[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.
“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.
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.
For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.’
And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness.
Words of Grace For Today
The people are just returned from exile and Jeremiah wants them to sing with loud gladness, to give praise as they beg God to save the remnant, what little remained after yet another attempt to wipe out God’s people.
Wiping out peoples is as old as it gets. Erase them. Eradicated them. Burn them to the ground. Be rid of them.
Not hard to feel that way. I get that way about wasps that are so plentiful out my door that it’s hard to get anything done. Let them be no more! All of them, Gone!
God does not guide us, God’s people, to be so with our enemies. Instead, God calls us to extend God’s mercy even to them.
That’s a bold move in a world that eats you alive when you are merciful. That’s as old as it gets, too.
So we pray often, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness.
The courage to know that grace is the only way to live a life that is abundant as God created us to live, even when that may well mean the backlash is enough to wipe one out.
To have that courage requires that one know how, when one has almost been wiped off the face of the earth, to give God praise and thanks with great gladness.
To whom else are we going to turn for life abundant?
How else are we going to enjoy it, if not celebrating in the face of adversity?
Today is another one of those days: lots of challenges, many from our enemies; lots of cause for thanks and praise given to God, and overwhelming joy.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
Words of Grace For Today
Yesterday the rains fell, the winds blew, and I slept, fitfully with wild dreams in tune with the ruckus outside.
I woke to see leaves against the back window of the camper. Winter tarps strung on frames quickly assembles as the cold set in, gave out around the camp. Tarps danced with anger in the wind.
I wandered out in rubber boots and my bathrobe to survey the damage. The top rain tarps were whipped back exposing the insulating tarps. The protection for firewood was mostly gone, and I freed the tarps the rest of the way to keep it from ripping itself any more. The tree, well … a tree was blown over onto the back of the camper. Thus the leaves at the window were that tree’s, yesterday a good 6 feet away, today up close and pressing on the glass.
I had hauled in wood the day before yesterday. The ‘ropes’ were still in the truck. I positioned the truck to pull a rope, wrapped around another tree (low for better leverage and less risk of pulling that tree over on to the camper) and on to the tree kissing the camper as high as I could reach (for better leverage on that wayward wood.) With a tug in low 4×4 the tree came upright, and then settled against another tree back towards the ‘pulley’ tree. I reattached the rope straight from truck to fallen tree, and backed up (praying the tree would not find it’s way back on to the camper just 6 feet away). It followed the rope and settled nicely in front of the truck (also a concern that I may not be far enough back and the tree would more than kiss the truck!)
A Kiss, Thankfully, Just a Kiss.
So it was: my morning. A day with plans to endure the rains. I’ve survived a flood, watching waters rise to within a metre of destroying a house that I build with my own hands, crossing up over the river valley to the plain away from town. Then travelling (instead of 3 km to town) back and around and over the dam up river (the only road still in tact over the river) 17 km to get to town, and hearing the rain each night, each day, and the reports that the dam was softened and shifting.
Real dread fills my bones still when heavy rains persist day after day.
This tree, this rain, did little damage that cannot be repaired. The tarps and their supports needed to be better designed and built before another winter. Now it will be done a bit sooner in the summer. A good thing at that.
So it is that I can heartily echo these readings:
The Lord will keep our going out and our coming in from this time on and for evermore and the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
It’s just another normal spring day (normal given climate change.) What will I do with it? What will you do with it?
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Words of Grace For Today
Princes of this world.
The Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ, the Saviour of all, the Son of God.
In whom do we trust?
The USA dollar has inscribed on it ‘In God We Trust’, and that dollar has symbolized so much done in the last century that did not trust in God, but in the princes and powers of this world.
Oh, well. We do like to state the opposite of what is so obviously condemning of us, as if that could possibly save us from all we do to dominate over others. Instead of freeing ourselves, we lose our souls and destroy and destory so innumerably many other people.
By grace, today, the Holy Spirit will direct our thoughts and words so that we may hear, see, and acknowledge the folly of our trust in princes of this world, and the wonders of trusting God, loving God, and of giving God all glory and honour … and dominion over our hearts, minds, and souls.
‘Simple Sam’ the other children taunted him through grade school. He was different. He rarely paid attention in class. He was off elsewhere in his thoughts. The surprise that caught his teachers off guard was when they started doing basic algebra in grade 5. Sam flew through the assignments faster than they could even read them. He corrected and explained to the teachers, in concepts they barely understood, when they made math mistakes in front of the class. When his book report came in instead of the assigned two pages on a 125 page, easy to read book, he produced ten pages on Tolkien’s Trilogy of the Rings, with insights the teachers had never read of before, not even at university.
Then one teacher had a newspaper upside down on his desk, open to an editorial on the market fluctuations caused by the recent conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, and climate change. Sam came up, glanced at the newspaper and said that the author had totally forgotten to factor in the rare earth resources in Ukraine, the drive to carbon free energies, and the massive coalitions coming together between Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists to move governments, multi-national corporations, research, and even world markets towards responsible living on planet earth, including carbon neutral living and ways of doing business. That would likely change the markets at least 2% this week and maybe 10% by the end of the year.
The teacher asked Sam if he’d read the article before, or if someone had told him all this. ‘Simple Sam’ answered, “No, this is the first I’ve read anything by this author.” She asked again, “When did you read this article?” “Just now. It’s there on your desk. It’s upside down, but that doesn’t matter.” “You read it now! That article fills the bottom half the newspaper!” Sam shrugged, “I read the top half, too. It just takes a glance to read it, doesn’t it?” “Sam, can we talk about this later.” “Sure.”
‘Simple Sam’ continued, by his choice through Grade 6, totally blowing the minds of his teachers. Instead of Grade 7, that year ‘Simple Sam’ was admitted to a special 2 year tutoring program to prepare special students for university. By October he completed all they could offer, and he attended University classes. By age 16 he earned two PhD, simultaneously. One in physics-pure math, and the other in political science. In both his theses, which were published immediately, he brought many other disciplines together, as well as his own faith perspective as a Lutheran, and the impact other faiths had on his topics.
Sam continues to write and publish technical as well as popular articles and books on our past, present, and future as a species, to teach grad students at the university, and to lead children, youth, and adults in small groups at his church. He’s amazing with his guitar and on the piano.
His favourite answer to complicated questions starts with, “It’s really simple if you start by trusting God, first. Then consider that ….”
To the tree above Sam said: “It’s not hard to work out the math of the physics of why that tree is bowed down, but start by trusting God. Then we see the tree knows to give God the glory. After that it’s all in the biology of the tree, the weather, and the magnetic attraction of the person passing below it.”
The last, he’d explain, is a bit of humour. No science at all.
If you listen, look, and consider with loving care, God demonstrates every day in many ways, the folly of trusting in princes of this world, and the wonders of trusting and loving God, and of giving God all glory and honour … and dominion over our hearts, minds, and souls.
And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’
1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Words of Grace For Today
This world does provide an ample sample of suffering for anyone who chooses to live ‘eyes wide open’. While some may say it is ‘now for a little while’, the suffering never seems anything like ‘little’ to those who are caught in it.
The image often referred to in scripture, as in these two passages, is that through our suffering our faith is refined, and it becomes more precious. This may be a great philosophical perspective on other’s suffering, though I’m not sure it helps those who suffer now. Yet it is repeated, and repeated, and repeated … as if the repetition would help or that the writers and thinkers just cannot come up with something more helpful.
Maybe there is nothing helpful!
That would, of course, depend on one’s perspective of towards what end, what goal, what value, those who suffer will be helped.
If the end, goal, and value is to not suffer, then there seems (as history well attests to what we humans are capable and eager to do to others) to be no shortage or end to suffering.
What if the end, the goal, and the value is something else than ending suffering?!
What if it the end, goal and value is how one lives, when one is in the midst of suffering, when one is free from suffering, and in fact in all circumstances of life?
Say (given the scriptural witness to this) that the end, goal and value is that we humans live in a love with God, and therefore we love all people, even our enemies and ourselves (which is usually the most difficult kind of love, since we know how little we deserve love.)
This first long weekend of the summer the crowds returned to the random camping area, first dribbling in on Wednesday already to secure a campsite for themselves and their group, most often a group using at least 2 camping units and numerous tents, trucks, cars, and noisy cycles, quads and side-by-sides. By Friday night all but the chilly spots along the lake (all well within 30 metres of the water) were overfilled, most bursting with drink, drugs, and loud music though a few had children and kept a quieter presence.
My nights’ sleep was more than once disrupted by the throbbing base of a piece of ‘music’ that spoke to a visceral, instinctual encounter with nature (having nothing to do with the peaceful nature that surrounds this lake until it is so disrupted by humans trying to escape reality.)
Saturday the kicker came. I made my usual walk along the high road and immediately saw something was wrong. A camping unit sat in the trees where no vehicle had ever sat before. A family had moved in two shorter, older campers, parked them on and on each side of the road easement that forms the border between crown and private land. The easement is only a trail passable by careful off road driving of something more robust than a 4×4 truck. They camped on each side and across the road that is the only way to bring in a camping unit to this end of the random camping area and into the private land where I rent and camp. There is another lower, closer to the lake roadway, with tight turns, many roots and holes where stumps have been removed that exits in the lake side of the random camping area. There everyone sees me coming and going, and it’s impossible to bring water in and out since the rough road spills more water than not. In other words they were blocking my roadway out and back in.
The father said they were not completely set up yet, claimed they (with weed and alcohol in hand) that they wanted to camp away from the noise and partying of the other campers because of the children with them, and refused to consider moving to other established camping sites that were still available where they could fit both their campers.
The threats voiced towards me, the belligerence and profanity, the open threats, and the orders to leave belied … well it belied a fear in them. And an animal that is caught in fear can be unpredictable and destructive. I could well be caught in their unpredictable violence that certainly more than bubbled to the surface of one young man.
I returned a second time later, after continuing to work on the writing due that evening, as I had been before this unwelcomed surprise. I asked how long they would be there. The young man, bursting with profanity and incomprehensible challenges, came so close to striking me that I was shocked. Another man, broken with age, a long grey beard, challenged me as well. Because neither would engage in a meaningful exchange of words I turned to the father who had come around one of the campers to join the ‘not conversation’ and said they would be there until tomorrow.
Tomorrow has come and gone and they camp still there in the way, promising to vacate the roadway if I need to use it, but blocking it from all practical use.
The real threat they pose to me is, since they can see when I come and go, they and others have clear opportunity to come up to my camp and ransack it or sabotage pieces of essential equipment, loaned to me to help me survive year around here, or worse.
How to put an end to this?!
Remove them from the face of the earth? That method has been tried so often in history and the results are ugly and never successful, or if they appear to be successful the backlash is worse than than the problem one sought to solve.
Ignore them and let them block my roadway, and the roadway for others. Another family came in last night to a site along that lower, lakeside road … and busted up the awning on a tree. The road is not wide enough, the turns too tight, and the holes tip a camper into trees one is trying to avoid. Ignoring them campers blocking the roadway is a passable solution, and really the only option for now. The danger is that they will stay with whole summer, or that others will move in when they leave, and the block will continue, and the danger that comes with it.
Or I can reframe my mind about what constitutes a danger, and trust beyond reasonable trust, that though so many will know my comings and goings my camp will not be damaged (again, for the theft and sabotage has already happened more than a few times.)
Or I can work to build some trust with these fearful people, ameliorate their fear, and defuse their under-the-surface anger so that they are less unpredictable, and less likely to vent on me or my camp.
Which is the raw, unfaithful response?
Which is the immature faith response?
Which is the ‘refined gold’ response?
Which provides for ‘us’ and ‘them’ that which every soul yearns for: to be heard, to be treasured, to be encouraged, to be welcomed and accepted just as one is?
May God provide the ‘fire’ needed to refine our faith, so that in all we think, say, and do others will hear us rejoicing and calling on God’s name saying ‘The Lord is our God’, so that the Spirit may reveal with our praise, Jesus Christ’ glory and honour … and love for all people, those that threaten us and that part of us that lives in fear.
May God provide, through us, that every soul will b be heard, be treasured, be encouraged, be welcomed and accepted just as one is!