never found their way to safety, and for the millions who never escaped the violence that ruined their neighbourhoods and cities. She knew that some people ruined life for so many other. She figured she had to undo their destruction, at least the little bit she could. It was all up to her and people like her. God may well save people, but she could never figure out how one could believe that. That was back then.

For almost a decade now she had given her body every chance to survive it’s own battle with itself. Cancer had seemed someone else’s concern … before that day back then, so vividly burned in her memory: a call from the nurse asking her to come see her doctor that day. Could she make it in an hour. He would be free for a few minutes. …

And then the news:

‘youhavestage4melanomaradiationshouldstartthisafternoonfollowedbychemotherapy.’ It was all a blur from then on, the IV’s, the nausea and pain, the fatigue and insomnia, the loss of hair, skiing, tennis, hiking and even walks in the parks, and the puking her guts out, the weight loss until she was a thin pencilled in skeleton on a two dimensional bed sheet. There were breaks in those ten years. Breaks from the chemo and from the despair and from the puking. There was even a temporary bit of weight gain. But there were also bone breaks, and spirit breaks, as the cancer showed up in her bones, more chemo and radiation and then it showed up in her muscles, and then in her stomach, then in her everything.

‘In everything’ was just 3 months ago. The doctors, for there were three of them that time sitting next to her wheelchair, … the doctors said radiation and chemo were out of the question. She was not strong enough and the cancer was growing too fast to wait again for her to rebound enough from the last treatment regimes. But …

But there was an experimental treatment in the first stages of human trials, and since she was terminal with less than a few months to live she would probably qualify. It involved DNA manipulation and nanobots and … That’s all Silvia heard before she passed out. She woke hooked up to what looked like an octopus coming out of a dialysis machine with tubes running in and out of each of her legs and both sides of her neck pumping blood in and out of her. More tubes ran in and out of her stomach, her nose, and other places she could not see or feel anymore. She blinked, the nurse noticed, the doctor came and she was put back under.

When they were done with her she was carted off home to recover. Safer than being in the hospital. A nurse watched her round the clock. A week later they did the same thing all over again. She felt weak. But at least it was not like radiation. Her hair continued to grow back. There was a quarter inch on her head now. And it was not like chemo. She could sleep, eat, and her strength continued to return. She remember that first Wednesday waking up and the sun warmed her face and she did not need to puke. It was by comparison heaven!

Each week it was the same. Her Mondays disappeared in the hospital and Wednesdays she woke up at home. Three months she had not seen a Tuesday. The snow was surely melted and the trees would be budding. But she could not stand and walk. Not that she did not have the strength, but the protocol was she had to remain sedate, quiet, relaxed at all times, or they would sedate her to ensure she stayed still … but the less medications the better for the experiment. This week, after her ‘dialysis disappearing Monday’ wrapped up they’d carted her up to a hospital room and, while she was still unconscious all day long on Tuesday they did thorough blood tests, biopsies and imaging.

Now Wednesday afternoon, the doctor called and asked her to come in. It really wasn’t up to her. The nurse had all the work of prepping her for and loading her on to the stretcher and into the ‘ambulance’ (actually an empty van with anchors for her special stretcher was all it was) for the ride to the hospital.

She remembered that first call by the doctor to come to the office as soon as possible. Could she make it in an hour!

And then the shock of the deadly news.

Silvia lay, unable and unwilling to move for fear of what might happen next. Maybe everything would disappear and she’d find herself waking up in her own bed as the sun rose casting rays of warmth across her bed … and she’d still be unable to move … or would she, hope against hope, be able to get up out of bed and stand on her own two feet. The news was expected, feared, and finally hoped for. Even the worst news would be the best news. It’d be her last possible escape from the pain and spiralling descent into despair her life had become.

The doctor said this time, ‘There is no sign of cancer anywhere. The treatment seems to be working. Even better: some of the damage to your heart, liver and kidneys seems to be repairing itself! We want you to start physio with the nurse at home. Come in each week for continued treatments, though you will not be unconscious. Let’s see if we can get you walking this week, and jogging a bit again before the end of the month. You should be able to ski again next winter.’

After the shock subsided, Silvia prayed with thanks, something she’d not been able to do for years. Before this shocking news holiness was all that had remained for her. She had hoped to die, to be done with the suffering, and to walk with Jesus into her eternal home. Now she could hope that she would walk, jog, and ski again. She understood how roundabout God could work, how roundabout God had worked in her life. She wondered what God had in mind for her next. Whatever it was, she prayed she’d be up for it.

Broken and Contrite Hearts

Friday, April 1, 2022

God Starts With Contrite and Broken Hearts

And Teaches Us to See

Wonders upon Wonders.

Psalm 51:17

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

1 John 1:3

We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

It is a difficult row to hoe.

Offering God one’s broken spirit, one’s broken and contrite heart is an extremely difficult row to hoe.

After 12 years serving in the navy Lt.-Cmdr. Nicole Dugas has resigned. Lt.-Cmdr. Jennifer McGean has resigned in support of her friend. CBC reports: Cmdr. Ian Bye, sexually harassed her and abused his position of power as a senior officer in charge of base administration. He was charged with making a sexual comment in the mess on Oct. 22, 2020, given a written warning and fined $1,500. The navy released Bye in July 2021 as “unsuitable for further service” following an administrative review, according to a letter sent to Dugas. Three other senior, male officers involved in the handling of Dugas’s misconduct case were not held accountable, Dugas and McGean claim.

No one is surprised.

The military has long been an institution based on abuse. We not only expect it, we condone it and demand it. Basic training is designed to break the spirit of a young soldier to be, so that under fire in the field (and in all other aspects of military life) the young person will obey orders without hesitation and without questioning them. That has changed sort of maybe: soldiers are not to follow illegal orders, but then we expect them to anyway. We demand this, so that our soldiers can fight when told to, supposedly to protect our freedoms.

Anyone with a head on their shoulder knows, though, that soldiers are ordered to fight most often in order to guarantee the continued wealth and power and privilege of very few. Today that most often means huge corporations that are larger than most countries.

Since we know the military very rarely is put into action to protect our freedoms …

Since we know basic training is designed to break the spirit of soldiers so they will do the unthinkable for really bad reasons …

Since we know that the commanders of soldiers were all soldiers (even if never less than officers) who were broken in basic training …

Since we know that being broken in basic training really is to be abused and not to have a choice then or forever after to be free of it …

Since we know that those who are abused almost always become abusers given any chance of power over others …

Since we know that abusers rarely contain their abuse to one specific kind of abuse but rather spread abuse like a sawed off shotgun …

It therefore does not surprise us that abusive commanders also sexually abuse those under their command, that women are readily made targets of this abuse, and that those higher up in command have a difficult time dealing with abuse of any kind at all, since climbing the command structure seems to require one to be an abuser grown out of being abused.

It will not, or should not, surprise us, when we start to read how female commanders abuse those under their commands, and that their abuse is of all kinds including sexual abuse.

Given that, we ought to do everything we can to stop the abuse … but we’ve boxed ourselves in a pretty deep, cavernous, in nearly inescapable hole.

For generation upon generation humans approached God, hoping to control God’s power over them and their surroundings and their enemies, or at least to sway God to act a bit in their favour every once and a while. The standard approach was to bring God a sacrifice, always a sacrifice of some other animal’s life, or (horrors of horrors, as it is still done today on the altar of capitalism to the god of greed) … or the life of another human (or as is done today still, the lives of many, many other human lives.)

It did not take long for intelligent and insightful and inspired humans to recognize how dangerous and destructive this ‘sacrifice’ mentality was, as they knew that God was not to be controlled or swayed by the killing of others. What people will come up with, when the Devil takes control! Wise people knew that God asked for the spirit (built up by the Devil’s deceptions) of proud humans to be broken, so that they recognized their privileged place in creation as those loved by God. So the Psalmist writes even to us today: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Most humans set on making their way up in the world view contrite and broken hearts as the debilitating destruction of their core and their way upwards.

God’s ways are not human ways, to be sure, for God starts with our contrite and broken hearts, forgives with unconditional love, and restores us to a fullness of life that cannot be achieved on our own, and cannot be taken from us.

For we live in fellowship with the saints of all time, with Jesus our Saviour, and with God the Creator, and with the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps some of us, in the right positions of command in the military, can start to overcome their own being abused, and the abuse that is all around them.

This we hope for, and pray for. Also that the abuse and bullying in the police and in the courts (for they are as horrendously swallowed by abuse coming from the top down to all people) will be overcome as well, by God’s immeasurable power of Grace and steadfast, unconditional love.

Not even a fool would pray for anything else, not even on April Fools’ Day.

Only What We Have Seen and Heard

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Coals That Bring Warmth to Hearts and Minds

Blessed by God!

Numbers 23:12

He answered, ‘Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth?’

Acts 4:20

We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

Words of Grace For Today

Balak and Balaam: it’s quite the story. Look back a bit into Numbers 22: Now Balak son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw, to summon him, saying, ‘A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth, and they have settled next to me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that whomsoever you bless is blessed, and whomsoever you curse is cursed.’

Balaam repeats what God provides as God’s Word for Balak. It is not a curse, but a blessing of Isreal, the people who have come out of Egypt and spread, strong and mighty, over the face of the earth. Three times Balak tries to bring Balaam to curse Israel and three times Balaam repeats the word that God provides: Israel is blessed.

Waking to 10⁰ in the shelter, 11⁰ at the bed, and the propane furnace kicking in and then off before it’s 13⁰ at bed level tends to put a chill on things that reaches into one’s heart slowing down to a crawl in reverse any emerging eagerness to enter the day with hope.

… 

Sliding back away from the urgencies of cold mornings …  that bone chilling reality sits there a bit until one’s toes and lips crack from impending frostbite,

Forcing one to dress in a rush before arthritic joints freeze up one last time … and then venture out to the stove.

A bit of wood is shoved from the frosty, icy pile into the monster’s pie hole (though no pies but dried cow pies pass its lips). Ashes get dumped. Bits and pieces of leftovers of logs get whittled in beside the wood and miraculously there’s combustion, the chemical reaction of fuel, air and heat producing, unfortunately, more smoke than heat.

Then one retreats in haste back to the dream world’s place holder beneath the down duvet where one reads, waits, observes the thermometer and waits for a pressing reason or freedom to emerge again into the reality that awaits.

The wondrous miracle emerges eventually: 67⁰ is recorded in the shelter above the fire, some of it reaches to near the bed so that one’s arms stop aching on top the covers, and one’s heart starts to thaw along with one’s lips and toes, and one’s brain starts to complete a few wayward synapse firings. One starts to think …

To think sporadically wild and incomplete thoughts like the day ahead may give some basis for getting out of bed and hoping to ….

Hoping to eat and drink, and have a future of eating and drinking for a few more years.

Marvellous what a little heat can do. 19⁰ at the bed. Warm enough to get sleepy as the sun rises and hides beyond the clouds threatening to drop frosty snow and ice everywhere. 

Then it all vanishes into vivid dreams of a fantastic life in a warm (bug free) and perfect paradise….

Until reality once again demands attention be paid… lest the stove, so nicely heated will otherwise then overheat and burn everything to the ground. 

Just another typical day in God’s country begins beautifully blessed. 

Like Balak my enemies have gathered many times to bring a curse on me, and failed. They have, with lies and corruption beyond most people’s imaginations, stripped me of every penny and driven me into debt from which I will likely never emerge. They have left me homeless. They have left me dependent on the food bank and government supports for those in poverty. They have spread false rumours about me, and left me isolated from my friends and my church. They have maintained their churches, their wealth, their position, and their smug self-righteousness, justifying their evil by pointing to records filled with lies.

Yet, I remain blessed, for what is any person of God, who brings God’s Word to the ears of others, to say, when God has spoken a blessing eternal upon me?

And how shall I respond?

How shall anyone respond?

What else would we say, other than to join the writer of Acts: We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

For we have seen through the lies and corruption.

For we have heard God’s Word, and seen the results of God’s mighty acts of unconditional love, mercy, renewal, and provision for daily life, for daily life that is blessed by God’s presence.

So this day, what else shall we do other than speak of what we’ve seen and heard of God’s mighty works, in our midst, across the earth, and from the beginning of time?

So this day, what else shall we do other than be God’s Grace for others?

So this day, what else shall we do other than give God thanks for God’s blessings, beginning with the warmth of a wood stove, a mind that can think, and hearts that God has filled with faith, love and hope!

The Power of the Sound of Sheer Silence

Monday, March 28, 2022

Where Do We Find God?

Nowhere!

God Is There

And by Faith Shows Us

God in Us,

God among Us, and

God Everywhere around Us

1 Kings 19:11-12

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

John 3:7-8

Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

Words of Grace For Today

People have tried, in vain, to locate and control God since the beginning of time.

We’d expect, given the traditions that swirl about, that God is present in demonstrations of power:

in mountain and rock smashing winds, or

in ground splitting earthquakes, or

in the fires after the earthquakes.

God simply is not to ‘be found’ anywhere, or in anything.

God instead continually surprises us, demonstrating God’s wondrous power and might in unconditional love, a love that reaches so far beyond our tit for tat reckoning among people and our evil efforts to stand high in comforts, status, ‘power’, and wealth, standing high on the backs and heads of those we’ve stomped on to force them below us!

So we are reborn.

How it that possible? …

Well …

It really isn’t, unless, like the wind that we cannot see except in the effect it has on trees, flags, water, and dirt (and sometimes objects like vehicles tossed off highways, or houses shredded into the skies), …

Being born again is not possible unless like the wind the Holy Spirit comes and works God’s Will in us and among us, and then we see how much power the unconditional love of God has … for our hearts, minds and hopes find their focus in being God’s unconditional love for others!

Now that is a miracle, as powerful as the sheer stillness in which God appears to Elijah at Mount Horeb and as the bush that burns without being consumed when God appeared to Moses on that same mountain generations earlier.

It is a miracle that God works every day in us, and among us, and whose effects cannot be ignored, though only faith will help us understand what plays out in us and among us, and around the world, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

Breathe!

Breathe and get ready

to see God! Everywhere!