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.
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?!
Rise up, O God, plead your cause; remember how the impious scoff at you all day long.
God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s good pleasure that God set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
Words of Grace For Today
For what shall we ask from God for this day, if not that God’s will be done also among us?
The Psalmist sings to God to rise up and state God’s cause, remembering how the impious scoff at God. Is the wish behind this prayer that God will judge and condemn the scoffers, the impious. If so then it is yet another example of humans trying to beat up others using God as a weapon. Or in other words: do what I tell you is proper behaviour and observe proper religious rituals in order that God will save you.
Ephesians has our answer to that kind of ‘easy’ bending of God’s Word and Promises of old. God has revealed the mystery of God’s will to us in Jesus the Christ, and it is in a Word: Grace. Christ came to live, die and be raised from the dead in order that we might know God’s first and last wish for us all is to love us, forgive us, and send us out to be that love to others.
There is great darkness always in life, always ready to steal our hearts from us and toss us to the wolves of self-reliance, self-saving, consuming for security, zero-sum stealing life from others that we might live in comfort.
Christ light shines in every darkness.
We are that light for so many people, if we but shine with God’s Grace and Love, instead of fear-motivated judgements and cries for conforming and compliance to our remake of ‘god’s rules.’
Ah, the freedom.
Ah, the wonder.
Ah, the awfully awe-filled, awesome light that rises this day again for us to live in.
Thunder may be scary but it’s easier to compartmentalize. This Light, it exposes every bit of our being, and God’s as well.
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’.
For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones. The righteous shall be kept safe for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’
Words of Grace For Today
Some end the day with giving thanks. Not that I don’t, it’s just by then I’m ready to pack it in.
Morning on the other hand is a time of wonder and gratitude flowing in so many directions as I notice the little things that are wonders. When people have tried and succeeded somewhat to ruin you, kill you, and exile you, the little things are miracles: starting with that I survived and am still surviving.
So this morning as many mornings I saw these wonders and gave thanks:
the comfort of a camper (instead of living under a tarp, in a tent, or ….)
the wonders of bright morning sunshine in the window, fresh air, relative quiet, birds calling (almost always loons very early on), sometimes the distant white noise of the power generators at the oil installation north of here.
the great time of year: now when the grass does not grow so fast that it needs be cut every week, the gone-ness of wasps, flies, mosquitoes (well some remain until freeze up),
the energy at my disposal (propane, gas, solar, batteries and wood.
the supplies I have (kleenex, paper towels, or toilet paper, I have enough clothes, though I get them dirty too fast it seems, I always have enough cleaning liquids of many kinds since they’re cheap at $tree, and…)
the tools that I can borrow making maintenance and repairs possible,
the machines that I can borrow: a truck that sometimes runs, a mower, …
the building supplies I can afford.
the good food and drink I have available, thanks also to the food bank for so much that are staples and ‘treats’ that are so healthy like yams and strawberries, and then coffee and medications that keep me functioning and living longer, maybe.
technology that keeps me able to write, read, and talk; and take and process and share photos (though it’s getting old and I wonder how long it’ll keep going – isn’t that stupid that such stuff ‘wears out’ so fast! a miracle that the computer and phone have lasted seven and six years!)
and More: the lake and a canoe to traverse it in summer, skis for winter outings, Pallets to walk on to keep my shoes clean around the camp, little things I’ve crafted to make life easier, like paper towel dispensers, shelves of all kinds, a writing desk, a ‘vertical’ mouse pads, freeze-protected water lines….
And always, breakfasts that are a delight: filling cereal, topped by sweet and sour (cold/frozen) berries, drenched in creamy Silk, with bitter hot coffee mellowed by Silk.
And plenty of toothpaste and soap and water to keep me clean – or so, with bum wipes, cloths, and towels.
Everything is covered.
The place only needs the drunk and partying druggies to stay away, the thieves and drug dealers to find elsewhere to ply their trades, and the ornery ones to settle down and notice how good they have it, or not.
And I only need a few dollars to get my own place in which I can retire and from which I can travel and camp around the wonderful places and get a set of camera-lenses-etc for photography and maybe….
So there’s that gratitude and dream to start the day.
How can one start one’s day and not notice the little things and give thanks?
Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you.
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Words of Grace For Today
There is great cause to fear God. God, with a whim and a sigh, can send the universe spinning back into nothingness, or any small part. A single mosquito, though I’d prefer a whole bunch around here, or one of us, with no more than a word, God can smite us back out of existence and remove us from the timeline.
Why serve the Lord then? Why not try to make it on out own?
Out of fear? Are we to serve God because we fear him?
That will not get us far, or rather it will send us far away from God (even as God is with as nonetheless).
We are to fear and love God because first God has done such great things for us. Like creating us in the universe. Like saving our sorry butts again and again, freeing us from our sins, even when we keep going right back to them! Like bringing us out of slavery into the Promised Land. Like adopting us as God’s own children in our baptisms. Like walking with us even when we run away, and especially on the darkest stretches of life.
Thus we come to serve God with zeal. For in God we know we are saved, nestled in care and love, and protected from all Evil … oh, and given every hope even when we despair.
In the heat of the day, God sometimes reminds us how great God is. It rains. While it’s been 32⁰ out and much hotter in the sun, and humid, and sticky, and it’s so close inside even if it is a few degrees not so hot, we breath heavily and sweat a lot.
Then it rains hard and heavy for a few minutes, dropping large drops everywhere, freshening the ground and the air is heavenly … and cooled down to a comfortable 19⁰. Great for sleeping a good night’s sleep. So there’s that, too! And all our enemies are stymied by God knows what, and we live safely. So much for which to give God thanks. So with what is left in life we serve God, and God alone.
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!
Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
Words of Grace For Today
God on high, filling the earth and the heavens and the whole universe, stoops low to raise up the poor from the dust, the needy from the ashes, and seats them among the princes! God gives the barren woman children and joy.
Jesus, God’s Son, one person of the one Godhead, the Trinity, though God in great power and glory, empties himself of all that and takes the form of a slave, and is born as one of us, a poor human.
What kind of a God is this, if not one to be feared and loved. For God does not abandon humans at all. He helps the most needy find a place in the world. He gives barren women children and joy, and a home!
So we fear and love God each day.
And give God praise from down low, lower than we think we really are, humble but not humble enough. Blessed but needing greater blessings. Surviving and living well, but always on the edge, threatened by many and protected by many more, and above all protected by God’s great might and love,
I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Words of Grace For Today
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah and other sources in the Old Testament willingly submits to abuse and torture. Is this an appeasement of the wickedness of those with power to do such things? No, this is, in Isaiah 50, a declaration of the servant’s righteousness, of God’s eventual vindication of the Servant, and the condemnation of the abusers.
Jesus life, death, and resurrection is interpreted in many ways. One is that Jesus had to die and undeserved death in order to take on the punishment for all of us who deserve death, all in order that we would not have to suffer our deserved punishment. A hope-giving interpretation, one that is at the foundation of Christian faith. (A foundation that is in so many ways undermined as people try to assert control over their destinies, making it themselves who choose to save or be saved by Jesus. On goes the hubris and sin. But that’s a digression on decay of faith.)
A vital and more life inspiring interpretation is one offered by Rene Girard: that Jesus suffered as a scapegoat as God’s clear message that scapegoats are not needed or wanted anymore. This is not unlike Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac: it is stopped because God wants to make clear that God does not want any child sacrifices, not at all.
God does not want any more scapegoats. Yet scapegoats are offered up every day.
Girard points out that we desire what others close to us desire or have. That is our desires mimic other’s desires. That results in more people wanting what others have, though there is not enough of the things desired to go around. This sets up conflict between us and those close to us. We cannot live well in conflict with people close to us, so we resolve it by taking out our conflict on an innocent third party. This is our scapegoat. The punishment meted out make no sense, except that in the cruelly punishing someone for our guilt, we experience a temporary relief in the conflict between ourselves and those close to us.
On and on it goes as the tension of conflict builds inevitably again, and since it worked so well before we get well practised in scapegoating innocent, vulnerable, and defenceless people. Thus minorities and immigrants and neurodiverse people and, and, and end up disproportionately in our jails, being abused and tortured, and killed – and no one ‘gets caught’ for the cruel injustice, least of all the judges that let it all happen before their eyes, day in and day out.
Jesus preaches and heals the needy people. Rich, poor, mobile, invalid, blind, deaf, short, tall, Jesus heals them all. The established religious leaders are jealous. They want the adoration and the power that goes with it that Jesus is given by the people. The act to have what Jesus has, and instead of a third party scapegoat, they go right for Jesus. And they get him, dead on a torturous cross. They think they’ve won.
On the third day Jesus rises back to life, out of the grave, living beyond death, crushing their win with life.
No more scapegoats needed. Jesus is the last one.
Yet on and on and on it goes every day, more and more scapegoats fall victim to things they had nothing to do with, defamed throughout the community, lied about in courts, jailed though entirely innocent. Ruined.
Or so they think.
That is the rest of the message from God, Jesus as the medium. God does not let injustice win, nor bullying, nor scapegoating. God raises those victimized back to the fullness of life.
And we live well.
Grateful for God’s Word in Jesus, and for new life, by Grace. Some of us fortunate to have life still on this side of the grave. After, well, then it’s into Paradise. Some say that’s a city with a room for everyone. I rather hope it’s a pristine wilderness, where one can find solitude finally, away from bullies.
I’m sure God has that figured out and I, and all innocent scapegoats, can get on with another glorious day where, after all the effort cruelly expended to try to make it not so, it is a miracle to still be alive. Solitude is a great blessing. Peace is extraordinary. Grace abounds.
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.