Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 13

Saturday, June 13, 2020

In the Fog

Our Darkness

Christ’s Light

Zechariah 12:10

I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

Words of Grace For Today

Compassion and supplication,

to look and mourn, to mourn as for an only child.

What profound grief … to mourn the loss of a loved one,

a child no less, and

an only child.

.

..

When we are caught in deep emotion, especially deep sadness, despair or grief, we do not function well.

And it is good to hear again and again that at these times

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be there with us, interceding for us, helping us to ask for what we really need.

Even the Holy Spirit is caught by our sadness, despair and grief. The Spirit sighs so deeply words cannot express the Spirit’s empathy for us.

No matter what, there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God. When we do not remember this, the Holy Spirit carries us until we can remember.

Thanks be to God, for into the darkest days of our lives the Light of Christ shines.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – June 1

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Rock

The Rock

Jesus, the only Rock of Salvation

Isaiah 44:8

Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

Matthew 10:27

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Words of Grace For Today

Whistle blowers are not generally well received or liked by others. People simply do not like to have their nefarious activities exposed to the light of the public’s scrutiny … and possibly to face criminal charges for crimes committed.

Investigative reporters put everything on the line to search out sources, for stories that people of power may not want to have published, and which usually some people of ordinary living desperately need to have published, so that things can be set right for them, at least somewhat.

We do not need to work investigating to get the story we live to tell. Jesus story is an old, old story. We can hear it in many different voices and settings.

The story has been told since the days of old.

Jesus tells us to tell the story again. And again.

And again!

We are God’s witnesses to other people that God sent Jesus to save us from our sins, to give us new life, and to show us we no longer need to scapegoat or gaslight others in order to gain peace for ourselves.

The Holy Spirit brings us peace. We reside in it, abide in it, and when we sojourn, it stays with us. It is as permanent with us as the cross on our foreheads at baptism that never goes away. Claimed as God’s children we need not fear anything.

Not a virus, not anything.

Which does not mean that we are stupid about protecting ourselves and others from the virus as so many people are, walking as close to others as is convenient, breathing on others without further thought, and loudly telling everyone that there is no virus here!

When we are not afraid, then we can be wise about protecting ourselves and those we live with from the virus. The recommended precautions are just a beginning. We are ever vigilant … and always we pray, God protect us, for you alone are God, the rock of our living, the rock of our salvation.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 22

Friday, May 22, 2020

Grass is Green -er

Trees and Grass are Green

Fog is grey.

People come in Genders.

Colour or Gender

do not

Determine Sinfulness

nor

Criminality.

Goodness is Fully Dependent on God’s Grace!

Jeremiah 31:20

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.

Luke 15:20

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Words of Grace For Today

Ephraim is in trouble often with God, for God speaks often against him.

The selfish son is in trouble, deeply with his father, for he’s taken his inheritance before his father is even close to the end of his life. Then he’s squandered the entire inheritance.

That sounds like it’s not far from our own stories, each of ours. We take what we can claim as ours and run, and get into trouble, with our fathers, with God, – with our mothers, siblings, extended families, the community we live in, the church … and with God all over again. There are a great number of variations to the story, and every single one of us can be described by one variation or another.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is – well first a few thoughts about God as father. The image of God as father in itself is a very healthy image, one to embrace with profound joy. There’s nothing quite like the goodness of a father directed at us, loving, forgiving, accepting and inspiring us to live even better than we thought we could.

The damage done by the image of God as father is not in the image itself. It is in the abuse of positions of power occupied by men for centuries. Every good thing can be perverted. This is no exception.

The problem comes when we toss the baby out with the dirty bath water.

The abuse needs to be identified, clearly named and condemned … and ended.

The problem comes when we stupidly think that the abuse of the image of God as father is somehow made better when we replace it with abuse of the image of God as mother.

The problems multiply astronomically when we think that naming men as the problem, while ignoring the same kind of abuse, perversions, and destruction is perpetrated by women. The flavours, smells, and theme of the abuse and perversions can sometimes be collated to the gender of the abuser, but it’s just superficial.

Point blank: men abuse women. AND women abuse men. AND men abuse men. AND women abuse women. AND … God knows this all. So should everyone of us.

AND all of it is evil, and needs to be stopped. ALL abuse when it runs without restraint ends up killing it’s victims (and often the perpetrators, too.) A person is just as dead if they are murdered by physical violence as when they are driven to despair with no escape except suicide.

ME-TOO is all wrong, in that it only deals with one flavour of abuse, and ignores the rest. It is perhaps more destructive in that it sets so many people up to think that abuse is dealt with … so that the rest of it can continue unabated, the victims abandoned, the deaths unnoticed and uncounted.

The bishop last year said that we (this synod) are just starting to recognize and work on the issues of women being treated equally.

I spoke up, as I was able: some of us have been working on that for more than three decades, with everything we are, as men making sure the women in our lives get every opportunity possible and a fair deal (as much as possible.) It’s taken great sacrifice, and we’ve been sidelined often as irrelevant, our contributions raising children with great skill, grace and success belittled, and our words of giving attention to all issues of abuse ridiculed.

The challenge now is to acknowledge all kinds of abuse, by men and women, of men and women. To look at the root of it all: the need to scapegoat others as a means to advancing ourselves in life.

Back to the passages that speak profoundly of God’s unconditional acceptance of sinful sons. The translation to God’s unconditional acceptance of daughters needs be imagined, added to these stories. The stories though are powerful.

Who is your God? Not the God you say you believe in, but the God that your thoughts, words and actions belie you trust and believe in! Who is the God you live your life in response to?

Is your life a reflection of God, the universally, unconditionally accepting and forgiving father who, of a wayward son, says “I will surely have mercy on him!”

Does your life reflect the God who is portrayed in Jesus’ story as the prodigal father, who seeing his self-destructive, wasteful, wanton son approach, “filled with compassion runs and put his arms around him and kisses him?”

How marvellous it is to read these passages and know that God welcomes us, even when we have rebelled and wasted our lives and those around us!

The challenge is now:

Are we ready to be that welcoming father for all those people who have walked away from Grace and Goodness, and now desperately need a morsel of what we have in order to survive? Can we imagine being that overjoyed in welcoming back our wayward sons, daughters, parents, extended family, community members, church members, others known and strangers, even refugees and immigrants … and even those of other faiths or of no faith at all?

As we are able to do that, en-mass, then abuse, perversions and destruction of people will finally be dealt with in a manner so that they can be ended.

And all of us will be able to joyously embrace images of God as father, as mother, as Jesus the man, and as the Holy Spirit, wind, breath, and fire – lighting one under us to get on with the work of God’s Kingdom here and now.

Ah, what makes that all possible is that our God is a God of compassion and mercy, who rushes to greet us when we return to him!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Devotions – May 20

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Poor

Struggle to Survive as They are Able

.

.

.

Leaves Up Close

Like the Poor

Need to be Recognized

First

Proverbs 29:7

The righteous know the rights of the poor; the wicked have no such understanding.

Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.

Words of Grace For Today

The rights of the poor

are known by those who are righteous, who seek to do God’s will,

but they are unrecognized by those who are wicked, who turn from God’s will.

This is a statement about what we now call universal human rights: that all people, wealthy or poor, powerful or weak, privileged or disadvantaged all have the same rights. These rights are everyone’s simply because they exist. They are inherent rights.

No one can give these rights, nor can anyone take them away or assign them to someone else. They are inalienable rights.

These do not fully exist. For the sinfulness of humans always leave those who are privileged and powerful to ignore or pervert the rights of others, poor or wealthy, in order to gain an advantage for themselves. Though our Canadian court system is supposed to uphold these inalienable rights, they tromp all over the rights of the disadvantaged. Minorities, especially First Nations and Metis are dis-proportionally convicted and incarcerated. Decades ago men used to bring their wives to court and have them convicted or worse detained in psychiatric facilities (drugged out of their minds) for years without end. Now women can do this to men, and the police, the churches, and the courts oblige them convicting on lies and against hard evidence, using W.D. as a full means to override truths with the biased will to convict no matter, just as long as the woman will lie somewhat convincingly under oath.

Those who are wicked, who think that since they break the laws and act in blatantly unethical manners, therefore everyone does, easily dismiss false convictions as if they are not a concern, or rather false convictions are SOP.

Those who strive to do God’s will, do recognize that even the courts are corrupt, falsely convicting innocent poor people routinely. And with the routine false conviction, courts blatantly invite police and women to freely lie in court. Worse they are free to gaslight their chosen victims, and to invite other bystanders to do the same.

Covid 19 makes this blatant perversion less of a priority to be dealt with than it ever was. Good people turn their eyes to ‘more important things, like the community surviving this pandemic.

Doch the righteous always recognize, work to protect, and struggle to uncover the abuses of universal human rights.

Who do we choose to be today? We will not always choose to deal with injustice and follow through, sinners as we remain. The beginning, and sometimes the best we can do is to remember. Remember how God saved us, and how God desires to use us to save others from injustices, and abuses of their basic rights.

God does recognize and reward our efforts. God already gives us salvation, freely, overwhelmingly, without reserve. We are in God’s family, God’s own people. God recognizes and rewards our efforts to support the saints (the God-made saint in each of us baptized people.) The rewards never end, and include contentment with life, a clear conscience, a pure heart, loving empathy, and renewed energy for life.

These rewards are part of the abundant life God promises us.

Rest in God’s promise, and work like the dickens to protect and keep everyone aware that universal, inherent and inalienable rights for everyone always need protecting.

This will inform our efforts to deal with Covid 19, as well. We bring protection, treatment, and (eventually) the ‘cure’/vaccine equally to everyone.

Then

God’s Rewards

Abound for Those

Who Recognize Universal Rights also for the Poor

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 17

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rutted Ways Ahead

Lost in the Ice

Canoe Ready

or Set in the Comfortable and Familiar

The Challenge to be

Who we are is Constant

1 Kings 8:58

Incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors.

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

There are so many things to do to discipline oneself to live well.

The challenges are never ending, sometimes overwhelming, other times simple. Life without challenges is not life. The questions constantly before us are:

A. Who are we?

B. Whose are we?

Every other question is subsumed into these, and the answers we give to every other question with our living (thinking, dreaming, planning, organizing, talking, writing, and doing – or not) are also the answer to these two questions.

Once we realize and confess that we are

A. wretched sinners saved by Grace alone (not by anything we do/not do/are/aren’t), transformed continually to be Saints, and

B. God’s people by baptism into Christ,

Then we have our work cut out for us to live out the promise God creates us to be for other people: That we will bear God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus’ saving us all, also them.

So we continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ, as we are established in faith.

We incline our hearts to God walking in Christ’s Way, keeping his commandments to love our neighbour and ourselves and our enemies as he has loved us.

And, as the saints in light who have gone before us have taught us, we live with overflowing gratitude.

Covid 19 has put somethings in perspective, slowed us down, kept us home, given us time to see ourselves and our families up close for hours on end, or to submerse ourselves in solitude (for those of us who live alone.)

The challenges are still great, and they tax us in new ways, and they give us new opportunities to discover who we are, and whose we are.

For this we give thanks!

The Fog of Life

Makes the Light of Christ

Visible

We Reflect God’s Perfection Imperfectly

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – May 14

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Through the fog

See

the Sticks and Stones

of Reality.

Job 13:9

Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives another?

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!

Words of Grace For Today

An exam, sample exams, test scores, failing marks, proving oneself.

All of these come into play for human examinations.

God works differently.

First, there is actually a kind of failing, of standing against the work of the Holy Spirit so doggedly and determinedly and persistently and … or something else (we simply do not know what it is that we can do to fail.) Certainly we know we all fail to be good enough; we are saved only by the Grace of God, through faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

That’s exactly the breaking point of our trying to determine when we fail God’s Grace so completely that we are outside God’s abundant love. We humans cannot judge it.

All we know is that God’s Grace is for us and for all others, even the most wretched sinners … as we all were before Jesus saves us …

and

still are!

There are serious deceptions that humans carry out in daily life to get the better of others for themselves. None of these work on God.

God sees right through us to the core and all the way to the core and back. God knows everything about us.

If we were planning … no (it is not IF, it is since … so) Since we all plan to try to deceive God about ourselves this is definitely something to worry about, to be fearful of, and to become existentially anxious about.

The freedom we seek is to realize our attempts at deceiving God and how futile the are, and to once again throw ourselves into God’s mercy.

We can test ourselves. If we are so out of touch with our place with God it is a good place to start some finite self-awareness. The real test has already been played out on the cross, and with the resurrection we have all passed … on Jesus’ coat-tails.

When we realize how dependent our existence is on God’s Grace, then we more often, perhaps more quickly, give up on our efforts to deceive God … and other humans … about ourselves. We learn to point to God’s Grace, and offer it to others.

The greatest freedom is ours when we no longer need to depend on our own performances at all the tests life puts in front of us. We can boldly, courageously, faithfully, and lovingly trust that Jesus is with us each step of the way … and use all our energies and focus to work to give God glory in all we attempt, give God thanks in all we accomplish, and be even more grateful that we survive all the times our attempts fail.

Covid 19 is more than a test of our health. It is a test of our ability to work with and for other humans. We will fail. We will succeed, only as God gives us the abilities and we work diligently with them.

Covid 19 may be in many ways a test of our faith.

Consider that every day we face tests of our faith.

Consider there is much we each can do, even in these times.

Testing our faith does not produce a grade or pass/fail. It is not a measure of our pasts. It is a preparation for the future. It gives us a measure compared to the saints in light, which helps us answer the question, “Is there more we can do! If so, show us!”

Prepare us. Guide us. Rescue us.

one day at a time.

Ain’t life wonderful!

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – April 30

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Perspective Made Clear:

God blesses,

Humans mess’s

Grace alone saves us.

Psalms 73:1

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.

1 John 3:21-22

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

Words of Grace For Today

Covid 19 puts many things into perspective.

When our boys were young they came asking if they could have coffee. They were intelligent and persistent. Being occupied and having uttered a few no’s! already I said to them that if they drank coffee they would die. Sort of true and it bought me some peace.

Not for long. They came back a few days later insisting that they be given coffee, it smelled so good! I said no, and repeated the half truth from before. If you drink coffee you will die. … Well, OK back then, a recent study had said that coffee was real bad for you, and worse for children; or so I rationalized it. But the boys did not fall away from but rather into some intelligence beyond their parents’.

They responded, yes, if we drink coffee we will die, but if we don’t drink coffee we will die, also.

So we want coffee.

God is truly good to the upright and pure in heart. And God is even better to the worst sinners, for whom God sent God’s own son, Jesus, to teach, heal and forgive … and then give his own life to redeem.

If we have boldness before God and obey his commands and do what pleases God, God will give us whatever we ask. And God gives whatever they ask for to even those who displease God, sinners that all humans are!

Not really. God answers everyone who calls on God. Most often God gives us what we need, not what we ask for. Most often the answer is simply NO, or wait, or maybe. Rarely God answers with a resounding YES! giving exactly what we ask for.

The temptation is to think that IF we behave rightly (and/or fill in whatever correct description you choose) THEN God will bless us with good things (and/or fill in whatever correct description of benefit from God you choose). This is the Devil’s way of getting us to think that we are little gods unto ourselves, that our behaviour controls God’s response to us.

When we start down that path, the Devil has us for life! Again. Until Jesus saves us again!

God’s reality is that BECAUSE God chooses (fill in whatever God chooses) THEREFORE we are blessed (and can think, say, or do whatever, or receive or fill in whatever blessing you want to include.

God’s reality is only God can choose to bless us. And we can only choose to refuse it. As we embrace God’s blessings it is only because the Holy Spirit moves us to do so.

The kind of religion that says we have to earn our way to God is as meaningless as counting backwards from ten. The best result is we end up unconscious. Anything else is painful to watch or experience.

God’s Grace though changes the whole world, from church being a social club with great language, coffee and tax deductions, to church being a calling to be more than we ever thought we could be, bringing abundant life to others in need.

After God acts, and we respond, then life lets loose, and our tasks vary according to our gifts and jobs and time. For now that will be a photo to share, occasionally. I get to create, you get to enjoy the result (or not.) Regardless whether we survive Covid 19 or not, we will all eventually die … for now the challenge is to be better than the best we imagined we could be. Pure of heart and obedient are just starters.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Apr 10

Good Friday, April 10, 2020

Dark Days, Foggy Days and Minds: These are not the End!

Psalms 112:1

Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.

1 Peter 2:24-25

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Words of Grace For Today

Happiness is elusive. It can be superficially faked or a product of will-ful ignorance. Set out to gain true happiness and it cannot be found, nor held onto. Even in the worst of times, true happiness can overwhelm us. Most often it sits on one side or the other of the border between reality and wish. It has taken me most of my many decades of life to realize that we can choose to embrace happiness as it sits on or so close to that border. We can at least be ready to invite it to accompany us through our days.

Jesus commands us to love one another. Doing so can only give us great delight and happiness, for we then fulfill the very purpose for which God created us.

Our sins darken our days, casting long shadows endlessly across our futures. Our sins cover our single steps forward in a soup of dense fog, so that we lose our way, and ourselves. We are lost like stupid sheep.

God does not abandon us even on our darkest days. On the torture instrument of a cross, Jesus hung, crucified in agony and died; so that the price for our sins would be paid, and we could see again, so the fog of our sins would be lifted, so that we could choose also this day to do what God created us to do!

It is a dark day, Good Friday is. Out of sheer darkness God makes the light of Christ bright to all of us; the darker our sins, the more obvious Jesus’ light, love and forgiveness that gives us life free of sin. In this darkness, see the shadow of the cross. Orient your life by precisely that with all the hope of happiness afforded you these days. Share then the slightest glimmer of happiness, the light of Christ that gives us life free of sin. People thirst for exactly this, especially now.

Facing Covid 19: Daily Words of Grace – Apr 7

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

See the big picture. See it in detail. See through the fog.

Zephaniah 3:15

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

Mark 4:40

He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’

Words of Grace For Today

Jesus paid heavily that we might be forgiven, and know we are forgiven, so that we can forgive others. Jesus frees us from our sins. We can turn our enemies away, by forgiving them so that they become God’s creatures, fellow sojourners on this planet earth. Given God’s truth for all occasions we need fear no disaster.

That does not mean disasters will not come our way.

Only that we need not fear them.

Fear cripples us. Anxiety cripples us. We revert to fight, flight, or freeze instinctual responses that cut off our reasoning. Great when we face a charging hyena or lion. But facing most everyday challenges and many extraordinary ones, like Covid-19, our instinctual, fear and anxiety based responses make their own disasters quicker than we realize.

Covid-19 responses need to be carefully planned, habitually and in great detail carried out, and reviewed and revised in light of the latest real, truthful information about the virus’ transmission and ways of surviving the illness when we or others in our care come down with symptoms.

Literally, fear and panic will definitely kill us, if not physically then in every other manner.

Why are we still afraid? This is not any kind of fear Jesus asks about, this is the fear that will kill us. Have we still no faith that Jesus will save us, even if we die? When we no longer fear death or illness or anything, then we can act with considered, wise actions, which not only protect us from Covid-19 but give us and those around us life, even as we self-isolate and keep physical distance from others.

Lent as Story

2020.02Feb25LentOurStory

Lent as (our new) Story

One of God’s gift to us humans is our ability to understand stories, to hear them and experience what is in them, and to write stories to convey more than just the words describe, or as in movies, more than what the images portray by themselves.

Imagination More Than We Could Know

Imagination More Than We Could Know

Stories have the key to communicate the most hidden, the most complex, the most poignant, the most critical, and the most beautiful aspects of life itself; and in that communication to the reader, listener, or viewer to teach something new, to connect at an un-imagined level, and to reveal something even beyond what the author, reader and creator conceived possible.

Our Words and Images Reach The Pinnacle and Depth of Beauty

Our Words and Images Reach The Pinnacle and Depth of Beauty

This Lent we embark on 40 days of fasting, reflection, prayer and meditation which themselves reflect a long tradition of the preparation to hear the story of Passion week and Easter Sunday, and which in themselves each year are a new story for each one of us.

What is your story, the one you are always part of?

What is your story, the one you are always part of?

What new will you learn, imagine, encounter on your 40 day journey this Lent?

Can you see something new?

Can you see something new?

Lent has it’s own stories, worthy of hearing again and again: Shrove Tuesday: the yeast and oil used in one last meal so the house has none in it during Lent. The ashes of our origins and ends as organisms on this earth. Marked in the sign of the cross, branding us as belonging to Christ. No meat. Fasting severe or limited. Giving up something. Engaging in something. Praying daily or even hourly, especially for one’s enemies.

Can we see through the fog?

Can we see through the fog?

All this to prepare our hearts, mind and souls to hear, imagine, and celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and victory over death and all our sin.

Christ’s story is filled with Light!

Christ’s story is filled with Light!

All this to prepare our hearts, mind and souls to hear, imagine, and celebrate Jesus’ story lived out in our lives.

Finding our way through the frozen of life.

Finding our way through the frozen of life.