At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.’
For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Words of Grace For Today
We are all wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Okay, I’m often of a different assessment of my situation. It’s not often that good.
Except I do keep myself clothed, mostly appropriately; and I do wear glasses, terribly scratched as they are, so that I can see clearly enough to prepare for winter and keep producing photos that are sometimes even good; and occasionally I have two quarters to rub together and use to fill the water tank (so that’s $25 to drive there and back) and I have not yet run out of water though it’s been close a few times; and while people may pity me, though I think it’s not many, as most cheer my unjust suffering, and I try to make a blessed case of my circumstances; but I’m caught on the wretched part. Don’t know how to change that, since I’ve confessed since I was a young child that I am a wretched sinner, needing God’s forgiveness.
I would guess everyone can produce a similar short accounting of how they are or are not wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. All of our efforts to say we are not simply help prove how so we are, and blind to the fact.
All too many people through all time have lived neither fearing and loving God, not caring, assured in themselves that God ‘will not do good, nor harm.’
There are and always have been the saints, people faithful to God, if still wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked, we are also humble or so about it all, and we turn our eyes and hopes to God.
In return God promises to walk with us. That makes God quite familiar with our wretchedness, pitiable-ness, poor-ness, blindness, and nakedness. God knows what God is getting into long before we realize where we are at, where people have been for so long. Why did God create and why does God continue to create such a universe with such people in it?
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.
Words of Grace For Today
Janet Rogner sat in her rocking chair wondering what had happened. Where had all the time gone? It seemed like yesterday that she and Ted met every day, sometimes on the lake, sometimes on the river, more often at school or on a date. Marriage, 2 kids, divorce, marriage and one more kid. That’s what they told her anyway. She did not remember any of it. They told her about the accident that killed her 2nd husband and 2 kids, and how it had left her in a coma for years.
She remembered Ted, but they told her he had died of a heart attack. They had reached out to his wife and two children. They came to visit, but she did not know them at all, even when the son reminded her of how Ted would twirl his finger in the air, like directing music. They said he went on to become a band director like his father, and more. He was an engineer of something called computer science.
She’d seen those things, computers. But they made no sense to her at all. They said they set her’s up to just listen and respond to her. So she swore at it nearly every hour. It still did nothing.
Now she looked in the mirror as the sun rose. Another day. Who was that old woman in the mirror anyway?
Then one day the storm gates broke open with memories that sent her scurrying for her bed, where she curled up to hide from them, from all the wonderful and beautiful memories, the challenges she and her husband and her friends had met with varying success, and then she remembered the old woman in the mirror and the accident and the deaths of her husband and her children.
It was days that she spent curled up, trying to hide from the pain. Until one day her son, Bill, walked in. She recognized him and he sat with her. He said he had come for years every week, but then he had to move for work and his wife’s job and his two children’s schooling, in computer science. And Janet remembered she had been good with computers, though she never had a degree, she knew more than most programmers and technicians.
They talked for hours, as Bill helped her remember things that were just on the edge of her awareness. He had to go but he came back then every day for a week and then once a week. The memories flooded in, like an angry sea in a hurricane at first, and then they started to organize, settle, smooth out. She started to dance in the morning. She swore at the computer, for the fun of it, before she sat down to type in her journal.
One day she saw a photo on line. It caught her, bounced her up out of her chair and tossed her back against the furthest wall. She didn’t know why. As the raging storm settled, she dared to look again. It was a photo of a lake, like the ones her family lived on through her High School years. Memories flooded in, of her mom walking with her and Bill. He was her first love. She’d never told her husband that is why she insisted they name their son Bill. Ted was earlier and Bill was everything to her, and then nothing but pain.
The love, the wonders, the fights, the break up and unequaled pain and chaos of life for months in her senior year in High School. She’d met her first husband, Greg, at a grad party and escaped into his life, but he turned out to be abusive and unfaithful. She stuck it out with him longer than she should have. He should have been in the car accident instead of her 2nd husband, Roger, and her kids should not have been there at all. But Greg would not bring the kids back after their visitation time with him, so Roger and Janet had gone to pick them up … and the drunk driver who rear ended them into the oncoming train brought them all to an end. Except Janet sort of survived in the storm of nothing remembered, loved or lost.
That weekend when her son came to visit, he brought his two grown children with him and their spouses and their little kids … and Bill said he had a surprise for her.
Her Bill from senior year in High School walked in and time stood still. He an old man. She an old woman in a rocker with her family all around. And she remembered before he spoke that she was the one who broke up with him because he would not marry her. She’d buried that for years through all that pain that it brought.
Her family talked. Bill talked. Janet sat stunned, quiet. Then Bill’s family, all ten of them came in. His wife had died decades ago. He walked with a limp, turns out from a surgery that was not quite successful. His grandchildren and great grandchildren danced and played and mingled with her children’s children.
Her son put some music on, one of her favourite waltzes. He danced with his wife. Then Bill asked Janet to dance. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, smiling for the first time in so long.
Today, may the wisdom of God be yours, that you may dance and smile and remember all that God has shared with you, the sorrows and the joys, as the water laps on the shore of the waters of memories.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.
Acts of the Apostles 14:27
When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.
Words of Grace For Today
Wonders never cease.
Faith based on God choosing us and not them is supplanted by God choosing them and us.
That can be very disconcerting when one has built one’s life on the assumption that ‘we’ are so much better than ‘them.’
And there we are, no better than them, and all chosen as equals to serve God … by serving others.
Things get messed around, so much so that pretty soon we’ve gotten people messing it around every which way to re-establish that their ‘we’ is the only good ‘we’ and every other ‘them’ is just not really human. And what that leads to is chaos, with ‘white supremacists’ [and many other flavours of racially based supremicists], religious intolerance and fanatical condemnation of other genders, colour, races, religions, and you name it … in various and sundry ways used to legitimate denigration, oppression, and ethnic cleansing.
Wonders never cease, and God responds to all this with mercy.
So we can sing praise of God’s great works for all to hear. Not that God has saved ‘us’ and condemned ‘them’, but that God saves us all.
Opening the door of faith to Gentiles is just a small sign of God’s inclusive stance towards humans. God welcomes us all, loves us all, forgives us all and sends us all out to do the same for all others.
Another day, when wonders will never cease to amaze those with eyes wide open to God’s great works.
Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Words of Grace For Today
How are we to live in this world that feels so much like a hell hole so many days?
Well it’s like this man who walks down the street, trips and falls into an open hole and cannot get out because the sides are so steep. He calls out for help but no one seems to hear him.
Finally a very wealthy man comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. Hearing the trapped man’s plea the rich man throws down a fist full of money and walks on.
Eventually a doctor comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. Hearing the trapped man’s plea the doctor throws down a prescription and walks away.
That’s what so much of our days look like. Either we are in the hole, or we are trying to help people stuck in holes, but there really is little change from day to day.
We all just keep walking on.
But there’s more. There is the rest of the Hole Story.
Remember that man in the hole unable to get out. His sage continues after the rich man tosses in money and the doctor a prescription. A lawyer tosses down a brief. A drug dealer spills in some smack. Finally a farmer hands down a bag of produce. Some of that helps a bit, some certainly not.
Hours later a friend of the trapped man comes by and stands at the edge of the hole. The trapped man says with some relief, “Thank God you’ve found me. Find a rope or a ladder and help me get out of here.” The friend instead jumps into the hole.
See that’s the surprise that God provides for us each day. God sends good friends to jump right in with us, if they are not in the hole already!
The first man exclaims: “How stupid! Now we’re both trapped.”
We are right there, how stupid can God be to walk with us or send others down here. We want out, not company in the ‘hell holes’ we’ve gotten ourselves into. Then comes the next surprise.
God, like the friend responds, “It’s okay. I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” (story told on West Wing by Leo to Josh dealing with post trauma syndrome after he was shot. 2007 reworked and added rich man. Edited 2022)
So Christ calls us forgiven sinners made saints to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Then we will walk in God’s countenance and know the festal shout well, for each day will be a celebration of all that God can do in spite of us, for us, and through us for others. Each day is not like the last, except that God’s Grace abounds again and again, in surprising ways.
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
2 Timothy 4:17
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
Words of Grace For Today
God does not give up on us.
While we wander away and ignore all God would give to us as wisdom, putting ourselves first and leaving others to fend for themselves against hopeless odds, God still cries for us: Hear, O my people while I admonish you! If you would be listen to me!
When we tune our ears to hear God’s Word to us each morning, noon and night, it is full of surprises what we will hear. We thought we’d hear God condemning us and or others for all the dregs of sin we toss around, at each other and at the planet.
We thought we’d hear God demanding reparations.
We thought or rather fully hoped we’d hear God giving it to our enemies with lots of ‘smote keys’.
Doch, God is prodigious with love, forgiveness, and mercy, especially for the likes of us, great sinners that we are. Ready to deny it at moment’s notice.
And God is prodigious with love, forgiveness, and mercy for our enemies that we think are so much worse than we are.
Well, they may well be by some scale of measurement of terribleness, though that scale is useless or even hugely damaging in God’s world.
So God is merciful to us all, each as we require to hear that we are invited back to the table at the banquet. All of us ‘saved from the lion’s mouth’ as it were.
The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
On this side of disaster, destruction, and demise (unearned but foisted on us by our enemies that claimed to be our family) we breathe and know it is a miracle.
We see the sun rise, and know it is a miracle.
We see the grass grow, the pine trees fill with acorns, the chicks grow to mature ducks and geese, and we know it is a miracle.
We work hard to prepare for the hard winter predicted ahead, and see the resulting piles of wood, completed repairs and improvements, and we know it is all wonder-filled miracles.
For God has become again and again our salvation, our breathe, and our hope.
So we would hope for you, that you would know the miracles that God works wondrously in your days, and thus find peace in the Holy Spirit’s power to transform the worst of the worst into blessings unending.
The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Words of Grace For Today
Lots of things to do when the chips are down, or up for that matter.
Like pray and seek God’s mercy, though like Daniel it may cost more than you can imagine!
Like rejoice in hope, which if the chips are up I would guess that’s a lot easier. I won’t really know. Not much time spent in my life with the chips up.
Like be patient, even if you are suffering. Of course to panic while one suffers is to let the suffering consume one, which has a whole other depth of pain to it, so being patient, calm, and looking for a reasonable way out of the hell-hole one’s been tossed into … well that is really the only thing to do.
So the lions are hungry, the gates are closed, you are their only prey. Best be calm because lions will attack sooner if you trigger their hunting instincts by showing fear. Being calm has a slim chance of communicating to the lions that they’d be better off not attacking at all. It can be done, or at least it is reported to have been done, if by no one else, then by Daniel.
Of course there are many different kinds of real life, metaphorical lions. They’ll kill one as viciously, slowly, and painfully as the African kind.
Which brings us back to prayer. That really is the attitude to take in all matters, chips up or down. Giving thanks for all God’s blessings, chips up or down. Begging for mercy, chips up or down. And asking for guidance to the next day, chips up or down.
There’s always a ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ or two out there. Always a emperor or two (wanna be’s are worse) out there.
That means there is always plenty of opportunity to hope, endure, and pray.
There’s always plenty of reason to give thanks. If for little else, then that every hell-hole comes to an end when it’s filled in. One hopes one is not part of the fill.
Today it’s another 24 hours chocked full of opportunities, challenges, suffering, and blight. Pray for a portion of joy to endure it with gratitude. Then work like the dickens to make things better for everyone.
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Words of Grace For Today
The messenger comes.
But what news does the messenger bring.
Is it a bicycle messenger, quickly able to navigate the congested city streets where cars have clogged the life out of the city centre, bringing a small piece of news that greases the cogs of the economy as some win and most lose?
Is it a military dressed soldier bringing news of a comrade’s falling in service to his family of their loss, always covering up any disgrace or uselessness of such a life lost?
Is it a policeman bringing news of a car accident or other disaster that has claimed the life of a loved one?
No. While these are messengers that make up a real part of life for all too many of us, the messenger that God sends is the prepatory party for God’s own arrival on earth to live as one among us.
This is good news, the best news, better than great economic news, better than an engagement announcement between friends long over due (for us watching from outside their precious relationship.) This is God’s news that God has come to deal with our mess, fix it, heal it, and bring good order to the world once again.
Except that is not the news!
God gives us the freedom to love, and thus the freedom not to love, and that brings all sorts of chaos as we continually choose other than to love creation and all God’s creatures in it.
Jesus comes to demonstrate God’s steadfast attitude towards our chaos and sin: God forgives, heals, and sends us back into the fray, equipped to likewise forgive, heal, and assist people to return to the fray of this chaotic life that we humans are.
That is the best new possible, because our chaos is not going away any time soon. It is the only news that can enable us to carry on, and not succumb completely to the chaos and serve evil in all we do.
And what does Jesus get when he comes: nothing but grief from our chaos in this worlds and the Devil’s great power to seduce us to live other than as God’s own children.
God does not desert him to the Devil’s wiles, anymore than God abandons us to our chaos and sin. God sends angels, messengers again, to tend to Jesus in the wilderness among the wild beasts.
I’m quite sure that the wild beasts and the wilderness and even the Devil himself are no match for the chaos and destructive power of humans that Jesus will face, that we face each day. And eventually it kills Jesus, as we too all one day will die. Then we get to go home to Jesus, where a room is prepared for us, again by angels and messengers.
Until that day, we have the messengers and angels who tend to us in our wildernesses.
As it is today all around.
Thus with God’s own providing for us and protecting us we return to the fray, come what may, unafraid and at peace with God and the world around us.
Selfish and destructive strivings, yearnings, and desires.
The world is going to ‘hell in a hand basket’ quickly enough. Why do we have to help it along it’s way so effectively?
How are we to deal with all this?
We need to understand the root causes and work to end or at least mitigate them!
We need to work to mitigate the ‘downstream’ effects on so many lives as much as we can.
We need to get our own ‘houses’ in order, our own hearts, minds, and souls in order, except that is impossible without God cleaning, organizing, and renewing us from the inside out.
This God does through Jesus, the Christ, moving us from thinking we can earn our way forward, to relying wholly on God’s grace each day anew. God heals our weary, embattled souls.
For this we give God thanks, as we gather, knowing God is present with us always, also where we gather. God listens, so we beg and pray for help and healing and resolution and mitigations, and freedom from destruction from without and from within.
Because God not only promises us exactly that healing, but also pours it over us prodigiously each day, we return God thanks in our songs of joy.
The world may be going to hell in a hand basket quickly enough. We do our part to impede this progress as we are able and we trust God that Evil and Hell will not triumph in the end; not in our lifetimes, and not in the time of humans in the universe.
On with the day’s work that promises to be enough or more for the precious time given to us.
To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him,
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.
Words of Grace For Today
We would like to believe that we are good people.
Honesty escapes us when we fall into the trap of not just liking to believe, but actually lying to ourselves and convincing ourselves that we are good people.
God looks down on the devastation that we have collectively brought down on the earth and, seeing into the future, sees a void as bleak as it was before creation. God is angry and sends a dry, life-sucking wind across all we have done, drying it of all water and life and hope, until it is returned to the dust of what it was before we were created.
So it is with all we humans do. We undo the creating that God does. God sees it, and burns it away, back to as it was before we existed.
Thankfully that is not the end of the story of our lives on earth.
God sees us with mercy.
God sees us with mercy, forgives us, and welcomes us in to God’s Kingdom, not because we deserve it, but because God ‘don’t create no junk’ and we are precious to God, every last one of us!
God sees us with mercy and sets the table for us in celebration that we are found, and carried back home.
God sees us with mercy and Jesus sits with us ‘tax collectors and sinners’ at the table.
So it is we get to eat each day, and celebrate with thanks all that is, all that we can do, and all God does through us to welcome in every last lost soul.
Now ain’t we all one of them!
Amazing this Mercy God has for us. It’s not at all what we expect of each other. It is what makes life so precious and wondrous.