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.
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.
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?!
Finding Our Way in the Cold, Is Less Life-Threatening, Than in Extreme Heat.
His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Words of Grace For Today
Around here lots of things grow, in the spring and summer anyway. That is wonderful if you are not allergic to the things that fly around as grass, bugs, trees, bugs, flowers, did I say bugs, and molds and mosquitoes, flies, and wasps … and ants.
Ants have taken on the woods pretty much wholesale and trees are toppling over from the base, the roots weakened by ants eating at them, and then beneath the stresses of wind on tall, heavy trunks, the just give up standing. Trees are also toppling over from any point between the base and the top where ants have attacked the wood, making their homes and eating the sap, or so they say.
We’ve reached the season where the grass does not need to be mowed every week. The evening light becomes darkness at an hour reasonable to sleep deep. The bugs have stopped multiplying exponentially and the pollen count is down.
One hopes that as the winter season closes in the trees have grown strong enough to withstand the storms and thereby provide protection from the winds that howl as snow swirls and the night is fast on the land before supper and holds tight until well after breakfast.
Many times and in many ways we’ve recognized that as trees are rooted in the ground and grow solid trunks that support many branches and branches support many twigs and twigs support many leaves. The comparison to our lives rooted in God abound, and well that they do.
We do not do well without a solid trunk (Christ) anchored with solid roots in the ground (Creation). Nor do we do well without exposure (like leaves) to the light of Christ so that we can grow each day and not succumb to the forces (like ants, like the devil’s minions) that would eat away at our existence, leaving us vulnerable to the winter winds (of evil.)
Therefore we celebrate the gift God gives us of anchoring us creation, growing us from Christ and making us reach the light (by the power of the Holy Spirit.)
It is no wonder that study after study shows that the noises of highways and industry limit growth in animals and people alike, and that we and most animals do better in the presence of naturally growing things (like trees and grasses) and flowing or collected waters (like streams, rivers, and lakes).
The sweet smell of Lebanon’s famous oak trees abounds for those rooted in Creation and grown in Christ, and in that fragrance we are able to produce much fruit, the fruit of sharing God’s abundant blessings with so many people.
On these hot summer days, it is helpful to remember that trees help relieve the heat. If it gets too bad you can always take a branch and hit yourself over the head. When you wake up it likely be cooler. OR you can prepare and spend your days in the shade, near cool waters, and in ground surrounded depths, for there God arranged for it to be 10⁰ C, everything else being equal. Ah, basements have a great purpose in the summer, the deeper the better!
Looking into the depths of our hearts this day to encounter again the Holy Spirit, chillin’.
But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children ….
Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Words of Grace For Today
There are many things to remember. The longer one lives the more things there are to remember. Even when one is born there is a vast expanse of things to remember, wider, deeper, longer, farther than the universe …
and most of it will not be remembered.
What will be remembered will either of itself be impregnated in one’s mind, burned like a cattle brand, scars too deep to be other than seen for the rest of one’s life because the event was so intense it can be no other.
What is remembered will be chosen and then recited day after day, week after week, and with the repetition deeply ingrained in one’s mind of today as if the yesterday recited happened just a moment ago.
Survival has programmed us to receive as ‘brands’ those negative events of our days, so that we can avoid them in the future and avoid such events or at least deal with them with less risk to ourselves. The positive events slip away more easily. Unless they are so much more intense than negative events or we choose to replay them (recite them), positive events pass like the light of day slipping away as the dark of night takes over.
There are many things out of our ancestors’ past, which we would do well to remember and use as the framework and colour scheme for our lives. We do well to remember the dangers survived, the manner in which dangers are averted or dealt with. The many things we do to survive, like growing and storing food, like building shelters to provide protection from the extremes of climate and predators, like making clothing adequate to guard against the cold, the heat, the bugs, the wet, and the burning sunlight. How many of us remember how to do these things for ourselves in this day when we buy everything already made for us, from shelter, to clothing, to food and drink?
There are many more things, much more important for life, that we can easily forget. These are the things that God has done for our ancestors (and for us before we were born), which in remembering them help us live lives worthy of all that God gives us. Our ancestors remembered God delivering them from slavery in Egypt bringing them across the Red Sea into the Wilderness, providing water and food for their survival there, and then bringing them into the Promised Land across the Jordan River. Our ancestors remembered Jesus’ birth, his ministry of healing and teaching, his undeserved torturous death on a cross, his burial, his rising from the dead to live again, his ascending to heaven, and his promises to be with us always (as the Holy Spirit is) and to return again at the end of time.
In the lives of those who lived when we have lived, our grandparents, parents, siblings and others of our faith communities, and even in our own lives, there are also so many wondrous works of God, and we do well to clearly notice them.
Our responses to such events (from the distant past up to our own yesterdays) are simple: to tell the stories of God’s wondrous works among our ancestors, to confess our sins, to repent of our sins, and to obey Jesus’ command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and strength; to love our neighbours as ourselves (even our enemies).
When we begin and end each day with these memories recited and replayed in our minds, then our days begin and end with thanks. We can better live our lives filled with gratitude, fearing and loving God with honour in all we do … except when we don’t, and then we know to ask for forgiveness, instead of ignoring or denying that we have sinned.
Remembering God’s wondrous works gives us life like no other. It gives us life as God intended us to live it. We approach each day, with it’s challenges, successes, and disappointing failures, with a peace and joy that helps us see most clearly how our ancestors dealt with these and how God calls us to live through them to the next moment, ready always to serve others in need, as our Master bends to serve us, even when we are still slaves to sin.
Remembering, reciting and replaying God’s wonders makes for a life lived well. And that no one can steal from us.
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.
The words of their mouths are mischief and deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and do good. They plot mischief while on their beds; they are set on a way that is not good; they do not reject evil.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Words of Grace For Today
Fools are too easy to find. People with mouths filled only with mischief and deceit are around every corner, if that far away. Actions of wisdom and goodness have long since faded from our landscape. The worries of the night when sleep evades them are filled with scheming how to do even more devious and evil deeds to try to achieve their own place in life. Evil is at their finger tips, pouring from the hearts and minds as readily as if they were the Devil himself.
Then … when one was about to drop dead from despair at the preponderance of evil all around with at least the hope that Jesus has prepared a room for us forever there … a stranger, a foreigner, a believer in other things, comes along, cured by Jesus, healed back to the fullness of life abundant and giving God thanks like we all ought to each day.
Which will we live out this day: out of the overwhelming deceit and evil that pours forth so freely from so many,
from the thanks and joy of one healed by Jesus’ Word?
We are, when we take care to look in a mirror of truth and wisdom, as much the producers of evil as any other.
We are, when we take care to look in a mirror of truth and wisdom, as much healed and capable of giving God thanks as any stranger.
So which will we embrace to start this day? And again throughout the day? And as we lay ourselves to rest for the coming night?
Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding-place and my shield; I hope in your word.
Matthew 8:8 The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.’
Words of Grace For Today Can we hope at all?
This from the CBC MorningBrief Newsletter yesterday:
Europe is living in a disaster movie. Unprecedented temperatures — 47 C in Portugal over the weekend; nearly 40 C in parts of Britain on Monday — have killed 1,000 people. Roads in France are under threat of literally melting. Rail lines are in danger of buckling. Runways at airports are forced to shut down. Wildfires are spreading across several countries as thousands evacuate their homes. ‘In some southwestern areas, it will be a heat apocalypse,’ meteorologist Francois Gourand told the news agency AFP about the heat wave in France. At one time, this may have sounded like hyperbole, but the fact is every year countries around the world break long-standing temperature records — as was seen in B.C. last year — and then thousands die. All of this should come as a shock to no one. Climatologists have been sounding the alarm for decades, warning of the increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves and droughts. When asked if this type of heat wave comes as a surprise to him, climatologist Michael Mann said in an email: ‘Sadly, not. We have seen a recurring pattern of a very wavy jet stream this summer. That pattern is associated with the extreme events we’re seeing right now in the U.S. and Europe.’ When the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released in 1990, it addressed the potential increase in heat waves, stating: ‘Some scientists believe that in a warmer climate the earth can be expected to experience more variable weather than now, with a likelihood of more floods and drought, more intense hurricanes or typhoons, and more heat waves.’ There have been four more assessment reports since then, with the language growing stronger and stronger about how the world needs to limit warming to 1.5 C above the pre-industrial average or it will face dire consequences. But those reports aren’t just talking about the future — at roughly 1.2 C of warming right now, we’re already seeing the effects of climate change, particularly in the summer months. The worst part, Mann said, is that climatologists may have underestimated the long-term predictions of heat waves.
Lordy, Lordy, what have we done!!?
It is one thing to hope in God’s Word, and hide under the shield of God, and to call on Jesus to but speak a word and we will be healed, but …
but we’re not listening! We have not worked to change. We have barely begun to speak correctly, sort of acknowledging what we’ve done. It’s harder and harder to find reasonable people who deny that climate change is a result of our own actions as humans on earth … and still it is not impossible to find those crooked-thinker (Querdenkers) in one’s own backyard.
Actually it’s real easy to find those people in my ‘backyard’ since they congregate here for relief from the heat and burn their gratuitous campfires all evening and night, and run their generators for hours and hours each day to supply electricity to their air conditioners, TV’s, microwaves, and who knows what else?
We complain mightily when it climbs above 25⁰ or 30⁰ or heaven helps us 35⁰ during the day and stays above 15⁰ at night. We are hard pressed to find our comfort. Oh, man save us we cry if it gets above 40⁰ and stays there for a few days! Here we are next to a cool lake. What are people able to do in the concrete-paved-over-barely-green-anywhere-tall-buildings cities?
Lordy, Lordy, what have we done!!?
So we cry: Oh, God, can you even save us? Save us now if you can!! Listen though! God has for decades sent us word, word about how we are bringing climate change with it’s new extremes and more ferocious storms each year and how we can stop it. God has sent us clear warning in the past five years of obvious, undeniable new extremes and extreme weather to warn us to stop our CO emissions (along with lots of other fossil-fueled-industrial activities.)
How many of us have really listened and then acted to change our lives? Well now it’s changing our lives, and not for the better. Will we start to change in good ways?
History repeats the answer to that question asked of every generation, ‘What? We don’t understand, so no.’
God help us!
God help us this day to do everything we can to learn what we must do to do our part!