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.

A Fire-Storm a’Coming

Friday 25 November 2022

The Dawn Fire-Storm Breaks Into Another Day.

Jeremiah 31:35

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day. and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name.

1 Corinthians 8:6

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Words of Grace For Today

Yet for us …

Which make it clear enough that for others it is not so.

We see the world defined by scientific research results and theories developed of millennia.

A universe expanding from an initial big bang, our planet one of 9 or so planets along with numerous asteroids, moons and space dust (so not quite void) revolving around a sun, and our sun one star in many that make up one galaxy among many that make up what we ‘see’ with telescopes and exploratory space venturing probes that speed out of earth’s atmosphere to bring us images and information of the ‘great beyond’ and all it’s wonders like black holes that defy our ability to see beyond their thresholds as they consume anything and everything that gets ‘too close’, being millions of miles and more.

Our ancestors saw the universe differently: the land flat, a firmament hold up the stars (planets only known as starts) and sun on it, with the precreation chaos breaking in from the bottom in the oceans and from above in storms as water of the void beyond the land and firmament poured in chaos and destruction on creation.

There are many other views of the universe, as well, among all humans of all time.

Even now we theorize there may be other universes not in and of this one we know.

Yet … yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

And this God gives the sun for light by day. and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar.

Even this day, as we are told to anticipate rain and possibly freezing rain, we see God’s greatness in the blessing poured out on us like unending living waters of stream of life, and light that comes in the morning to give all creatures and plants life potentials.

In this worldview, this universe ‘seen’ and known, we see God and rest assured in God’s promise to walk with us, whatever storms come our way.

For there will be many, no doubt,

yet … yet for us there is one God ….

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?

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.

Blues, Darks, and Hope

Friday 11 November 2022

Dark,

Dark,

Covered Dark With Snow

Job 1:21

He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’

Romans 5:3-4

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Words of Grace For Today

The colour of fall is gone, drained away and then killed off by the freezing nights, leaving it so vulnerable to the wind that carpeted paths and grass and woods with yellow turning brown.

Now the subtle whites, greys, darks, and blues are all that remain as the lake has frozen over, and loons, ducks, and beaver no longer swim to and fro, but have either flown away or now walk on top the ice.

A foot of snow covers the troubles of the past summer and fall, pristine white, marking the path of all who walk about with tracks for all to see. Even now it is not as short a daylight, not as dark a day, as will come by the winter solstice, though the darkness of cloudy, snowy days presses down and settles souls in the dark blues until they are lifted free.

For we may assume we are due something glorious, something more uplifting than the dark blues of winter, and yet … well, we are wrong more than occasionally about what we are due.

Remembering where we’ve come from is a good start to taking our place in the universe without complaint or false presumption: We are born naked into this world and we will die and decompose back to the elements of dirt and food for other life forms.

All we are and have in life is a gift from God, so if, well no, when we suffer, it does us no good to think it ought to be otherwise. Evil will prevail through other people and circumstances, and even through us. Remembering God’s graciousness towards us allows us to see beyond the suffering to the benefits God brings to us through our suffering: endurance, character, and hope. This hope carries us through whatever may come our way. This in no way exonerates or excuses those who participate in the evil that we and others suffer needlessly; they-we will still answer to God. We get to respond to God’s grace for us by celebrating the abundance of life given to us, even in our suffering.

For this we give God thanks.

For Even in the Blues, It’s Not All Blues

Our Lists

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

While We Are In The Dark In The Cold, Leafless Bowels of the Forests of Life,

Up Top,

God’s Glory Still Shines,

Beckoning Us to Rise Up And Love One Another

As God Loves Us.

First Samuel 2:6

The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Revelation 1:8

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Words of Grace For Today

I don’t think of God killing, just bringing to life, not of bringing us down to Sheol (hell as it is), just raising us up out of the hell we get ourselves into.

There’s a plaque I saw once in a furniture store. Plaques with platitudes usually do not catch my attention but this one did:

Karma, I have a list of people you seem to have missed.

Well, I suppose we all might have such a list, and the idea that we can influence karma, well, that’s a wild idea.

But we pray to God constantly.

So can we provide that same list to God and ask God to do the killing stuff with the list?

Surely we can acknowledge (well most of us do, or at least many, well maybe it’s just some of us nowadays) that God is the almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end. God as the bringer of life as well as death certainly belongs with that. So yes, God hears our prayers and answers them. And yes God could take that list and kill ‘em all off.

Why would God?

To please our blood-thirst or hunger for revenge? That is not our God, not at all, not at all.

God believes in every single one of us frail, broken, sinful creatures, enough to free us again and again from our sin so that we might live abundant lives (which means we understand that God created us to provide the best life possible to other people, and that we act accordingly.)

So our task with that list of ours is to see if we can give them the same kind of Grace that God extends to us.

It’s another day of challenges, dealing with others’ and our own brokenness, failings, and sinfulness.

Let us find the peace that God offers, so that we can forgive and give renewed life to those who sin against us.

Still, God, can we review my karma list sometime to see if just perhaps you can bring a few of those people their just desserts. Wouldn’t want them to miss out on the end of the feast now would we?

(God save us all.)