Zero Sum Or Prodigious Blessings

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Life is about seeing blessings in all things,

Looking also down to see beauty.

Isaiah 53:12

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Luke 6:28

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Words of Grace For Today

If life is a zero-sum ‘game’, then the goal is to get ahead by whatever means, destroying as many enemies and people who get in your way.

With the earth overburdened with nearly 9 billion people, we are pressing the limits of what the earth can sustain, with our ‘great’ life style, comforts, and luxuries. It is the generations old solution to compete for the ‘limited resources’, and to ‘take no prisoners’ along the way.

We humans thus reduce life to a zero-sum ‘game’, a project of limited resources which each person or family or nation needs to seek to gain for themselves before others do, or to take them from others if they have the resource you want.

It is hard to imagine in this zero sum ‘game’ that anyone will stop to bear the sins of the many and make intercession for the transgressors, or bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you.

Since God did not create life to be a zero sum ‘game’, rather that life is abundant for all if all share what is available, it is obvious that we will bless those who curse us, and pray for our abusers and the transgressors.

Life is a project of being grateful.

God has provided plenty … for everyone,

including blessings.

Life is not sustained by things, consumables, resources, comforts, or possessing more than others, or enjoying luxuries.

Life is sustained in being God’s blessings for others.

That changes the colour of life from a zero sum ‘game’ to a ‘game’ of giving to others what they need in order to have an abundant life (which is not the same as a life of comfort or luxury).

We get to celebrate all God’s blessings for all people, even those who curse us for not playing their ‘game’.

A Humble Cottage Enjoyed … Or … Hellish Greed Suffered

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Humble Cottage View

Spectacular

Proverbs 23:17

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always continue in the fear of the Lord.

Luke 23:34

Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

Words of Grace For Today

Those who want more, demand more, comforts in life will always take short cuts and dishonest paths to get more, tramping down others to get and get and get … for such wants are never satisfied but always want yet another and another and another. It is a hellish way to live.

Reminds me of the fisher’s wife who always wanted more.

The fisher meets a magical fish who grants his wishes, as he repeats more and more his wife’s wish to have more than their humble fishing cottage, which becomes a mansion, then a palace, then a ruler’s grand house, the pope’s cathedral …

until she wishes to be God and live in God’s house

and he returns from that last visit to the magical fish to find his wife living happily (or not) in their original humble fishing cottage by the sea.

We are to continue to fear God, know our place, live everyday filled with gratitude for all we have, and work hard to provide others what they need to enjoy an abundant life (as God provides us). We start by forgiving them their sins (as God has forgiven us – when we did not know what we were/are doing.)

In Our Sin God’s Greatness Is Most Clear

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Cracks Let’s the Light In, The Shadows Point to God’s Greatness

We May Think Sin Keeps Us From God

It Is In Our Sin That God

Most Clearly Demonstrates God’s Greatness

Deuteronomy 3:24

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might; what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours!

Colossians 1:27

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Words of Grace For Today

It matters not how much we’ve experienced of God’s great wonders as blessings poured out on us, there is always going to be more and more and more. We cannot know everything that God has in mind for us; the goodness and blessings flow without end.

Jesus’ contemporaries expected that God’s blessings would flow only to the Israelites. The surprise and unexpected comes after Jesus’ death when it is made clear that God’s blessings flow even to those who are not Jews. Paul did Jesus’ work well, as did others, ensuring that Gentiles and Jews alike knew God would bless all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles.

Today, we also try to restrict God’s blessings to only some people. As people have since the beginning of time, we try to claim we are better, more blessed, by God than others, which somehow explains that while others do not have God’s favour, we, even if we do not deserve it, are God’s chosen few.

False pride in all that, and to ensure we are not found out to be no better than others, we try to make others out to be much more terrible than they really are. Lies, deception and all that goes around freely.

This is what we do, unabashedly sinful to try to make ourselves appear to be better than we are.

God knows all this about us. Even so God exercises grace upon grace for us, forgiving and renewing us to live as God’s own children, God made saints.

Such riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in [us], the hope of glory, are made known to the Gentiles … exactly in this way: the Gentiles have no expectations of God’s blessings, unlike the Jews. So the Gentiles, when they know God blesses them without end, know that this is God’s real work for us all, this is the sure demonstration of God’s wonderful Grace – the greatest work of God, that the undeserving receive God’s favour and blessings.

This is the good news for us: we do not deserve anything good from God, and still we receive blessings upon blessings.

Then the big surprise comes: God blesses those we most think do not deserve God’s attention yet alone all of God’s blessings poured endlessly out upon them.

What a surprise, a surprise of all God’s goodness for us … and for all people.

“Hearing About” compared to “Knowing First Hand”

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The beauty of polar cold,

deep freeze polar cold,

first hand.

Job 42:5-6

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Acts 9:3-5

Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’

Words of Grace For Today

My father served as the first civilian doctor to winter over at McMurdo when it ceased to be a military base. He tells of being asked if he’d like to hop a ride with one of the specialists out on a snowmobile. The wonders of light against the ice and snow, the distant mountains in one direction, the ocean in the other, and the shear size all came through in the email to us ‘kids’. And it was cold, real cold.

Living then on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia the winters were cold and impossible for travel if it dipped below freezing and snowed. There were few if any snow tires on the vehicles there, and lots of balding summer tires, so the cars slipped and slid, jamming up the hillside roads, and even the gentle slopes along the coastal water. I could only remember cold from my previous ‘lives’ in Minnesota and Alberta.

Before he hopped on the back of the snowmobile, my father suited up covering every stitch of skin with protective gear. He did not say they travelled fast. It would be hard enough on the machinery at a reasonable pace. It was just that at -75⁰ C everything is a huge bit different…. He missed one small piece between a glove layer and a jacket (if I remember that location correctly). He felt nothing besides the regular cold and returned with a severe frostbit patch of skin. He was fortunate not to loose a piece of flesh to the cold-burn.

Cold, so cold that it burns skin dead with freezing very quickly. We can hear of it, but until one feels the cold it is hard to imagine how powerful the cold really is.

A hard deep cold has hit the prairies extending across the central US as well. It was down to -34⁰ here last night and will get colder yet through the next two nights if forecasts are to be believed. Still a short walk outside is easy, a longer work session possible, even a long walk is doable with the warmest clothing. Cold so cold it freezes skin without any pain is a whole other level of cold.

Like the jogger who went out in shorts for his morning 3 mile run in a deep freeze and returned to have both legs amputated they were so damaged from the freezing.

Saul is enthusiastic and powerful with letters to pursue, detain and punish heretics, followers of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Then Jesus shows himself first hand to Saul. That transforms Saul’s life of persecuting followers of The Way, to one of Jesus’ most dedicated disciples, spreading the Good News around the east and north of the Mediterranean Sea, which proves to be the birthing of the Christian Church beyond Jerusalem, which sets the ground work for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach us even in this millennium.

Job loses everything, wife, children, wealth, and even his health. His friends bring him encouragement to confess his sins. The widespread belief is that if someone suffers at all it is a result of that person’s own sins. There may be no relief from the suffering, so the only thing to do is to confess and beg God for forgiveness.

This belief is alive and well today under many guises. It is a handy way to blame those who suffer for their suffering, to avoid one’s own responsibility for others’ sufferings, and to convince oneself that one is above such misfortune (because one does not sin like ‘that’ person has!)

Job knows he has not sinned in such a way as to have deserved the horrific loses and suffering he has faced. Job has heard all about God, believes in God, and prays to God (and yells in defiance at God)!

Then God appears face to face with Job!

That changes everything!

Job responds: now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

It’s deep freeze cold. We do not know cold though until we experience it in person.

It’s God’s creation. We can believe in God, and pretend we’ve earned our place before God. Then God appears in person to us and … we know how undeserving we are of God’s Grace and …

We know first hand how wondrous and life-changing God’s Grace is for us and …

We know God’s Grace is nothing if we do not share it with everyone, as freely and as graciously as God has shared it with us!

Then there is beauty in every piece of life, just as there is beauty in the cold of coldest deep freeze polar cold.

Life of Spirit, OR …

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Sun Sets …

Is it the end!

Or is it a wondrous beginning?

Isaiah 61:1-2

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Words of Grace For Today

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me …

This is the best of all possibilities for us, that the Spirit of the Lord God be upon us.

This is not something for us, ourselves. This is for …

… the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners, and those who mourn.

Actually that is a partial list that stands in for those who need us, those who desperately need someone to give them aide, freedom, and/or hope. God sends us to bring God’s blessings to those whom God loves and wishes that, despite all that would rob life from them, they would have life and have it abundantly.

God sends us.

God sends us and blesses us to be able to comfort those who mourn, to proclaim good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. That this is the day of the Lord.

Wonders and wonders.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon us … the Lord has anointed us

Nothing can be more marvellous for us.

The sun rises, the sun sets.

We can see creation falling apart all around us: the effects of sin and evil, corruption and deceit, and angst and despair.

OR

We can see the wonders of God acting all around us, bringing hope, comfort, liberty, release, and God’s time in all we encounter.

Which do you wish to live by?

Life Is Always God’s Miracle for Us

Monday, January 18, 2021

Creative We Can Be Manipulating Existence

Existence and Life We Cannot Create

Only God Creates Existence and Life

Nehemiah 9:6

And Ezra said: ‘You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’

Romans 11:36

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Words of Grace For Today

There is much that we can create:

Paintings, sculptures, pottery, photography.

Dance, theatre, film.

Novels, short stories, poetry.

Our spirit flows from us as we create, and as others take in our creation they certainly can be inspired. The spirit flows.

As parents we are privileged and responsible and accountable for nurturing, guiding and inspiring our children to become healthy adults. Teachers, coaches, and pastors/rabbi/priests are privileged to assist and participate in nurturing children. Yet we do not inspire life into children, we merely help God’s given spirit grow.

We cannot, no matter how hard we try, inspire, on our own, our creations to breathe. God alone can bring what is not alive, to breathe and come to life, to dream and envision the possibilities of joy and hope.

God, on the other hand, creates in such great quantity and quality that we can only be awestruck. So much in the universe does not breathe, does not carry and share spirit. God also creates things that live, that breathe, that smile and dream.

God gives that to each of us!

We can only respond by being awestruck. We can only appropriately respond by worshipping God, our creator. All the goodness we enjoy comes from God. As we remember that we are God’s creatures owing God everything, life is as God created us to live it: life is life abundant.

As we share with others what God has given us, so that everyone enjoys life abundantly, we enjoy more and more what God intended for us to experience: grace and love.

Another great thing about creation is that that God’s creation is held together by grace and love.

That makes for a wonder filled day … each day!

There’s ‘Snow Time . . . . . . Like Now Time

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Just a little of the snow stuck

but it’s heavy

weighing done the branches.

Are we like that, weighed down, instead of enjoying life!

Psalm 95:2-3

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

1 Timothy 6:14-16

He will bring about the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

Words of Grace For Today

Sometimes there is little time.

Still,

Give God thanks.

A foot and half plus of heavy snow fell. I had a full day, with little time to write.

Still there were many things to be thankful for, many more to laugh at, and some I just had to shake my head at. One over-arching thing keeps getting proven over and over: God has a sense of humour and keeps hoping for us … why else would we humans be left to do such ridiculously, humorously, crazy things that both fill the news and are apparent right in front of one’s eyes … too often done by the one who the eyes belong to!

Patch Adams had it right: the unexpected joyful thing gets people to notice a bit more of life, and life is wonderful. There is every reason to be “excessively happy.” So why not be that for as many people as you can?

God is everywhere watching, a Light that powers the universe, a Light so great we cannot behold it, so we need not wait. Here and now (in each moment of each day) is the right time and place to make a joyful noise to God!

Help! Help! Help! Finding our way in Covid times.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Path of Our Life,

When God Carries Us,

We Have So Much to be Thankful for

Psalm 119:37

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Words of Grace For Today

Eldon worked hard, sought to save as many people as possible wasted money. Yet his life went off in all sorts of directions as he sought to find purpose, meaning, or some fulfillment in life. He chased things that some would call extras or luxuries, just to have something fill up his life. He avoid alcohol and drugs, yet his addiction to things of comfort, pleasure and status had him deep in it’s grasp.

Knowing little, but that his addiction was killing him, he sought any help he could. He even prayed, Lord save me from my addiction. Show me the way to life as you created us to live it. Show me what you have created me to be and do with this life, this life that is so empty.

Jane grew up in the church, was confirmed, participated in the youth group activities and studies. Bright as anyone she knew she went off the university, on to grad school, with full scholarships. She applied to study history for a Ph.D. at Yale and was given a fellowship. While she had always applied herself to study beyond each course, the course work being rather easy for her, she found the Ph.D. studies all encompassing and demanding, so that for the first time in her life she was afraid of failing. She worked long hours each day, through every weekend. Three years into the work she was grinding away at her thesis when it all came tumbling down on her.

She tried to study and could barely see letters on the page. She tried to remember what she’d just read and made notes about, and it would not come to her. She tried to sleep and she could barely sleep.

She went to the doctor, who did a full work up but everything tested fine. The doctor did confirm that Jane was unable to focus on anything. It was as if she’d become an idiot overnight, and it stuck. It was so frustrating. She went to a therapist, who was kind and knowledgeable, but there was no help to give Jane. Finally she took a two week trip back home. Walking her old home town high school paths, nothing seemed to bring her to be able to read and remember.

She went to see her pastor, who listened thoughtfully to everything Jane told her. Her pastor said she had no idea what was happening to Jane. She advised simple things, stop to breath, say morning prayers, sing her favourite hymns, go to confession, come and partake in the Eucharist.

Jane then confided in her pastor that she had stopped going to church when the work load for her doctorate because so demanding.

Her pastor pointed her to a verse from Colossians:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Her pastor pointed out that no matter what else was going on with her, Jane still had so much to be thankful for. She suggested keeping a daily journal of everything that she had and could be thankful for.

Jane started a Gratitude Journal, making entries each morning. Weeks later after returning to the university and her teaching duties (part of her fellowship) Jane realized she was less stressed about her studies, and she could sit and read and remember.

She dove back into her thesis work.

It was decades later when Jane crossed paths with Eldon, who was still praying for relief from his addiction as life meant nothing if he had not acquired something new that day.

Eldon could see how Jane was kind, thoughtful, and assured of herself, even as she took on some of the toughest challenges at the university where she was a full professor, shortly to take over as head of the history department. He asked how she managed to appear so … so … maybe it was that she looked so content.

She said she always found ten things to be thankful for each morning to enter into her Gratitude Journal. After that no matter what happened, she reminded herself all day long, that God was good to her. The rest was relatively easy, even if it was nearly impossible.

Today, remaining alert and consistently doing what is required to minimize the spread of Covid 19 after nearly a full year of it, may seem almost impossible. It need not, if we remember to always be thankful for all we receive from God.

God Promises, Amid Covid 19, to Heal Us at Our Core!

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Light

of Christ Will Reach Us, Save Us, Heal and Renew Us

Now what are we going to do to heal well?

What are we going to do with renewed health?

Psalm 62:7

On God rests my deliverance and my honour; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

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

Trump encourages his supporters to storm the Capitol to disrupt the democratic process of the Senate certifying the electoral college vote, giving Biden the presidency in 2 weeks and Trump the boot to face charges and lawsuits aplenty. It is Trump’s mess, his supporters’ mess, the whole country’s mess. Corruption has run rampant, and false news runs freely. This is the result: people who know there is corruption and who believe the false news about where and who is corrupt, so they support someone who is even more corrupt … and dangerous.

Fear is no way forward. It is what brings empires, dynasties, and families to their demise, while destroying so many as they fall.

It is all too easy to live, trusting one’s own cunning, strength, and position to ensure one’s own deliverance and the deliverance of one’s family and friends; or to blame oneself or others for one’s own and one’s family’s demise.

Surely there are enough enemies, if one has lived life with integrity, who will do one in.

The truth is, though, there is only one who can deliver us from all evil. This is our God, Creator, Redeemer, and Inspirer.

The pertinent pressing question for our living each day is, now that Jesus’ story affirms God’ Grace and Love for us, God’s adoption of us as children, God’s blessing us so that we can be a blessing to all people and all creation … the question is: what are we going to do!

There is not a one of us, having lived a few years with integrity and having endured the onslaught of enemies, who do not have the scars, the drooping hands, the weakened knees, and the staggered crooked gait to show for it. God promises are sure: God will heal us.

As we heal it is our task each day to raise our heads with gratitude, lift our hands to kind action, and lift other’s burdens to strengthen our knees. We need to practice walking straight, so that we will be well as God heals us.

Heal us God will, ready or not.

How then do we wish to be when we are healed: all lame and bent, or renewed with grace, kindness and love? It has less to do with our physical bodies, than with the shape of our hearts, thoughts and dreams.

What shape are you in today? What shape do you want to be when the sun sets, and night enfolds your ways and thoughts? What will you do this day, so that as God heals all that ails you, you will heal as a whole being, filled with grace, kindness and love?

Facing Covid – Seeking, Abiding – Being Found

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Rose

In Winter

God Gives Every Reason

To be Filled with Gratitude

Our Wishes Become God’s Wishes For Us

Psalm 119:94

I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.

John 15:7

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Words of Grace For Today

Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you!

At first glance it looks like we get carte blanch requests; our every wish will be fulfilled!

That result flows from an equation that starts from life only as we might presume to know it, that everything about us is chosen and determined by ourselves or others working against us. In this setting God (supposedly) promises that our every wish can bring us fulfillment and life abundant.

That is not the start of the equation for God’s promise that all our wishes will be fulfilled.

The promise flows from blessed life as God created us to be alive: the ‘equation starts’ with a life of seeking to understand God’s Word, God’s precepts.

The ‘equation starts’ start with us abiding in Jesus, God’s Word of life.

That of course sounds like we need to earn our way into God’s favour and blessings.

Yet, we know very well that we cannot earn God’s favour and blessings, God promises us them first, as free gift.

Given God’s favour and blessings, we then can choose to respond with gratitude, and that is us abiding in God’s Word.

Full of gratitude, abiding in God’s Word, our wishes are not the same as when life is lived as if we or others determined everything about our lives.

Instead our wishes flow in line with God’s good will for us …

and then of course, all our wishes, being God’s wishes for us, will be done for us!

Wonders abound in so many ways.