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?
At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they would remain in camp.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Words of Grace For Today
Nomads moving according to the command of the Lord, moving only when the cloud over the tabernacle disappeared.
Doing everything in Jesus’ name, and giving thanks to God.
As our days fill with challenges, rewards, chance goodnesses and grace, kindness, and the ever-present traps of evil, this is the difference between living abundantly and struggling every day: how do we approach each moment?
Do we taken on the challenges, temptations, and take in the joys, goodnesses, and graces with the assurance that God walks with us, so that for everything we can give thanks.
Do we see our demise threatened after the next corner that even joy can bring us to round?
This is life abundant:
To know we are not settled, not ever, in a security provided by our circumstances in this world.
To know that we move through this world even as we do not take direction from God, then God accompanies us down into the messes and hell-holes we create for ourselves or other toss us into.
To know that our demise is not the end, it is not to be feared, and in it God will gather us home, to a home with all the blessings and security we wished for in this life.
To know that until then we get to share with everyone God’s promise to walk with us and show us how love, grace, and kindness bring goodness to life even in the dankest corner of our lives.
[Remember the glorious acts of God,] things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Words of Grace For Today
While living a life, self-sustained and self-determined, no great mishaps interrupting one’s plans and trajectory, it is all too easy to forget so much.
How one’s ancestors worked so hard to bring us to the beginning we were given as a gift.
How God provided for their survival in wondrous ways.
And how at each turn in our own lives, God is there, walking with us, calling us, blessing us, begging us to return to God.
Then disaster strikes. Small or huge, particular or general. And our self-sustained life is no longer possible, as if it ever were that.
Then we will only survive if we remember what our ancestors have taught us about God’s great blessings, and we return to God.
Simple: Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
One day awaits us each morning, filled with opportunities to remember, to return, to serve others with the love that cures, raises, cleanses, and casts out.
It’s not 16 tons and deeper in debt to the company store, but it is that each day we receive more than we can possible give back, and we live blessed to be deeper and deeper in debt to God for all the blessings poured over us. It is impossible to repay that debt, and it will never be called. Miracles and wonders.
Looking and Seeing, In the Haze Everything Is Unclear.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
2 Corinthians 9:8
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
Words of Grace For Today
Everyday we set our eyes on something. If we are fortunate we have the opportunity to set our eyes on a goal or more goals for the day, that may eventually lead to an achievement some future day, or solve a problem or challenge that sits like a heavy cement barrier in our path forward.
When we only see our own challenges, problems, and limitations our horizons shrink day by day until we live in a haze, barely able to see life as God gives it to us.
Into this all too often deep haze, Christ comes to shine the light of life with a great power to redeem on all that we are and all that the world is around us, with all the other people in it. Then the haze begins to lift. As we lift our heads and eyes and hearts to see others’ challenges, problems, and limitations, and respond with empathy, love, care, and mercy, then the light begins to shine on our visions of each day.
We can see that God gives us more than enough. We have plenty to share with others to help them see the light, the steadfast love of God, shining in through the haze of their troubled days with a great power to redeem.
In the blessed moments of wondrous light we can see our hopes for each day expand beyond our own small bubbles to include all the grandeur of God’s creation, and the spectacular gifts God has given us through other people, and the blessed possibilities God offers us through God’s steadfast love and great power to redeem it all and us all.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.
Words of Grace For Today
The prisoners, the blind, those bowed down, the righteous, the strangers (you know the ones who are different than us, by colour, posture, or due to neurodiversity), the orphan, the widow… all these get special mention as those that God favours and blesses, exactly because the world generally denigrates, casts out, and ignores them as real people.
The more complete view is Jesus. It always is. This here today is Jesus teaching and healing the huge crowd gathered out away from any village or city. It’s been a long day. The disciples are hungry. And they, like many are afraid. They have enough for themselves, but they do not have enough to feed this huge crowd. Jesus is not afraid. He sits the crowd down, takes what the disciples have to eat and shares it with the crowd. And…
Yesterday, a regular summer ‘visitor’ showed up again, this time riding on a noisy quad, accompanied by an even noisier side by side with two older people in it. The man, slender and unpredictable, has arrived each summer to claim ownership of a camper left by a man who has disappeared. He and his buddies, one and sometimes two, rifled through the camp, took out a great metal tripod to hang a cook pot over an open fire, and who knows what all else. It was set up in a camp nearby for a month or so and then it all disappeared. Each summer he’s said he’d move ‘his’ motor van camper out in a few weeks.
The camper still sits there.
This time he arrived and claimed to own this piece of land that I am renting. His way of denying that I am renting the land. Well it’s an agreement between the actual owner and myself. He and others can deny it to be true, but that does not change the truth. His claiming to be the owner, for two weeks, sounded ridiculous. And it turned out to be just that. More lies claiming ownership of what is not his.
He also claimed ownership of the 45 foot camper bus that showed up months ago, parked behind the abandoned camper van.
He also told me to take down a barrier that keeps quads, side by sides, snowmobiles and vehicles of all kinds from running into the edge of the meadow. He had arrived on a road that has a barb wire gate across it. They had taken it down to get through and left it in the woods when they left. They also took a piece of firewood used to hold up the bottom wire.
Unpredictable. Liar. Thief.
People like this are as they appear, and as dangerous as they can be, they are not as dangerous and destructive as people who behave civilized and appear somewhat intelligent. They do not make claims to own what is not theirs. They work greater evil to take what they want so that it is legally theirs. They do not lie about what can easily be proven to be false. They lie with unprovable lies that destroy lives. They exercise power with wealth, political sway, and smooth talk, and they exercise it for their own benefit, damned be who it hurts, takes life from, or destroys.
These are the people and their ways that the Psalmist gives quick shrift: the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Except, the way of the wicked seems to continue, to prevail, and to destroy generation after generation. It is the hope that this would end, but (naive me for thinking I would be exempt from suffering at the wrong end of this wickedness!) it goes on and on, so commonly that most people hardly blink when they hear it is their own backyard. It’s as if they say, ah dahh! Why do you think we bow to the evil ones, and keep our heads down so as not to attract attention, and why do you think we do not listen to those the evil ones destroy?
Jesus says no such thing. In the crowd are certainly evil ones, like the unpredictable summer visitor liar thief, like the civilized destroyers, like the selfish power people, and like the ones who duck (which is it’s own kind of evil.) Jesus then takes what is his and the disciples for their meal, breaks it and blesses it and shares it with all. It’s a few baskets filled with bread and fish.
This miracle is it is enough to feed a crowd of over 5000. Some say that Jesus had the bread multiply in the baskets against all the laws of physics. Not impossible. That would indeed be a miracle. The greater miracle is what likely happened: as the crowd saw that food was shared for all, they pulled out their meagre portions, took what they needed from them and from the baskets passed along, and added back into the baskets what they did not need. Thus all the people ate. The good prisoners, the blind, those bowed down, the righteous, the strangers (you know the ones who are different than us, by colour, posture, or due to neurodiversity), the orphan, the widow as well as all the evil and wicked ones in the crowd receive their fill of nourishment.
The greatest miracle is that Jesus overcomes the people’s fears, and inspires them to generosity with each other.
Now that would be one way to put the wicked ways to rest.
What does God have in store for us this fine summer day, when the temperatures are forecast to rise beyond comfortable levels, but not into the dangerous levels? How can we be the ones to continue Jesus’ miracle of helping people overcome their fears and inspire them to generosity, especially with those the ‘civilized’ people would rather forget because the outcasts suffer because of their ‘civilized’ wicked ways?
Maybe today in a small way we can, by Grace, help even one such doer of wickedness to convert to Jesus’ generosity.
“Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light.“
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
1 Thessalonians 5:5
For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
Words of Grace For Today
It is in the darkness that we face our deepest fears.
It is also in the deepest darkness of our lives that God makes most clear for us God’s awesome power of love and grace.
Imagine you are far up north, on a clear, dark night.
Look up and around, and drink in the view of the sky, full of stars. These stars that have inspired so many humans to turn history to what it is for us today. Yet …
For all we do to ‘turn history’ to our liking, Forest Gump’s mom said it for us all
‘Life is like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!’
While the darkness may drive fear through our hearts more deadly than any spear or bullet, and while the light may show our failings in all too disastrous a view for all to see, in the end, what we get in life is not as important as what we give in life.
Whether we find ourselves in the brilliant, unforgiving light of day, or in the darkest moments of our lives, Christ’s light shines into our lives, our minds, hearts, and souls, and while that may illuminate our failings all too well, that light also shines grace and forgiveness over all our lives … and it brings us peace.
Look up and around, and drink in the view of the sky, this time though with so few stars. For this night the sky dances with waves of green and blue and purple.
How can we be anything but awestruck! And inspired.
God, once again (as whenever we need to be so inspired) dances the universe for us to see and believe, so that we might live in wonder and awe, willing to serve, guided by what we cannot see, but know only by faith.
Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me
1 Corinthians 10:13
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Words of Grace For Today
Life is ….
Life is rather cruel, brutish, and short. It is impossible to get out of it alive. Or so they say.
God offers a different perspective … or rather the perspective of reality, the perspective of the creator of the entire universe, the perspective that life is …
well, that life is simply good.
Astounding as that may be, and even astounding just to say it when the bulls and the bullies surround one, jabbing and stabbing from each side, the front, and especially in the back (for bullies are cowards at heart), it is a simple truth.
As we live life expecting it to be good, it can be good, even as we succumb to the bulls and bullies, and find our rest in life after death … noting that we do get out of life alive!
That is not the result of bulls and bullies for the majority of people.
So how does one live day after day, week after weak, year after year, decade after decay under attack from bulls and bullies? One lives well!
Starting with noting that life is not determined entirely by the bulls and bullies. God does limit their effectiveness.
Starting with noting that one has many things to be grateful for. So many scientists from psychologists to cardiologists, to neurologists, joined lately by those specifically studying the chemical benefits of gratitude: increase dopamine, decreased adrenaline, increase endorphins and on goes the list of good chemical effects on ones body and mind. In general gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus, which controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels.
One sleeps better. One wakes better. One responds to challenges better. One lives healthier, longer, with a clearer mind. One enjoys the small joys of life more … and the bulls and bullies effect on one’s life shrink again.
Who woulda thunk that gratitude is the key to defeating bulls and bullies?
Well, just about everyone who is not ‘pressed down and out’ by bulls and bullies. From down there it’s hard to see reality.
For that we have God’s Word, and God’s people to speak it, often and everywhere.
Freedom from Bulls and Bullies, now that’s a gift that keeps on giving, literally.
The people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.’
Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Words of Grace For Today
The people promise to serve God and obey him.
They break their promise over and over again.
Good thing the covenant God made with Abraham and with them is one sided: God makes it, God keeps it.
We just get to trust it, and return to trusting it when we decide (so often) not to trust God.
Pilate knows power. Jesus is to him an usurper, and a poor one at that, for he’s gotten himself caught by the ‘real’ power, and his life is in Pilate’s hands.
Well, not really!
Jesus is the real power, that holds the universe together since the beginning of time and before, even as the Webb Telescope gives us spectacular photos that reach back in time closer, closer to the beginning of time.
Jesus is the power, the king, the master of all people and of the universe, who bends down to serve us, to demonstrate how real power is exercised, that is with mercy and love.
What would history be like if all people exercised that kind of power?
What would our days be like if we exercised that kind of power?
Francis of Assissi, Clare, Abbess of San Damiano, Dominic, Florence Nightingale, Clara Maass, and a host of so many others show us what life can be like when we exercise that kind of power!
Live on today! Listen to the truth and to Jesus’ voice. Exercise your God given power … to serve others.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
1 John 3:2
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
Words of Grace For Today
The path …
I’m not so sure anyone really knows what any ‘path’ looks like, until they have travelled it and since no human can travel the path of righteousness (righteousness is reckoned to us by God, as a gift, unearned, untraveled, perhaps hoped for).
We wish we could. We pretend we have. We write about it as if we have. We try to inspire others to choose to travel the path that we have not travelled.
We should instead inspire people to trust God to reckon righteousness to us, and to be alert to the path that God provides for us. Though we do not travel it, God hauls us on that path in spite of us and our constant rebelling, and false, arrogant claims that we, oh yes, we have and do travel the path of righteousness. That is like most of our human powered efforts: it’s bunk. Or as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, it’s all vanity.
Theologians and writers who claim to know how we will be like Jesus, and what Jesus will be like upon his return speak that same language of over-exuberance at least and often pure arrogance and goal of controlling other people, even though they can control so little of themselves and their own life.
Humility is our beginning point, our mid-point, and our reality all the way to the end. The only thing we can ‘boast’ of is God’s good work in us, and in all creation.
Like the sun rising, with the most beautiful light, until it rises clear of the horizon and burns heat and energy down on the day-lit-earth. From that we have learned to create solar electricity. And from that energy plants through photosynthesis live and thrive … unless and until the heat and energy from the sun becomes too much and they wilt, burned out of life by the very energy that gave them life.
So it is for us. We need the sun to live, vitamin D being the least of it. Until the sun becomes too hot, too intense, too powerful an energy that it burns life up around us, and us with it.
Today it will burn hot in the meadow, with a forecast 30⁰ it will climb to at least 35⁰ and likely 40⁰ or more as the heat gets trapped in the meadow.
Thankfully the evening comes and cools it right off, usually 5⁰ cooler than elsewhere. A regenerating time, not just for sleep but recovery from the intense heat.
What do people do without that relief? They suffer. They die.
What do people do without the energy (Love) of God entering their lives with the great relief from the evils of the world to revive them (Grace). They suffer. They die.
We pray that today God will exercise Love and Grace abundantly for us and make us clearly aware of God’s work for us, as clear as the noonday sun, with relief from the cool water of life in the shade of the tall and healthy tree canopy, where so many of God’s creatures know to find relief from the heat.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them’
Words of Grace For Today
God, almighty, melts the earth with a word, if God chooses.
God, almighty, melts our hard hearts and thick heads, if God chooses.
God dwells with us, and goes well with us, if God chooses.
God watches as kingdoms (and our small worlds) totter and fall, as hearts shrivel up and harden against all that attacks them and everything else as well, and as minds close down to consider only what fits so easily with a preconceived and shrunken concept of reality (though it may indeed be so far from reality.)
God is right there with us, and because God chooses, God does not abandon us to our tottering, hardening, closed down limits to life.
God strengthens our tottering worlds (oh in so many ways the world around us totters and falls into ashes and dust) so that they stand, not on our strength, but on God’s strength.
God melts the hardening of our hearts so that we can love again, so that they provide life for us and for all those we encounter.
God lifts the lids on our minds to let in the fresh air of hope so that we can see again beyond the horizons that were so close, so that we can see our neighbours’ needs and our abundance.
With that abundance, which God gives us and renews constantly, God showers the world around us with security for this day and all our days to come, security in God’s presence; God showers every heart around us with love, life-giving love; God showers our minds with curiosity and hope so that our horizons are beyond even our imaginations capabilities,
Because God so chooses, and choose again as each new morning dawns.