Giving Up!

Surrendering to God With and For Us

Friday 27 January 2023

The colours of dawn show the glory of God,

whether we see it or not.

Psalms 1:3

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Words of Grace For Today

Jonathan worked hard everyday, as he had since he was 5. He remembered what his mother had taught him, that you had to work hard to make it in life. He had definitely wanted to make it in life. First he had wanted to make his mother proud. He may have wished something of his father, but he had left them before Jonathan knew anything about him. Then as he grew older he saw that people with money got to do what they wanted, so he decided that he would have lots of money by working hard.

A quick three years earned him his first degree, another two his PhD and he was on his out working hard everyday. At first he worked for someone else. After a year he figured out that the only way to be wealthy was to have people working for him, so he quit his job and started his own little design and engineering company. Just five years later he had grown it to 1000 employees in 20 different cities. He’d sold that company for his first real billion in his own bank account. He’d invested half in safe stocks and the rest into a new company, this time architecture, engineering, and construction. Within 3 years he had more than 3000 employees in 30 different cities across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Then he’d met Michelle on a worksite in Vereeniging and again on a project outside Dar es Salaam and all the sense of his working everyday dissolved like his nightly antacids in hot water. He’d taken a year to be with her, working every other week or so, getting just as much work done, still adding to his assets and investments, and the value of his company, all privately owned. They’d been married in Cape Town, had a week long honeymoon in Stockholm, Oslo, and Sankt Peter Ording.

Then he’d gotten back to work, even as the children arrived. First Olevia, then Petrus. When he came back from working in Hebron on a new project, his first in Israel, he found Michelle in the hospital. No one knew what made her ill, but she could barely lift her head or hands, and she whispered at most a few words each day. He’d sat by her for 4 straight days, as her condition got worse and worse, until ….

Looking back on the week that had followed, Jonathan could not remember what had happened. He sat on the edge of his hospital bed now. People told him he collapsed at Michelle’s funeral. He had no memory of it at all, or of the previous days in the hospital.

He rubbed his forehead. It did not help the headache or the dizziness. He tried to stand, but the room spun and he sat back down. Minutes later he woke up laying on his bed.

All the money that he had, and he could not save Michelle, and now he could do nothing for himself. Give him a building project and he’d excel, but this! What was this!?

When he found these verses (Psalms 1:3 and Philippians 1:9-11) beside his bed that night, he thought, yes, he’d prospered, but to what good end? He thought his love for Michelle had overflown all limits, and he had acquired great knowledge and wealth. But had he any insight to help himself determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ he would be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness?

It was like another test, and he was failing this one badly.

The pastor that visited his roommate the next morning talked about how we could not do anything good without the Holy Spirit guiding us to do that good. Otherwise it all turned to dust and hopeless evil. We could, of our own freewill, choose to do evil and turn from God; but only God could help us live in God’s good grace.

He was more confused than ever. How could he do what was right if that was impossible? But he could still do what was wrong, because that was fully possible for him?

His roommate got up later that day, and saw that he had not even made it to the bathroom at all that day. He walked over, and saw Jonathan’s confused, hopeless look, and simply made the sign of the cross on his forehead saying, you are marked with the cross of Christ, and you are precious to God. Be at peace.

And then it all changed for Jonathan. He died.

They revived him. A month later he went home. He spent hours, days, weeks and months making no sense at all of what the pastor or his roommate had said. Not until Olevia walked into his study and told him that God walked with her, whether she liked it or not. But it didn’t help keep the bully girl out of her face at school. So she was reading about Gandhi and nonviolence. She knew that what seemed to be weakness was going to be her strength.

And it clicked for Jonathan. He stopped trying to do everything right, to earn enough money, to read the right things, to think the right things. He just prayed to God that he surrendered.

He woke the next morning and for the first time ever, doing nothing except waiting to see the sun rise, paying attention to the glorious colours of the dawn slowing push the darkness away until the deep blue sky shone bright above the pink and cream in the clouds on the horizon … and he knew that God was with him, and had been his whole life, even when he had never paid attention or cared.

For the first time ever life looked wonderful, even while he felt profound guilt for leaving Michelle so often and the grief of her leaving him with an un-fillable hole in his heart.

Gladness In Our Hearts

Thursday 26 January 2023

So Many Steps To Take,

To Preserve Creation

For The Next Generations!

Psalms 4:7-8

You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Words of Grace For Today

Former Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, in his November 2022 ‘In Defence of Democracy’ speech for the Samara Centre for Democracy’s at the Toronto Public Library outlined five simultaneous crises that we face, which threaten more than just democracy, but also democracy:

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/keep-fighting-to-build-strong-communities-naheed-nenshi-1.6679094

Public Health, which the pandemic showed us all too clearly is broken so badly and so unfairly and so unjustly.

Mental Health, which is buried, hidden and denied, yet officially effects 1 of 4, and realistically is a crisis for every single one of us at some time in our lives.

Economic Injustice, which is fuelled by systems that we rely on, which as much as slavery did[does] needs to mistreat so many people in order to keep our societies functioning.

Environmental Crisis, which has shown us that we’ve used up most of our ‘carbon budget’, climate is changing in years (changes that used to take millennia), and change cannot come soon enough, though the wrong changes will leave us worse off than we are now and will be otherwise.

Inequity, which is the fundamental crisis underlying all the others, so that while some live opulent lives now, most of us live in the dregs of their leftovers, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is getting wider, faster than ever before.

Of course, in the past year we must add a sixth crisis, that of inflation and the rising cost of borrowing money, of paying for housing, of buying groceries and gasoline and everything else that is basic to life as we live it.

These crises are familiar to anyone who has not been ‘asleep at the wheel!’

Nenshi provides illustrations: from an immigration system that promises educated, certified, even practising professionals entry to Canada, where we then deny them the right to exercise their professions and instead relegate them to hard, manual labour like long-term care work, or the new driver’s lecture for youth of colour that concludes: always keep your wallet out and visible so that if/when you are stopped you do not need to reach for it, do as you are told, and do not resist: do not let being pulled over be the last thing you do!

So what are we to do?

Nenshi offered three ways to get to an anti-racist culture: empathy, sacrificial service, and love.

Nothing new there either.

So if we’ve know and practised these things, while we may not have made any progress, we know personally and communally that the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

That God has put gladness in our hearts more than when grain and wine abound. Therefore we will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make us lie down in safety.

Yet, there is so much that God’s good creation needs from us still, while we still have breath, before it is too late!

‘Work with us, again this day, God!’ we pray

‘Bring gladness to our hearts once again.’

Ah, Life Done God’s Way

Wednesday 25 January 2023

God Plays A Great Tune

With Every Possibility

Are We Listening and Watching and Praying

And Giving Thanks?

Proverbs 11:19

Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but whoever pursues evil will die.

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Words of Grace For Today

The ordinary ways and means of life are simple: do the stuff right, do the righteous stuff and you will live well.

But if you do the wrong stuff, you will not live well, you will suffer, and die miserably.

The other thing is, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, then you will be fine.

But …

Jesus is God’s message to us that God intends life to be otherwise for us.

Not just any other way, but the ‘foolishness’ of the cross, that upside down way from our view, of God’s greatest power being in sacrifice in order to forgive and give new life to all us sinners who deserve nothing other than … well, nothing other than all bad, not even breath for life.

Yet we get all that God has that is good for us, given freely to us, to make life wonderful. Of course all that we get from God is not for us, it is for us to give away to others, especially others in need in order to actually keep living.

What a way to live, eh? Everything upside down from the rest of the world, and everything blessed, even when others think we have lost our minds.

But we know how we are blessed in the greatest of ways, even if we are hungry, homeless, and lies have ruined our reputation.

The sun rises, the sun shines or snow falls or rain drops like buckets, and then the sun sets. During every minute God shows us the simple joys of breathing, writing, taking photos, and being gracious, kind, and forgiving.

That’s the stuff of life as God intended us to live it.

Dance, Dance

Dancing to the Music of God’s Spheres

Tuesday 24 January 2023

The Moon Dances,

At Sunrise,

Inviting Us

Into God’s Dance of Life

for All

Psalms 91:9

Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling-place,

John 14:1

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

Words of Grace For Today

Were it so simple, that we could make God our refuge, and then we would always dwell in God’s Most Wondrous City, home for all the saints.

Were it so simple, that we could just choose to believe in God and in Jesus, and then our hearts would not be troubled.

But life is not like that. Nor are we able to always seek God as our refuge or choose to life in God’s wondrous city. Nor are we able to set aside all that troubles us and rest secure in our belief in God and in Jesus.

God planned for that.

God sends the Holy Spirit to guide us

into the city of God

into the care of God’s loving hands,

into God’s refuge

into a firm belief in God and Jesus the Christ,

and away from all that troubles our hearts.

Yet we often choose the trouble of this world as our dwelling place and our hearts contents!

God planned for that, too.

And sends the Holy Spirit again and again,

even today

to guide us into God’s dwelling for us, and life abundant, by moving us to share all we are and have with those who are in need.

This day, a wonder-filled day it is, as always, because God walks with us, through our darkness, and gives us hearts that sing and dance and fly

with grace to the mysterious music of our Creator, always with us.

A waltz if you will,

so dance, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three ….

Not AGAIN!

Monday 23 January 2023

The Ideal, Which Sadly Exists Seldom:

A Church and

The Rock,

And Christ’s Light

Psalms 25:20

O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

Matthew 7:25

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

Words of Grace For Today

It’s snowing again, and whether, due to weather, the house falls is not really an issue, since the flakes are teeny, but after a few storms and 3 feet of snow like we have now, though some has melted into ice, the weight of all that gathered on the tarps may just put the tarps on the ground and ‘the house will fall.’

So we cry again in the drabness of yet again more days of snow, deliver us!

We take refuge but the rains and snows continue to fall, the winds will blow hard, it will beat on the house we have built.

Then our only hope will be the house that God has built for us, built on the Rock, Peter, the Church of Jesus the Christ.

But it’s been corrupted as well, so we are left, in the teeny flaked snow falling on tarps that we have to clear by hand, waiting for the sun to shine to give solar power so we can write more gratitude-filled words, words of grace.

Stand by

for better weather and the light.

(But there’s still work to do today, so have at it, with all we’ve got, as we wait for the light.)

Great Foundation of ‘Foolishness’

Sunday 22 January 2023

Do We Follow In Other’s Footsteps,

Or Forge Ahead Where the Spirit Leads Us?

Many Saints Have Gone Before Us,

Without Them We’d Know Nothing

of the ‘Foolishness of the Cross’

Giving Life Abundant!

Jeremiah 10:6

There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.

1 Corinthians 3:11

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Words of Grace For Today

Christ laid a foundation of God’s power in weakness, of sacrifice for others being the way to an abundant life. At baptism we enter into that way of living as the Holy Spirit gives us such great gifts … all so that we can share God’ Grace with others. And then so often we turn it right back upside down and try to make it on our own as saints!

Another Adaptation of Mother Teresa’s “Anyway”

Mother Teresa wrote in her piece titled “Anyway!” that no matter the cost we should still choose to do the good things. I’ve adapted it to reflect that life following Christ is not about making the right choices. That’s a futile way to live, because the problem is that we never keep making the right choices! Jesus showed us instead that God intends that we surrender in our weakness and sinfulness to what the Holy Spirit makes us able to do: living out the foolishness of the cross, bringing Christ’s light into every darkness.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. – We get to forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. – We get to be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. – We get to succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. – We get to be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. – We get to create anyway.

If you compassionately listen to a poor person tell their story, it’ll wrench your heart and cost you a bit of life – We get to really listen anyway.

No matter how many poor people you help, there will always be another in great need. – We get to help the poor anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. – We get to be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. – We get to do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. – We get to give our best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God, and God promises to love us, no matter what. God gives us more than we need, so we get to give our all helping others see that God’s Grace is for them, too.

No matter how we fail or what comes our way in God’s great goodness, God created us to love compassionately, live vibrantly, and give unabashedly everything we have so that others may live knowing God’ Grace is for them, too!

Small wonders fill our days, if we but look and listen, and share them.

Three Star Joy

Thursday 19 January 2023

In Our Darkness,

We May Only See The Evil,

as here the pollution

of an oil processing plant.

Job 28:24

For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.

Matthew 18:14

So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Words of Grace For Today

There are plenty of times-events when we can well wonder if God sees what is going on, if God cares about what is happening to us or to others, if God will ever intervene and stop the horrendous evils that are perpetrated against us or against others.

Just look at what men get away with doing to women. It’s all over the news. And then don’t forget to look at what women get away with doing to men. It’s not all over the news, and it should be. Instead women can freely lie to the courts, and just as effectively as men kill women, women kill men. It ought not be so easy, for men or for women to kill others. But that’s how it is. And no one seems to care that women are as effective at killing men through lies in the courts and outside the courts as men are at violently killing women with force!

Does God care?!

Just look at what rulers have done and are doing (like Putin among so many evil rulers) to people with their military. Bombing apartment buildings, city-cide, scorching the earth ahead and behind them, attacking electrical and energy delivery networks and systems … and don’t forget the forced conscription or abduction of young men and women into the military, swiftly brought to the front without sufficient training, fodder in their unjust wars.

Does God even notice?!

The atrocities are not new or suddenly present in our times. The atrocities are as old as human life on earth (maybe before!)

The scripture passages remind us that God does see everything that happens, good, bad, ugly, and atrocious. God cares and wills not that even one little person will die before their time.

We could go with that assurance and bury our heads, but …

But many little ones are being killed even this day, again! Many men (and women) will be killed today by violent or subtle means, many with courts, cops, and the community playing a part in their deaths and in the cover ups.

So what are we to do, say, or think?

As in all our responses to all evil, close at home and far away in place and time, we can but trust that God not only sees and cares, but accompanies us and all those who suffer, and when we die, God calls us home.

Having a home on earth is enjoyed by many, but it’s taken from many more, even this day, again. Having a home in eternal time (having begun before we were even born!) with God is a basis for great joy and thanksgiving in life, even this day … even if this day were the day that we would finally succumb to our enemies’ ongoing attacks against our lives.

With great joy and thanksgiving, then we go into this day and each day. What more can we ask of life?

Well, let me make a list … it’ll be a few hundred pages long so hang on to your hats.

Or …

We can rest in God’s blessings already given to us each day and again this day.

Christ’s Light Shines,

like three stars,

even in this darkness.

Simple: Joyous Praise!

Monday 16 January 2023

Finding Our Way Is Simple,

and Simply Impossible

Without God’s Help.

Psalms 71:23

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have rescued.

Colossians 1:11-12

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Words of Grace For Today

The purpose of life has been proposed as many different things, and even said so often to be different for each person.

Yet, scripture and the saints often agree that the purpose of life is the same for us all, and that it is simple: give God praise with great joy.

The challenge is that life is often boring, overwhelmingly challenging, and unbearably painful, sometimes all at once. In order to be joyful and give God praise in the midst of all that takes … well it takes more than we have to give it often seems.

Only by the Holy Spirit enabling us can we endure all the boring, overwhelmingly challenging, and unbearably painful times of life, and still know at the beginning, end, and in the midst of each day to give God thanks for everything in life, and life itself.

For that we are created. For that God deals graciously with us. For that is simple, though seldom easy.

Do It Right! Or Else!

Sunday 15 January 2023

Our Sins, like dark trees,

always partially block OUT God’s Perfect Light,

which makes life

beautiful.

Proverbs 21:3

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

James 2:26

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Words of Grace For Today

Sacrifice is given after one has done what is not acceptable to God (sin), to appease God, to win God’s favour, and to set things right with God.

Of course, we humans would think that, instead of sinning it would be better just to do what pleases God, wins God approval, and stays right with God.

James hits it right on the head: the body alone is not alive, not unless spirit inhabits the body, mind, and soul. Likewise faith without works is also dead, for works are the spirit that gives faith its life … right?

What James hits right on the head is the easiest perversion of faith, apparently the Devil’s favourite path to corrupt us away from God, for we take it up so often. It goes like this: we do, God rewards us, beginning and of story.

Thank God that is not the story of God’s will and Word for us. Not at all. God created us able to love and able to sin. That is God created us free to choose to love (otherwise it is not love) which requires us also to be free to choose to not love, which is to sin and turn away from God’s will for us.

God planned for all that.

God loves us, whether we choose to love and live out that love doing righteousness and justice, enlivening our lives of faith with works of love (and all that comes with it.)

God does not abandon us to our lives of sin, perverse, destructive, and full of suffering as they are. God, instead, reaches out to us with love and forgives us and renews God’s spirit in us, and sends us out to do the same for others.

That is God’s will and Word for us.

There are so many seemingly convincing arguments to live otherwise, to avoid the real beginning of our relationship with God in worship and the rest of life. The real beginning for us is confession of our sins, which is the acknowledgement that without God’s forgiveness and grace we are nothing good at all, not at all.

There are so many fully convincing arguments made that we are sinners but not really that bad after all, not like other terrible sinners. We are not wretched sinners, just sort of sinners. All that is the Devil’s work to pull us away from fully relying on God’s forgiveness and grace as the source of spirit in our lives, which is really life itself.

Thankfully God planned for that, too, graciously sending God’s own son to show us how wretched we are as sinners, and how forgiving God is, and we can be forgiving of ourselves and others, without avoiding our profound and desperate need to be forgiven in order to breathe and be alive each moment.

Yes, we ought to do it right or else. The else is, God will forgive us again, and again, and yet again, demonstrating that we can do it right only with God’s Spirit guiding us.

Oh, and God prefers neither that we do righteousness and justice, nor that we make sacrifices. God prefers that we live out and tell the story of God’s Grace enabling us to do God’s will for us all.

Required Perfection

Thursday 12 January 2023

Oil Fuels Our Circumstances, and Destroys Creation.

Love Fuels Our Hearts and Heals Creation.

Deuteronomy 10:12

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

1 John 2:5

but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:

Words of Grace For Today

The formula for life is simple, so people say: just do everything just and righteous, obeying God’s commands, and you will live perfectly, well, and blessed.

The formula for a terrible life is simple: do that and you are for sure going to suffer, suffer, suffer.

Even after Jesus’ story is there for us to learn and treasure, even after the light of the star of the Magi has come and gone and we can learn of it and treasure it, even after so many have ‘discovered’ the key to life and faith is God’s Grace and written, preached, and lived so that we can read their words and treasure them, we humans trundle back to our old and failing ways: we live as if it is all up to us and what we do is the key.

Doing, striving, and learning to do better, and even ‘discovering’ all we can about God’s love for us and all creation are certainly crucial parts of life. It’s just that when we place them at the top of our priorities and the top of the causation chain for how life should develop for us, then we are in for lots of miserable living. Oh, we may acquire riches, power, and fame, but our hearts will be miserable.

Our hearts determine more about our lives than our external circumstances. Our hearts guide us to strive for more and more for our greedy, selfish, perverted selves OR

our hearts can guide us to the key to living a blessed life: love.

First we realize and acknowledge anew that God loves us first and most powerfully, overwhelmingly so. Then we can acknowledge and confess again and again that we are greedy, selfish, and destructive people, greatly in need of forgiveness and a new start in life so that we can live free of our woeful sins (as they all are) and live to love others with God’s love, which is to love ourselves as well. Then we realize that even before we sin so terribly, God loves us, and graciously forgives us our past sins and our present sins and even our future sins, all so that we can live free of them, free to love God and God’s creation with all our hearts, minds, and strength.

Then we get to work, strive, learn and delve into making the circumstances of others’ lives better, as a demonstration of how God forgives us, and how God is ready to forgive them.

That’s the blessing of life, and the required ‘perfection’ of life: to rely not on our own sinful selves, but to rely on God’s forgiveness, and then to get working at making life right for others.

When we are unsure of our place with God, then we realize again and again, it is not up to us to fix it, for God has already done that. That is the security of life, the only security in life, the only thing that is sure. God has done it for us, done love extraordinaire though we deserve nothing of it at all, at all.