Reality Worth Living In

Saturday 26 November 2022

The Sun Rises through the scrub beneath the trees, beginning a new day.

God never ‘sets’,

but walks with us,

always.

Psalms 116:9

I walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Luke 20:38

Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many times in life when I have been surprised that others do not experience reality clearly.

The confirmation class where others seem to have not the slightest clue what the pastor was talking about most of the time, most often when I would engage him in a serious question.

The step-daughter who always accused me of doing things I had never done, so I wrote up an exchange we had where she had blown up at me. She agreed that what I had written was not wrong, but it was not right because it did not include what she felt. Her accusations were that I was responsible for what she was feeling, even though I had next to nothing to do with what her emotional state was. Her birth father had favoured her among the children and then killed himself, leaving her confused and angry. That anger got directed at me, her step-father. The result was the reality she lived was often quite disconnected from what actually took place.

People in so many different congregations and synods who played power games, participated in church, prayed for forgiveness and reconciliation with those people they saw as enemies (who certainly were not of the view that they,themselves, -those people – were ‘enemies’ of anyone,) and then they would return to their games of false accusations, scheming and disruption of congregational life.

The many people who come to the lake to drink and get high, seemingly unaware of the holy ground they tread upon.

The closest analogy I’ve found comes from being a professional photographer. I see photos all day long, especially at sunrise and sunset, or in storms, or any time the light is spectacularly specular. I’ve spoken with people who can point a camera (well a cell phone, so now everyone has a pretty good camera!) at the world to capture at best a snapshot of trees, lake, and blah, and not even notice that 2⁰ to the left there is a splendid photo waiting maybe only two minutes to be taken before it disappears.

Do people, likewise, go through their days, not seeing God among the living, thinking that God is only for us after we die, and God walks among the dead of all time?

Luke puts it straight:

God is not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.

Let us walk this day, knowing that God walks with us.

Or is that something that others cannot experience? Scripture gives plenty of witness that many people have lived, knowing God walked with them.

So this is reality, and reality worth living for.

Looking or Already Seeing?

Thursday 24 November 2022

Looking afar

we may search for

the ‘colour of life’ elsewhere,

Doch God has put all blessings

among us.

Isaiah 49:8

Thus says the Lord:
In a time of favour I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you;
I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages.

Luke 17:21

Nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.

Words of Grace For Today

While the world teaches us to find our way,

our way in the world to success, to happiness, to comfort, to privilege, to contentment, to blessings, to prosperity, to [fill in what we all chase], and to find our way to God,

Jesus turns that all around, inside out, upside down (well, right side up, as it turns out) and shows us

we need not ‘find’ our way,

because God walks with us, and God is among us, and the Holy Spirit leads us, comforts us, provides us happiness, contentment, unending blessings, and all that is good for us, and

because God has claimed us and established among us God’s reign.

This is less for our benefit, than for those who see us

so that they may know

In a time of favour God has answered us, on a day of salvation God has helped us,

so that what is right;
I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages.

so that what is right will also be established for all people and the land.

so that what has been laid to waste will be renewed,

so that what is lost from our pasts, will be redeemed and renewed.

For this is God’s good Will towards all of us who live on this fragile planet earth.

And that is what God gives us to teach the world

about Grace.

Fasting to ‘Find’ Our Way?

Tuesday 22 November 2022

A New Day!

No need to find our way.

Our guide is more sure than the moon.

Ezra 8:21

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

Words of Grace For Today

How can we deny ourselves in order to seek from God a safe journey for ourselves, our children and all our possessions?

It seems to me that exactly that effort is what Jesus came to tell us is futile.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and on that Way the truth is that what we want out of life, like securing our own safety, just is not in the cards.

Love has no guarantees, no safeties. It’s a commitment to the other to provide as much as can be at the time, and to walk with them, as much as one can.

God can always walk with us, so that is the best it gets. No safe journey for ourselves, our children and all our possessions.

That said, there is no better journey than to walk forward to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, using words when necessary, knowing that God walks with us. If we try to make it better than that, we tend to screw it all up for ourselves, our children and for any possessions we may have.

While many have tried to make it to God, Jesus shows us again and again that such efforts are futile. God is already with us.

That’s a great day’s comfort and assurance, come what may.

Unsure Ending?

Monday 21 November 2022

We may wonder how our trek past that point may turn out,

but we already know how each day and each life will end:

as blessed as it began.

Jeremiah 3:14

Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Luke 15:20

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Words of Grace For Today

In the movie, About Time, the main character Tim learns the secret of living well from his father (since the men in the family can travel back in time to relive parts of their lives, changing the outcomes, like a mulligan): namely, that he lives each day through from beginning to end and then goes back to relive it, free from all the concern of how it may turn out, enjoying every possible event and person he encounters.

The key to the secret is to remove all trepidation at doing things right and well. When we know the outcome will be good, it’s not so hard to be humble, admit our mistakes, make amends as we are able, and move on with gratitude. The great bind in life comes when we fear what will happen if we actually admit to others we have made a mistake, small or large as it may be.

So Jeremiah calls with God’s Word to the people to return to God, and to do so knowing that God will welcome them and bring them to Zion, the city of hope and peace and prosperity and blessings.

So Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son, and the Prodigal Father. The son wastes away his inheritance and life until he has nothing left and not enough food to survive. He is humbled. He need not become humble. His circumstances leave him no other option. So he returns, asking only to work as a servant and receive as payment a place to live, and food to eat.

The father surprises him with compassion, a huge welcome, and a full return to his place as a son, even celebrating his return with a huge banquet.

Now, if we only knew how all our needed confessions and repenting would go with other people, life might be a lot easier. Trouble is people are not always compassionate, welcoming, and willing to celebrate our confessing our failures and sins done to them. Usually we get the ‘whip.’

How do we choose to live, though: full of fear at being honest, humble and repentant, or both ready to confess our sins, and then, when others confess theirs and repent, to be the ones compassionate, welcoming and celebrating others’ repentance?

From day to day, it would be easier to simply know how things would turn out and then take everything in stride, even with delight at how things proceed, showing compassion and care for all the people we encounter.

Since God provides us the promise that we will be welcomed like the prodigal son, and God promises to take us in to Zion, we can live knowing how it will all turn out in the end.

In the movie towards the end Tim takes the secret his father gives him one step further and simply lives every day the first time and only time through, enjoying every possible event and person he encounters.

We get to do that, not simply because, but rather because God promises us a good ending … to each day, to each year, to each life.

Simply blessed.

Solitude Amid Dense Populations?

Saturday 19 November 2022

A sunrise of clouds, ice, and trees.

A sunrise of clouds, ice, trees, and ?

A sunrise of clouds, trees, and smoke! From an oil production plant.

Time to look closely at what we do,

and others do on our behalf,

before it’s too late.

Opps, too late!

Isaiah 62:11

The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, ‘See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’

1 Peter 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Words of Grace For Today

Your salvation comes.

The Hebrew word for salvation in Isaiah is yishek, in German it’s translated as heil, as in health, well-being, and in Heil Hitler (a corruption of the use, meaning as it were ‘long live Hitler’, or so.)

So our health comes, our well-being comes, our salvation from all that ails us comes.

Not a bad start to any day.

Yet yesterday started like this, too. And every day before it since our births. Yet we are still in the same predicaments as before, perhaps the colour of the tone has migrated a bit as the seasons come and go, as the sun rises and sets, as the years accumulate and age takes it’s toll and we watch more and more friends and not-so-friends succumb and die.

So what is our well-being anyway, if it is the same as it has always been?

CBC’s Front Burner on 16 November 2022 ran a piece on the UN’s announcement. The daily newsletter summed it up this way:

The impact of 8 billion people on the planet

On Tuesday, the human population reached eight billion people, according to an estimate by the United Nations. While population growth has slowed in recent years, it still took about a decade to add the last billion people

Meanwhile, humankind is continuing to do irreparable harm to the planet, including climate change, accelerated species extinction and ecosystem collapse. We’re also straining the planet’s ability to sustain this many people, as revealed by water scarcity for billions of people — all while people in more affluent countries are responsible for far more than their fair share of the harm.

Today we’re joined by Céline Delacroix, adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Health Sciences and the Director of the FP/Earth project with the Population Institute, to discuss how it got to this point, what it means for people and the planet and where we go from here.

There’s a lot of us, most struggling to survive.

In the 1970’s already we were warned of the doom of overpopulation. Then it was that we could not produce enough food for more than the then 3.7 to 4.3 billion people (1970 and 1979 respectively) on earth.

We developed new food production techniques, and, as then, we produce enough food, but we do not distribute it where it is needed. People starve every day, while food goes to waste.

So how is it that our salvation, our health, our well-being has arrived!?

We are left to hope, and hope, and hope, and work like mad, because the bleak future does not promise much, especially not extrapolated out from the past 50 years.

How do we climb out of bed, with all this doom and gloom and failure and threat to our freedoms (when fears multiply dictators rise to take control and people let them), and to all life on earth?

Thank God for Jesus, the Christ.

Our Saviour is not like most would expect, able to change the ways of the world and put things right despite so many people’s selfish efforts to grab what they can from the ‘ship, planet earth, as it goes down.’

Instead Jesus works as God does, through weakness, sacrifice, and love, giving his life on the cross to offer us hope, so that in our baptisms into Christ we receive a great many gifts, greatest of them is hope. And it is not any old hope.

We receive a new birth into a living hope. And that hope is not dependent on us. It is God’s doing, God’s gift, and our strength and motivation to live and work hard.

That’s got to be good enough for today, because

we need to hope and work like mad, to make things turn around. Projections show an increase in population by 2050 of 9.8 billion and 11.2 billion by 2100. The projections don’t forecast a levelling of population until 2100. There’s work to be done, and it will not be done if there is no hope to motivate us, not only to move towards a decrease in world population, but a reversal of climate change, species extinction, and ecosystem destruction.

Just a few ‘small’ tasks are on our plates.

Time to stop ignoring them?

Whaddayathink?

God’s Word, Our Adventure?

What’s Stopping Us?

Friday 18 November 2022

What keeps us from venturing to the far horizons of God’s Call to us?

Genesis 12:1

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’

Hebrews 6:12

so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Words of Grace For Today

God tells Abram to up and go. We know the rest of the story.

How would we describe it?

An adventure.

A holiday.

A change.

A shake-up.

A challenge.

An effort for a better future.

A decision for the kids.

A mid-life crisis.

Getting free from the old man.

Getting out from underneath mom’s thumb, as kind as it may be.

The unexpected word.

A rationalization for one’s own desire to break free and move to the horizons of the unknown.

Listening to God and following God’s commands.

Heading to the moon or Mars.

A one-way ticket.

A long trek.

Finding peace.

Hoping for peace and conning everyone along the way to becoming rich.

Finding the foreign land inhabited by others and claiming it for oneself.

Colonialism gets it’s start.

Striking fear into all in your way.

Getting everything one could dream of, except a child, and heir to one’s massive fortune. And then, after trying in all sorts of destructive ways to fulfill God’s promises, seeing God deliver a child, an heir, a future.

Descendants as many as the stars, as many as the sand on the shores of the oceans.

Off-spring who will believe differently and kill each other for millennia as if that were the Word of God for them.

And again: Humans fail miserably. God wins by Grace.

And then …

Hebrews and so many others still write, think, pray, speak, and act as if we humans could earn God’s Grace, or as in chapter 6 (see below for verses 1-12), we could possibly ‘hold on to God’s Grace’ by our own thoughts, words, and deeds.

But there you go … humans trying to go it alone, even when we have known God’s Grace to save us, as if that were a one time event, instead of a constant on-going never-ending work on God’s part for us.

So today:

Let us listen and follow God’s Word,

and pray

that the Holy Spirit will make us able to do so

… and then remember to give God humble thanks.

Finding Peace?

Thursday 17 November 2022

Another Day Ends,

With The Sun Leaving It’s Last Light

In The Western Clouds,

As Fog Settles Over The Ice.

Is This Peace?

Psalms 116:7

Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

Words of Grace For Today

We humans seek many things in life. Our striving and competing creates no end of conflict and anguish for us and many others caught in our wake. We may think we, ourselves, do not create this conflict, especially if we’ve been privileged by birth or happenstance, yet it is part and parcel of each person. While we may deny the evidence of our own creation of chaos most of us live in the wake of others who create great conflict, violence, chaos, destruction, and suffering, some of it on our behalf and for us, some of it against us and for the benefit of others at our loss.

In the conflict and chaos we often seek peace, with others, with creation, with our Creator, and most often with ourselves.

Real peace is not something we can achieve. It is a gift.

Rev. Roger H. Black at Bethel Lutheran Church, Madison, WI provided this illustration for Luther Seminary’s God Pause for 13 November 2022 beginning with the words of the hymn When Peace Like a River and it’s refrainIt is well with my soul”:

An art contest asked painters to depict a perfect picture of peace. All kinds of entries with images of peace were painted, including such as that of the quiet of a lake on a windless summer day. The winner was surprising. The artist painted a tumultuous waterfall cascading down a rocky precipice. Stormy grey clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind, and rain.

Amid it all a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. And in that tree a little bird had built [its] nest. Content and undisturbed in [its] stormy surroundings, [it] rested on [its] eggs. [He/she] manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.

(Note that in 90% of bird species the male sticks around for the nest building, incubation, feeding, and care of the young.)

While we may strive for this kind of peace amid the inescapable turmoil that is our lives, we cannot achieve it.

Not any more than that bird created the peace of that nest amid the turmoil of its surroundings. Birds nest. It seems to us a sign of peace, though it is instinctual life. Somewhere in that chaotic environment the two birds were going to establish a nest. Likewise, somewhere in our chaotic worlds we try to create a home for us and ours. Whether peace permeates our lives, in and out of that home is something we can and should strive for, but it is not something we can achieve. Not really.

That said the image of the nest amid the storm and tumult is a poignant reminder of what peace really is.

That kind of peace is given to us as a free gift.

Roger continues:

By God’s mercy we have this kind of peace in the midst of turmoil. “Our sin…is nailed to Christ’s cross.” We are made right with God through “his own blood shed for us.”

[The gift given to us is that]

No matter what happens to us, we are not dismayed. [Well, we need not be dismayed.] For we know [or more truthfully we can know] that “it is well with our soul.”

The truth is even when the peace that surpasses all understanding is given to us, sometimes we ignore it and proceed as if we did not have the greatest gift ever given to us.

So we do well to pray each day:

Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

And we do well to offer to ourselves and to others a reminder of God’s blessings:

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

Turning Away, Turning Towards …

Monday 14 November 2022

All the pointing in the world may not help,

when we think that

the abyss lies ahead.

Ezekiel 14:6

Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, namely what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Words of Grace For Today

Calls to repent and turn away from idols and abominations have been around as long as humans were able to fathom God exists.

The trouble is not in turning around and away from what we know is evil, it’s in what we turn towards that we think is the answer to life.

Sven and Ole found this out the hard way, as we always do.

They are Hittites, long since extinct, so no racism can be read into the story. Add to that my heritage as Swedish (the Sven’s are many), Norwegian (the Ole’s are plentiful, and German (I ought to keep better order and therefore know better, some would say) and I take free license to retell the story and alter it as I wish.

So Sven turns to Ole as they are pulling back to the truck the big moose they shot, “This is too hard. I need a break.”

After he’s caught his breath Ole walks up to the moose to feel the hide. He turns to Sven, “I know the answer. It’ll be easier if we pull it with the hair instead of against it!”

Sven, seeing the logic in it, sets about getting ready to heave the heavy carcass homeward.

After a two hours and a few breaks later, Sven yells, “Break.”

Ole pipes up after a bit, “Well, whaddaya think, Sven? It’s easier, eh?” (The two immigrated to Canada decades ago.)

Sven waits a long while before answering, “Yes, it is much easier. The problem is Ole, when we stopped for our first break after pulling it against the hair, we were only a half mile from the truck, now we are two miles away.”

Turning around, away from idols and abominations may be the easiest thing we can do. Turning towards God, now that takes more than a few smarts. That takes the Holy Spirit guiding us every step of the way. Thus we pray: God send your Holy Spirit to guide us so that we are not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is your will, knowingwhat is good and acceptable and perfect.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit sends us simple instructions, other times good friends to guide us. Whatever we need we pray God will provide it also today.

Before Sven and Ole could even think of taking another break they came across a dirt road. There stood their friend Hans, “I knew you two would need help, so I put a tracker in Sven’s pocket. Let’s get that moose into my truck and you two back to your trucks. But tell me, why did you turn around when you were so close to your trucks?”

Bold We Are, Come What May

Sunday 13 November 2022

Moon Morning,

Cold,

Clear,

and Only Early November

Judges 6:17

Then he said to him, ‘If now I have found favour with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me….’

1 John 5:14

And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Words of Grace For Today

God hears us.

God hears us every day.

God hears us every minute of every day.

God hears us every minute of every day when we think, pray, wish, desire, dream, speak, write, act, and hope.

Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it, in spades.

Or so the saying goes.

Yet we are bold to think, pray, wish, desire, dream, speak, write, act, and hope … and to do so in response to God’s Grace that gives us life, and even to do so out of the evil that resides in us, from which we cannot get free.

For we have been saved, and are being saved every minute of every day,not because we deserve it, but because God so chooses especially since we do not deserve it, in order to demonstrate to all how merciful and gracious God is towards us and all creation, no matter how wretchedly evil we are.

God hears.

God responds.

God responds with Grace.

God responds with Grace giving us all we need for life.

So we are so bold as to knowingly think, pray, wish, desire, dream, speak, write, act, and hope all that is in our minds, hearts and hands, knowing God walks with us and saves us and God from all harm that can be avoided.

A clear February -24⁰ day in November already. Clears the head, tests the systems, prepares us for climate changes new extremes that will come again this year.

We pray we may survive and flourish, come what may.

What To Do With That?

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Root of It All …Is God’s Faithfulness To Us.

Nehemiah 9:33

You have been just in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Words of Grace For Today

The simply terrible reality of our lives is that we always have acted wickedly, even if we do not admit it, especially when we do not admit it.

Some of us do things that we all recognize as wicked, like murder (sometimes quick, sometimes slow over years of culture-denial & assimilation, neglect, false accusations, exile, displacement, lack of health care, destructive ‘health care’, abuse, and the list goes on), or theft, or giving false witness, or adultery, or attacks on our bodies with drugs and alcohol, or disregard for the environment (which is most of us alive in the ‘developed’ countries), or lying, or -well we all seem to know what makes us the really obviously wicked things that humans all too commonly do.

It’s the myriad of other things that we do that are wicked, that we think go unnoticed by others and God, which are for our benefit, supposedly, at a cost to others’ lives. These are most wicked, and almost every human that has lived or ever will live does these wicked things. They are the ones the really ‘get’ use in shtako, with ourselves, others, creation and with God.

The simply reality of our lives is also that God deals with us faithfully, and even spectacularly gracious.

God forgives us.

Not that we deserve it, or sometimes even know that we need it.

It is that we get a clean slate to begin again, each day, each hour, each minute.

Now what will we do with that?!

God means for us to be faithful and to give that same kind of undeserved grace to others so that they may live abundantly.

Now what will we do with that?!!