For the Lord will not cast away his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Words of Grace For Today
Bill sat next to Janet after their dance. They’d danced a dance each day together for the last year, after they were married, both in their late 60’s.
Remembering as Bill did how wonderful it was to be chosen by Janet so long ago on the floor of the High School dance, in the semi-darkness, so lonely, so frightening, so foreign. Then Janet came along. Janet who had dated Ted for as long as anyone in their class dated, until they’d broken up three months ago. That Janet, who’d he’d always watched and admired and wished he were Ted, until they broke up and Ted started dating Daniel and Janet dated almost anyone she wanted and not many were chosen. That Janet asked him if he would dance.
She said she’d been watching him. Watching him watch her. For years she had seen him. For years she had wanted to watch him, to ask him out. It was so frightening.
That had been the start of a whirlwind of wonder and a world that was so colourful Bill barely had time to catch his breath. Senior year, she said she wanted to be with him for the rest of their lives. A week later Bill had asked her to marry him. She had stood up in shock and walked off … and never came back.
That Janet now was his wife, and he was her husband, after two separate lives of joys and sorrows, wonders and such deep loses. And they danced.
Always one or the other would ask, ‘Since I have chosen you, will you dance with me tonight?’ And always the other answered, ‘Since I have chosen you, there is no greater honour than mine to be able to dance with you.’
So God asks us, ‘Since I have chosen you, will you dance with me today?’
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.
Words of Grace For Today
Sometimes, okay honestly, quite often, I wish that I had Moses staff to ‘part the troubled waters’ that block my escape from my tormentors and from the challenges that threaten to do me in.
Or, as the Hebrews passage states it, I wish I had the faith to part the ‘troubled waters’ that hem me in and hold me fast to the slavery that has been forced upon me.
But then, it’s like waiting for God to rescue you from a flood, and along the way refusing help from neighbours in a truck driving out through the low waters rising quickly, and the rescue boat that comes when the waters have filled the streets and roads, and the helicopter that will pluck you from the roof top. Instead St. Peter gets to point out that those offers for rescue were God at work.
So, it’s on with the day’s work, trusting that I will wisely choose what to do today of the many I can do or at least start doing today (and maybe even some that I think are impossible yet!)
The light shines, so it’s time to work. Now if the solar system were not burned out that would translate into power to use for some of the work. That’s one thing that I need to work on, since I’m low on gasoline for the generator!
Small challenge of power. At least it is not someone else fight to take my power from me. For that I am always thankful.
On with the day. What will it bring, and what can be done. That will be seen and given thanks for as the sunsets and I lay down to rest.
And for you? What will the day bring? More wishes for Moses’ staff, or focusing on what is possible … even if it looks impossible to start with?!
He said, ‘Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’
Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
Words of Grace For Today
Do not fear.
This is often written in scripture, but not so often spoken in everyday life. Perhaps that is because in our lives we rarely, against what threatens us, take our stance on God’s Word, instead relying on what we ourselves can do. And what we can do is often so little compared to what must be done to secure our futures, so little, that the only thing left to do is to fear what will come our way.
Lions, hungry lions, all within the confines of a closed in space … and us put into that space so that our captures, false witnesses, tormentors, and ‘unjust’ judges can morbidly delight in watching the ‘animals rip bloody flesh from our bodies’ until we succumb and die, fodder for hungry beasts. This may not happen very often, literally anyway, since there are few lions in these parts, though figuratively it is happening yet this day, and not just to me. So how will we prepare for the ‘lions’ of this time and place?
There is no other way to prepare than to trust God’s Word: we will weep and mourn as the world around us rejoices, but our pains will turn to joy in God’s own good time. Trusting these words we are no longer captives to fear, but freed to live.
And to live by such powers that no ‘lions’ can devour us or make our blood flow.
And to live well!
This day we trust in God’s Word alone, and celebrate all of God’s wonders done for us, here in this time and place, and across all time and places that ever were or will be. Makes for a full day of celebration, as each day is.
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: ‘O Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Words of Grace For Today
Sennacherib sends Hezekiah, King of Judah, a threat, that Judah will be conquered and her God will be forgotten in time like so many others already are forgotten. Hezekiah turns to Isaiah, and then he turns to God in prayer. We know how that history turns out. Judah falls but not to Assyria. Sennacherib is defeated and returns to Assyria to be killed in his own land. Judah is spared. But other more powerful foreign powers will come and Judah will fall.
The question is not if, but only when.
It is as with death. The question is not if we will die. It is when.
The more significant question is how.
I suppose how one will die is somewhat interesting or distressing. The much more significant question is, since we’ve once again acknowledged that we will all die, how will we live!? And it starts this day. How will we live this day?
Last evening a man advocated on the radio in an interview for terminally ill people to have psychedelic drugs made available to them. His argument was emphatic. Diagnosed with stage four cancer he claimed that the existential stress was debilitating. While other treatments dulled his anxiety they also dulled all his positive emotions, and assisted dying was a bit too final for him. Psychedelic drugs made it possible for him to enjoy his life with his family in the time he had left.
You know, maybe, just maybe, it’s the answer. But the argument is specious. Every human at birth faces inevitable death. What was this man doing the rest of his life to prepare himself for the inevitable coming of death. Why was this existential stress too much for him to bear? Why? Why? Why?
Today, since we know we are going to die, if we have not already, then it’s time to get ready to die. And when we’ve faced that inevitable end, we will be ready to start living, however life develops for us. No matter what comes our way we will be ready to live, to live well, and to live grateful for all we can enjoy. Psychedelic drugs are not needed, are they really, to live hiding from the reality of life. And who says they dull just the negative stressors. They create fake positives as well. They are by definition mind altering. What’s the matter with the facing the reality God provides for us, the actual life with all it’s joys and pains and …. all of it.
Prayer or drugs.
Which do we choose as our way of facing reality? (Drugs really are not ‘facing’ reality, but escaping reality, but they are still many people’s choice. Whowoodathunk?)
Small things make the difference each day, like flowers in bloom, or fresh strawberries from the food bank. Not something I can normally afford or the expected fare at the food bank, and extraordinary wonderful just because life is so.
So drugs …
prayer, blossoms, berries and wonder.
Every day we make choices. Every day God renews life through forgiveness and love. What will we make of it.
Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Words of Grace For Today
A mess grows on the ground where I split wood all winter long, and then stack the split logs with other pieces of wood that can be burned without splitting them. Every spring or summer I get around to raking it clean, down to the original ground. Shovelful after shovelful gets loaded up and carried away to a place where the inevitable ant farms will not matter, nor will the decaying wood cause trouble with the camp.
For lunch I often finish off with a few crackers. I cannot eat bread without suffering digestive distress until it passes. I seem to get away with eating a few crackers. Same kind of grains. Crackers are probably less nutritious with all the additional ingredients and processing. Doesn’t make sense that my system will tolerate the thing that is worse for me and reject the thing that would be healthier for me (if the bread is not also highly processed – not the kind of bread I would eat anyway, not after discovering and enjoying real good and hearty breads in Germany so many decades ago.)
Crackers or bread, they come from the same things, right?
And that crud leftover under the wood splitting pile, if one subtracts the inevitable dirt that gets mixed in, it too comes from the same thing, since it grows from the ground, right?
Yes. All grow from the same earth. Yet they are certainly not equal, not in so many ways and certainly not when one considers what to put in one’s belly for food.
Are all people equal, having come from the same creator, even having descended from the same father, Noah, maybe even the same father Abraham? Well, not so you would notice.
It’s not that people are unequal based on colour, creed, gender, slave or free, rich or poor, powerful or not. People are not equal because, well:
It’s that some people are through and through kind. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are honest. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are generous. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are forgiving. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are at peace with themselves, other people, and the world. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are grateful. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are loving, giving of themselves so that others will live well. Most people are not.
It’s that some people are hopeful. Most people are not.
By what measure then are we going to agree with Paul and in humility treat others as better than ourselves?
And there is the key; how do we treat others? It is not that when we are kind, honest, generous, forgiving, at peace, grateful, loving and hopeful we are less than all the people who are not. We do live better. (Not with more wealth, privileges, or comforts, but we live better in all the ways God intended us to live well.)
It is that when we are kind, honest, generous, forgiving, at peace, grateful, loving and hopeful we need not judge who is and who is not as good as us. We hope that all people are as good, and can live as well. We know that most people are not, but nothing in our lives stands or falls on us asserting how good we are. Well, actually if we assert how good we judge ourselves to be, as better than others, a lot of our kindness, honestly, forgiving attitude, being at peace, being grateful, loving and hopeful disappears like the breath of a dinosaur on a cold winter day.
When we are kind, honest, generous, forgiving, at peace, grateful, loving and hopeful we can and do treat others as better than ourselves, hoping that they might be or will be.
And no matter how kind, honest, generous, forgiving, at peace, grateful, loving and hopeful we are, we are still members of the broken and sinful human race, incapable of freeing ourselves from our sin. Only God can make us kind, honest, generous, forgiving, at peace, grateful, loving and hopeful, so we have no right to claim to be better than others. All our goodness is reckoned to us, not earned by us, by God’s kindness, honesty, generosity, forgiveness, peace, gratefulness, love and hope (hope that we might catch on someday, somehow to how ambition and deceit destroy us), and God wishes us life, and life lived well. An abundant live.
Crackers, Bread, or Crud. Those we better judge well which is which. People bad, good, better. That we get to leave up to our merciful God.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
2 Corinthians 6:4
As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities.
Words of Grace For Today
To commend is to to entrust for care or preservation.
So how can we entrust ourselves to others for care or preservation.
Paul faced the hatred of Jewish leaders and communities (because he clearly threatened their power and control of their faith – Christianity being a new alternative away from and out of Judaism), but more so the Roman authorities who responded to the complaints of the people under their jurisdiction.
So Paul, needed funding and protection from hostile elements and authorities, entrusted himself to the various congregations he helped start, the one in Corinth included.
In this verse Paul commends himself not by proper teaching, or life saving teaching, or bringing Jesus’ Word to the people. He commends himself through his endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities …. And at that point one realizes one needs the larger context of what Paul wrote, for this is not quite right for Paul. So:
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
So Paul uses his ‘track record’ of enduring great tribulations to seek the open hearts of the Corinthians. Not only his tribulations, though. The list is long on the work of the Spirit in Paul beginning with
purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God
and ending with
We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Few have it as rough as Paul did, but many have had congregations like the Corinthians, or worse. Do everything and anything for them, caring for them, loving them, burying the dead and celebrating life with them, and they still come back at you to drive you to your grave … as if it is their God-given task to kill pastors (and lay leaders).
It is a great surprise that the RCMP, the lawyers, and the courts have tried their best to kill me as well, all without any cause that I can find … though the court records are full of reasons none of them are actually true, and it’s not difficult to know that.
Pests abound as well: mosquitoes, wasps, and the two legged kind who keep intruding past barriers and gates, stealing valuables and essentials for my survival, and with unnecessary noise pestering the peace, solitude, and holiness of this place.
To that I respond God help them, and for me I still live well, for
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, God preserves me against the wrath of my enemies; God stretches out her-his hand, and her-his right hand delivers me.
With thanks I begin each day, as you can, too, for all God does to provide life abundant, and safety from one’s enemies, and peace from pests.
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Words of Grace For Today
Oh so glorious it is … to see finally poetic justice and real justice play out. A 23 year old American and his family decided that their hike up Mount Vesuvius should include a peak over the lip of the volcano with selfies to document their adventure … even though the trail was a prohibited area.
While taking the selfie, the young man’s cell phone fell over the lip into the crater. While reaching into the crater the young man slipped and fell down the crater.
Now one would think that that could well have been the end of him, but God is good and gracious, to this young man also that day. His fall ended about 50 feet into the crater, not all the way to the bottom 300 metres down, where he would have been toast. And …
And at the time four volcano guides were on the other side of the crater, saw the man fall, and rushed to his rescue. They lowered a team member down on a rope to retrieve the bruised and scraped up man
and waited with him (and his group) to be treated by the ambulance that arrived, and then to be taken eventually to the police station to be arrested and charged.
Meanwhile in Sri Lanka 62,000 people are in immediate life threatening danger and 6 million soon will be after the country no longer has money to import the necessities of life like food and cooking oil. This, it is said, is a result of fraud and mishandling of the country’s finances by the ousted president. Of course he could not have done it alone (if he was a player in creating the problem at all.) What is clear is that people will die because of other people’s greed.
So it is everywhere, and poignantly also here, where indigenous peoples, and people of ‘other’ races, creeds, and orientations are taken advantage of, and where the courts demonstrate a brash bias for the wealthy and privileged … routinely as if no one cared or noticed … or as if there were no consequences.
An American had money to travel to Italy, to hike to the lip of the volcano, and try to take a selfie there, to show off his exploits. Thousands of people slip on the verge of death because of greed and fraud.
And God is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
We are to Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, so that we may be children of our Father in heaven; for God makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
It makes you want to protest and cry out at God for justice.
That is why Jesus had to make sure we heard clearly that we are to love our enemies, for God created and provides for them as well.
Makes us scratch our heads all too often.
Until we realize that trying to enact justice for God is impossible to get right and doing so destroys more of us and them than we can afford.
So we pray, Lord save those facing injustice and death because of greed and fraud, especially as it is done on our behalf … and save us from ignorance of your good creation and apathy to the troubles that so many people, creatures and your entire planet earth face this day. And we give God thanks that our troubles remain challenges that we can (so far, with care, skill, planning, and lots of hard work) be overcome.
There’s Lots of History, Everywhere, for Everyone,
Can You Be Thankful For Yours?
O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge on the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: Our ancestors have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.
2 Corinthians 4:8
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
Words of Grace For Today
As I started to contemplate that nations will come and say that their ancestors had left nothing but lies to inherit,
a big, old, fat fly started to disrupt my view. Caught my attention it did. Distracted me, until it was dispatched.
Flies are not good to have around food, eating spaces, sleeping spaces or any living space for that matter.
I suppose I ‘inherited’ plenty of flies and wasps from someone. I’m sure it was not my ancestors, though Grandpa Sam and Grandma Dorothy did have an outhouse above the lake cottage on Lake Wabedo, back when it was an isolated lake. After each used we’d scatter a cupful of ashes down the hole to deal with smell and flies. Still there were always a bit more of both than I cared for. I also remember once in my University days arriving and finding the parking spot I chose was free because everyone else arriving earlier knew there was a wasp nest on that corner of the garage. Flies and wasps: I’m sure that since Lake Wabedo is more than 12 hours by car away, and that was about 3 or 4 decades ago, those flies and wasps have no direct lineage or causation effect on the fact there are flies and wasps here.
My ancestors, that I know of, where respectable people. (Thank you Goldie, Dorothy, Sam, Dort, Dennis.) I have not discovered any lies, foundational or formational or simply for the lark of it that are part of the family heritage. I count my blessings. I have a hard time imagining how devastating it must be to grow up knowing or to discover later that one’s ancestors passed down a pack of lies and not much else. I have seen the parents and grandparents who are such people, but the children were unawares or unapologetic, as they began a life of lies themselves, without regret or awareness of their great loss in doing so.
I have noticed friends of our offspring being very appreciative of us parents, since by comparison I guess we measure up as pretty decent, or the only parents of their circle of friends who are kind, gracious, welcoming and generous. I feel for the adult children who have parents whom they would rather forget, for remembering is costly.
We certainly can say with Paul: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair. It’s not like life has left us unscathed, unscarred or un-‘rewarded’ for the good we’ve done. Life has at times knocked the living daylights out of us, for sure.
We are afflicted, perplexed, not crushed, not driven to despair. And we remain grateful for all God’s blessings, even if I am homeless, living off the grid in the wilderness. People hear that and say they always wanted to do that- it must be fun. – No, it’s just hard, and then harder, and quite dangerous pretty much every day. Weather getting more severe is a greater portion of that danger, though the greatest danger still remains the two legged wild animals that are fuelled by unnatural things, like drugs and revenge (for nothing I’ve done) and jealousy (that I can survive in the wild.) The wonders I experience do not make it safer, but they do make it blessed.
In fact, by celebrating the Eucharist each morning, my time is blessed, and this space, this piece of wilderness, is consecrated and made holy. I get to live in a sacred place. Nothing beats that!
In the face of each life-threatening adversity and challenge that I face I am shown again and again that God is my refuge from trouble and my strength and stronghold in the face of every adversity and challenge.
Nothing beats that.
So another day starts, and though it will have it’s dangers in quantities most people would run from, I know that in this sacred place and wherever I go all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well … so onward with the work to meet the needs and best preparations for safety in the coming months.
Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
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
Paul does get it concisely to the point and correct …
every once in a while.
It is not us doing the right and goodly things.
It is God, working like a potter with the clay on the wheel spinning, forming, moulding, a wonder, a miracle, an exquisite dish.
Of course, that is the dish before we get pounded and de-lumped, the air pushed out of us, and then we get slammed onto the potter’s wheel and it spins out of round, until God gently pushes us into round, able to become something, something at all,
Though it’s not likely we will become an exquisite dish, because God needs plain old everyday, durable, hard-working plates and bowls, too.
From us the world around us will be nourished in the regular, daily, not-fancy-or-celebratory feeding that we humans require in order to flourish and prosper as God’s labourers.
It’s the work we are created for that is the blessing we offer to God’s good creation and all God’s creatures (good or not.)
Another day, more work, common and bland blessings for others, and exhaustion for us. Even to the point that we are too broken and God may have to retire us to the slop pail, to soak before we are pliable enough to be thrown back on the wheel. There again God moulds us for more hard, tedious work in the Kingdom.