Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Words of Grace For Today
After, in the prophetic image of Hosea given to him by God, … after God ‘plays the lover of an adulteress.’ For Israel has wandered yet again from God’s love to the adulteress love of other ‘gods’ and other values and other everything. Israel is trying to play being godlets, or at least as if they could choose their ‘god’. So Hosea, as God commands him, takes a harlot as his ‘wife’, to demonstrate to the people how they have taken ‘gods’ and loves that are not God, that are not Love!
Thankfully God does not abandon Israel, nor us (for such wandering is commonly repeated even in these days). God has an afterwards for us. Afterwards is always a time of return to God, seeking God, and being in awe of God, so that we once again know God’s goodness in and among us!
This is the time that God’s gifts of the Spirit enable us to choose, to will and to work for God’s good pleasure … that all people have life, and life abundant!
Which time is this day for you?
Playing with other ‘loves’ and trying to hide from the love of God?
Seeking, walking with God (since God walks with you already), standing in awe of God’s work in and among us, and enjoying God’s goodness for all people?
The deep-freeze will arrive this day, staying minus 20⁰C ish day and night, going to minus 27⁰C at least one night, maybe even minus 30⁰C. A touch of cleansing cold.
Will our hearts become or stay so cold?
Or will we choose to will and work for God’s good pleasure?
As for me and my household (oops, no household, just me) we/I will choose to …
hope that the Spirit will overcome sin in us/me and bring God’s will to be among us, also.
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.’
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.
Are we like that, weighed down, instead of enjoying life!
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.
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!
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.
1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
Words of Grace For Today
There is much that could be done which we know is wrong, and there is much we can do that is right. We pray for the wisdom to know the difference, and the courage to follow our hearts to know what is right. Most of all to forgive ourselves and all other people when what we do is not the best we could have done.
This New Year Day and the 364 days that follow, like all of the years and days before, is an opportunity for us to consider time past, time to come … and
most of all the time that is now, the present.
We take time to make promises to ourselves in the way of New Year Resolutions, which we know …
which we know from lots of experience
we WILL try to keep
and fail to do so
and we WILL try to forget what we know about ourselves,
so that we will be able to fool ourselves in the days ahead about the reality of our own weaknesses
in order that we can on our own make our way forward or pretend to make any progress in our lives on our own.
Happy New Year.
Make the best you can of everything, there is nothing that you can make perfect, yet in trying to make things better than they are, you just might completely miss what is most important: that we are at our best when we know we can at most be humble before God.
God gives us everything we need. So there is so much to do, and so much to be thankful for, and so much to do for others, so that they may live an abundant life.
There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.
1 John 4:14
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
Words of Grace For Today
As the second wave of Covid 19 continues to explode around us with infections, hospitalizations and deaths that overwhelm us …
And finally restrictions are in place that might ‘bend the skyrocketing’ numbers …
Christmas will not be like many before.
There is none like God … the prayer of faith saves the sick, sins are forgiven …
So we trust God, pray fervently and rely on our sins being forgiven by forgiving others
we learn from wisdom available by God’s grace to us all. For example:
On The Dose, a CBC radio program, available in numerous ways including on demand, this past week host Dr. Brian Goldman interviewed psychology professor Steve Joordens who gave advice and guides on how to stay mentally and emotionally healthy through the holidays and beyond. The advice is badly needed by many as resilience to the effects of isolation is plummeting in a free fall as fast as the Covid 19 numbers are skyrocketing.
I had to step away for part of it, such are the demands of my living situation as I balance delicately hour by hour between destruction by ice or by fire, but these are the notes from my daily journal, expanded to make sense to any reader:
1. Plan for next year’s Christmas.
This year do what is necessary to make the holidays (and every day) safe, very safe, as safe as can be, for yourself, for your loved ones, and for all those you all encounter! Many things will not be possible. Be creative this year. Plan next year to do the things you cannot do this year.
This is not like war. We know an end is in sight and recovery to a somewhat familiar normal will come, so we can plan for it. We can make our new normal even better by planning for what is precious!
2. Make intentional social interactions.
We all need to interact with others. Don’t do what is not safe, very safe. Error on the side of safety, for now. That does not mean we cannot have many social interactions. Make your virtual connections real. Listen, share, laugh, cry, ‘be there’ for the intense moments and for the mundane. Reach out to people who may not have someone. Develop ‘pen pals’ or rather phone-pals or zoom-pals.
We are in the same storm, but in different boats. So respect that we all have to cope, each in our own ways. The basics are the same: we need to stay afloat amidst the chaos.
3. Counter Anxiety with Enjoyment.
Cortisol flows when we are anxious and moves us into fight/flight/flee mode in which we do not reason, we just act to save ourselves; or so the instinct works or rather does not work well when fight/flight/flee responses can do nothing to save us, let alone help us.
Endorphins counter the effect of cortisol, so do things and help others do things that bring enjoyment. Climb El Capitan, well … maybe just get a good dose of exercise as you are able. Music moves us to remember good times, brings us to laugh, and dance. Give the gift of music to yourself, and to others. Give music to bring back memories of times before Covid 19.
3. Be a model for children.
Children experience the world through us parents and adults. Do your own work to build up resilience so that you are not anxious around children. They will learn with you to be resilient in the face of extreme challenges. They will learn how to set anxiety aside.
Be a model for other people, too. Adults learn from other adults. We never quite stop learning from others if we stay healthy!
The real dark side that is becoming more and more apparent while everyone is under the stress of Covid 19 restrictions and infections and long term illness and deaths is … is depression, which unchecked is leading to suicides.
Be aware of this and notice your anxiety before it overwhelms you. Be resilient for others. Reach out to others. If you or someone else is at risk of harming themselves, there is help. Reach out. The resources are on the web in many places including www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx , scroll down to GET HELP.
4. Learn to relax at will.
You cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Get online guides to practice how to relax. Practice until you can relax without the guides.
Then notice when you are starting to become anxious, and relax instead.
Use this to prepare for sleep as well.
5. Embrace winter.
Get out. It’s safer outside as far as Covid 19 goes. Be safe in the cold, dress for it. Get vitamin D by taking a walk on a sunny afternoon.
6. Bring wood from the first dry stack. (Oops, sorry that’s just the reminder for me to get wood to stay alive through last night’s -26⁰ C dip into hard freeze.)
Everyone has things that need be done to get through the winter and each month, besides dealing with Covid 19. Ensure you and others are doing those things, too. Work (not to an extreme) helps maintain resilience.
We trust God, pray fervently and rely on our sins being forgiven as we forgive others their sins, and we learn from wisdom available by God’s grace to us all.
Be safe, be wise, do not be anxious or let your hearts be troubled: instead find ways to enjoy life and share it with others, and relax into the comfort of God’s arms. God walks with us each day, each hour. God carries us when we falter.
Christ calls us to be God’s arms for one another; carry one another with respect and love.
[Thanks to The Dose, though I paraphrased considerably and creatively.]
Light one, two, (three), (four) candles to watch for the Messiah, let the light banish darkness ….
[Light One Candle to Watch for Messiah, words by Wayne L. Wold]
In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the mountains.’
Jesus spoke: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Words of Grace For Today
When I am most drained, I head to the mountains. I do not flee. I head there to hike, to camp, to ski, to take photos, to write. The mountains are a place of renewal.
Mountains have long since also been a place where we humans have fled from danger to our lives, for in the mountains we are harder to find, though life there is much more challenging. The world can easily give us more than we can take, where even the renewal of the mountains or the refuge of the mountains is not enough.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
The world, filled with sinful people, gives in lots of horrendous ways.
The world gives Covid 19, generously, killing and maiming millions.
The world gives false security with power, fame, and money, but all of that can evaporate in an instant and become more of a burden than a security for the future or a freedom for one’s todays.
The world gives promises of equality, justice, and opportunity; and then oppresses the masses, knowingly judges and falsely convicts, incarcerates and ruins honest people based on falsehoods and cruelty … The world promises opportunity but offers only opportunity to be enslaved so others can exercise corrupt power.
The world provides the blessings God created it to contain: air, water, food and opportunity to produce and utilize clothing and shelter; but the people in the world ensure they have their own excessive ‘comforts’ and luxuries at the expense of others being robbed of clean air, clean water, nourishing food, adequate clothing and sufficient shelter.
The world invites the masses to work to make a living possible, and then enslaves the masses at a standard of living that is impossible to call humane.
The world comes at us when we speak out and encourage change, equity, and justice. The world comes at us, condemns us for threatening the powerful people’s privileges in order to bring justice to the masses. The world comes at us to kill us with lies and Gaslighting or drive us into exile.
This is nothing new. It’s been humanity’s inhumane manner of executing injustice from the beginning of time.
God gives in many and various ways, all of which are marvellous.
God created and creates a universe that provides enough to support each and every person’s needs to live, and to live abundantly.
God gives us free choice to love, along with the other option, to choose evil.
God frees us from our inevitable choices that are evil, forgiving us, redeeming us, and renewing us so that we can live free from the sins of our past, present and future.
God gives us abundant life, and inspires, equips and calls us to give life abundant to all those around us.
God promises to walk with us no matter what we encounter in life. God’s Word is absolutely trustworthy. God keeps promises, always.
God sends Jesus, God’s own son, to live as an example of how to live life fully, abundantly; sacrificing oneself to provide life to others, forgiving even our enemies, and fearing and loving God, loving oneself and all other people, especially one’s enemies.
Jesus gives us peace, a peace that no one and nothing can take from us.
Therefore we have no cause to be afraid and our hearts need not be troubled … by any of the chaos that churns the world around us.
We get to be the people at peace, sharing life and peace – graciously – with all.
What a life.
It is the life of living renewed, each day, as if we were in the mountains.
It is a life living as refugees, in God’s arms, protected from all the threats of this world.
Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely they are in turmoil for nothing; they heap up, and do not know who will gather.
2 Timothy 1:10
This grace [which saves us and gives us a holy calling] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Words of Grace For Today
The world’s way of living is to try to make something from nothing, to have more for oneself. It is a turmoil like no other, yet no one can know who will get to gather in the rewards for all our striving to make something for nothing. Few of us reap the rewards of our efforts. Some reap the rewards of many others, and claim it is their right. It is not. Most of us give up great effort and see no reward at all.
Only those who labour for Christ are rewarded for their efforts, not with the heaps gathered in by others or by themselves. Rather we who labour for Christ receive first the reward for Jesus’ sacrifice, and then we live dedicated to following Christ’s will for us and others.
This is a holy calling. We no longer lives as a shadow, as part human, part darkness, outlined only by a brighter light. We live as the beings God created us to be, full, embodied, clearly seen in the light, solid even in the darkness of any kind, especially that of evil.
When one toils in order to have enough to provide the basics of life to oneself and one’s family, one can see no end of toil. For there is never enough for oneself and one’s own. When one toils in order to have the basics of life for oneself and one’s own … and for all those around in need, then there is always enough … enough for life that is worth living.
Yesterday I stopped at Walmart to pick up the four grocery items I need to deal with GERDS, for which I hope I have enough money since the gift card I was given had less than a dollar on it.
Done the first isle following the assigned directions to maintain physical distancing, I came face to face with two grocery carts. I stopped and waited for the people behind the carts to place in the rather full carts what they were looking for on the shelves. Then the proceeded to come further down the isle the wrong way towards me. I asked them to turn around, that they were going the wrong way. The first of the two carts instead turned to the side of the isle to try to force his way past me. I turned my cart to the side two inches to close the gap and he rammed my cart. I asked again.
With cursing the two cart drivers turned around, and a third man with them, starting verbally abusing me, threatening me to find me in the parking lot. As I continued with my shopping he continued to yell abuse at me from the next isle, from 20 and 50 feet away. I looked for staff. There were none to be found.
I headed for the checkouts, and while I was trying to deal with the 0 value gift card, the verbal abuse and threats started up again as the group joined the que to the checkouts. I yelled for security, afraid for my life, that this guy might actually follow me out into the parking lot!
Security came, or was it the manager. He was questioned. My credit card transaction was held up as they pulled my id. Finally I was allowed to exit the entrance doors to distance me from this guy.
If I could toil for this guy and the guy in a vehicle going 110kph passed me on my bicycle on the right, on the shoulder of highway 55, … If I could toil for these guys to not be idiots, not put my life at risk with their frustration that things are not going their way, how would that look?
I’m at a loss what to do for idiots, and many more others of so many kinds, who breach the social contract we have, which holds the barbaric nature of humanity at bay with such a thin veneer of civility. That thin veneer suffers attacks everyday, and its amazing that it still holds. If we are not careful, if we are not all careful, it will dissolve all too soon.
Then toiling for the basics of life will be an impossibility for us all, idiots, liars, deceivers, even for former holders of great authority, and also for us saints with a holy calling.
Pray that the Light of Christ will shine soon into the darkness that has descended on these lands and on these people,s here and across the globe, so notable as it is just south of the border.
The Light will expose the evil done, burning it up like chaff, as it finally abolishes death and brings life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Soon and Very Soon, we pray; Come and Deliver us, all. We are ALL in this together.
Whether it seems we stand alone, like the tree, or the ice house, where everyone passes us by, or turns far away from us,
God created us all,
and we are ALL in this together!
Who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry? The Lord sets the prisoners free.
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Words of Grace For Today
Who executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, and sets the prisoners free?
We should all do this each day!
Do we? Not many and not much! We leave this to God to do.
Who frees humans from their captivity, the real captivity that robs life from us, the captivity to sin (to turn away from God and try to make our way in life on our own, almost always at other people’s expense … so that people are oppressed by our efforts to get ahead in life, so that people go hungry while we are well fed and live in superfluous comfort, so that people are imprisoned for telling the truth as we lie in order to gain and retain our ill-gotten privileges and wealth!
Yes! Who executes justice, feeds the hungry and sets prisoners free when we are the oppressors, the one’s who take away food, and lie to have people imprisoned?
We leave it to God!
And God’s people step forward to undo the injustice, hunger, and falsely imprisonment that we cause … and ignore … or worse, celebrate, as if the one’s we’ve done these atrocities to are our enemies.
They are not. They are God’s people, on this sojourney in life with us.
Thanks be to God, God’s Son, Jesus the Christ, came to live, heal, forgive, die, and be resurrected that we might know God chooses to free us from our captivity to sin.
The Son frees us, and we are free indeed!
Free to be the one’s to bring true justice to the oppressed so no one need fear their neighbour or the authorities’ bullying, false arrests, and robbing of life; to feed the hungry so no one is hungry or without the basic necessities of life; and to set the prisoners free so that no one is falsely convicted or falsely imprisoned, and more …
so that all people will know that God’s Son has set us all free from captivity to sin … we can trust that God will bring out of us all the goodness that God created us and all of creation to be.
That’s such a fundamental revolution in the way people think, speak and write, and act that so many people resist this freedom.
And the injustice, hunger for daily bread, and false imprisonments continue and even increase.
It is no solution to turn on (and try to exterminate like the pests they are) the bullies, the oppressors, those who take, deprive others of, and hoard the daily food available in creation, and those who hold others in prison cells or poverty in a reserve or in a land distant and separate. Others will only replace those who are exterminated, and those who exterminated others simply become the oppressors.
God wants a victory for all, a double victory (as Martin Luther King Jr. called it), a victory where everyone is free. God does not delight in an evil person’s death. God delights in Jesus setting them free.
What else did we think God created all this universe, and us in it, for, but for us all to live, choose, love, and hope freely … all by Grace alone?
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
Words of Grace For Today
God requires of us?
We must be doers of the word?
Luther described James as a straw Gospel. Like a straw house that the wind blows away with ease and fire burns quickly away. All chaff, no substance.
Before God requires anything of us, Before we ‘get’ to be doers of the Word, God acts.
God acts by creating us, making us able to love, which requires free choice, which means we sin and are bound to choose to sin, so God acts to forgive us, redeem us, and set us free to love, choose, sin, and God walks with us to forgive us, redeems us and set us free again and again to love ….
Always God acts first. Then we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to do what is ‘required’ of us:
to fear God, to walk in God’s ways, to serve God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength!
Make no mistake: it is everyone’s obligation to fear and love God, to walk in God’s ways, and to serve God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength: to be DOERS of God’s Word. We do not get a pass to sit on the sidelines of life and allow EVIL to have it’s way with us and others. We are to WORK against EVIL, in all it’s forms of injustice, violence, and degradation of life.
We do not get to sit on the sidelines like those in Hottelstedt who watched train load after train load of people in cattle cars and box cars pass through their town and not work to stop the obvious extermination of masses of people, genocide to provide for a ‘pure’ Aryan nation. After the war was lost, they excused themselves that they had no idea what was happening just a few kilometres away.
Our duty includes being curious about the work of evil around us, to speak up, to speak out, and to work to stop it. We use Grace and forgiveness, giving God opportunity to rejoice at the redemption of yet more sinners.
It’s not so easy as following rules. It requires everything of us! Thank God life, all of life, has an honourable and glorious purpose! To serve God and be the ones who bring God’s will to actuality here and now … by being the bearers of forgiveness, redemption, and freedom.
Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’
Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking.
Words of Grace For Today
You have chosen … and are witnesses against yourselves … to serve the Lord!
Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on practices of piety that are claimed to bring you a good relationship with God and salvation.
There are always challenges in life. Covid 19 is one serious one that everyone shares … and everyone suffers from everyone else’s stupidity in not being one who protects against it. It is the community maker or breaker kind of virus. We cannot as much protect ourselves as we can protect others. We must rely on others to protect us. One person cannot protect anyone or any group. The weakest, stupidest link in the chain causes the infection to spread. And many weak links allow the virus to spread like wildfire in a dry, tinder-laden forest.
Covid 19 protection demands of us practices, not unlike piety (for one has to be consistent, one might say ‘religious’, about keeping vigilant with these practices). These practices for other people’s protection must be engaged in to save us all.
While we each can and must do things to protect ourselves, they are not enough by themselves. We each require many other people to engage in the protection practices to keep us safe. We never know who it may be that we need to be consistent and diligent for us to be safe.
We are not in control of our own safety, our own ability to survive this pandemic. It is in other peoples’ hands.
We are less in control of our relationship with God. Anyone who claims we control our own salvation with our choices is an utter fool, trying to entice us down a path of human effort to become godlets for ourselves. Only God can save us from our sin. At most we can strive to respond, and hope that occasionally the Holy Spirit will pull from us the miracle of us actually doing something for God in this world!
We can choose to serve God. We can be witnesses against and for ourselves. It is good to so respond and choose and strive to serve God. As far as our relationship with God and our salvation go, it counts for next to nothing, because we never can be consistent in serving God alone! We continually break away from and work against God. We are, all our lives long, captive to sin. Only God can save us.
That said, God does save us, through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ. And by the power of the Holy Spirit God promises to pull out of us miracles, miracles that we, pitiful us, can actually do God’s will on this earth, at least occasionally.
Strive we must. Striving has it’s own rewards, not unlike hard exercise to provide the basics of life for ourselves, our loved ones, and for others, especially our enemies and the needy, the stranger, and the homeless.
It’s another day. Another night. Every day has its opportunities and beauty. Every night its beauty and rest for recovery. Hard work is before us. May the Holy Spirit use it to accomplish God’s will also among us!