These 40

Years

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Hardly Wilderness,

Always Barren Living,

When We Try To Abandon God

Deuteronomy 2:7

Surely the Lord your God has blessed you in all your undertakings; he knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.’

Luke 22:35

He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’

Words of Grace For Today

If we live life in order to have more money and a full purse,

If we live life in order to have the best bag of everything,

If we live life in order to have the best footwear,

… If we live life in order to have things, power, status, …

Then …

Well then we will always not have enough and we will lack for what we think we need.

This is the way of the world, and it brings more destruction, disease, and destorying to others and to oneself, always more, but not goodness, always evil running others and oneself closer and closer to meaningless and death. If you want an eye-full of that watch Succession, the HBO series, or simply open your eyes to see how so many people live in the world around us.

This is not a fun way to live, no matter if people party hard and seem to be enjoying themselves. In truth this kind of living can only be pursued if one hides from one’s self, one’s real self.

God created us not to take from the world and claim it all to be ours. God created us to receive enough and share everything we have with others.

Jesus sends the disciples out with everything they need: kind hearts and a message of God’s love for all people! They lack for nothing.

God leads Moses who leads the people into the freedom of the wilderness, out of slavery, and though they barely have enough to survive, and it’s touch and go more than a few times, they always have enough … as long as they remember that God has led them and accompanied them all their years, even their ‘40’ (which is a symbol for ‘lots and lots – more than enough to count’).

Today we live in circumstances that outwardly do not appear to be wilderness: there are roads, vehicles, cities, barns and houses in farm yards, and industrial sites of many, many kinds. We call it civilization, but no matter what it looks like from the outside, if we do not have hearts ready to share God’s Word of Grace, all this is mere cover and running, running hard in the barbaric wilderness of humans bent on destroying, making ill, and destorying one another.

What will our day be like today, if not another blessed journey with God walking with us? Breathe. Give Thanks. We lack for nothing.

Small

Words, Mighty Results

Sunday, March 5, 2023

With A Word God Creates!

With Great Effort and Big Machines (and cruel words)

We Destroy and Destory,

Doch God Saves All Creation

and Us In It

With A Word.

Psalms 33:9

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Matthew 8:8

The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.

Words of Grace For Today

It’s cold again this morning. Not the coldest, but enough that one needs take care before one goes outside, care to dress warm enough, not to leave any skin exposed, even a piece of one’s face that cannot be warmed quickly.

When crises rise up in our path, blocking our way forward, it is perhaps not so heart wrenching as to watch one’s daughter fall ill and no doctor’s efforts can save her. It may be worse, as war or earthquake or rising oceans, or other people rip us out of our lives and leave us with nothing more than the clothes on our bodies, if that.

Baptized in water and word, born of the Spirit from above, we can find our way to God’s promises, for when God speaks it is so.

So God created the world.

So Jesus cures us of our every ill.

So it is.

But when we cannot find our way back to God’s promises, and we flounder in waters too deep, cold, and wild for us to survive in, then what?

Then God accompanies us into the deep, cold, and wild, and finds us with a Word holy and simple: I love you!

And that is more than anything else in all the universe.

For no matter what happens to us, God welcomes us home … with a Word.

Be

To Me, That I May Be

Friday, March 3, 2023

God Gives Us Wide Horizons,

And Paths To Follow the Saints,

to the Light

Psalms 31:9

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

Ephesians 1:18

so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

Words of Grace For Today

The greatest distress that any human can face (since it covers for so many lesser distresses as well) is to not be,

to not be seen,

to not be heard,

to not be known,

to not be remembered,

to not be loved,

to not be anything at all.

God promises to protect us from the evil that would make this be for us.

God sees us.

God hears us.

God knows us.

God remembers us.

God loves us.

And God makes sure we are something to God, and

that many other people

see, hear, know, remember, and love us.

And God sends us out to see, hear, know, remember, and love all people,

so not one person need cry

Lord, see me, hear me, know me, remember me, love me.

Makes for a full day every day, and a full life lived,

when we work so that all people are seen, heard, known, remembered, and …

most of all …

loved.

Valentine’s Love?

Hardwork?

Valiant with Tiny or Great Expectations?

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Burning Hot, As Hot as 2000 Cherry Red Chimney Pipes,

Love is Wonderful and

Dangerous?

Psalms 73:1

A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Words of Grace For Today

Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate love, and think seriously about what it means in life for us all.

It is rightfully described as that which holds life together, that which covers for so many shortcomings enabling us to live joyful, thank-filled and hopeful lives, that which is not cheap but rather will cost us daily irritations, immense pain, and sometimes even our lives.

Yet this is what God created us to live as: those who are sustained by God’s love, which enables us to love others with self-sacrificial love. The wonders of ‘being in love’ are wonderful, but short-lived. It’s a human body chemical thing at first. However long term one remains ‘in love’ only with tremendous work, growing self-awareness, and so much forgiveness.

Those who expect love to be easy or only beneficial to themselves, toss out the other either by taking them for granted or by leaving them … and thus they deny themselves the opportunity to love and be loved. Then one lives a short changed life, and all kinds of futile efforts are expended to try to achieve what is missing, for loving others at great cost to one self is an essential for life.

Those who work hard at love, and are willing to humble themselves to being the ones who forgive, not only the other, but themselves, are blessed, for they will find the Holy Spirit has given them the gift of a pure hearts, and that’s a wondrous blessing, each sun rise, sunset and all the moments between.

And for us all, love remains a dangerous thing, as dangerous as life itself: no one gets out of it alive.

Efforts?

Towards What?

Sunday 12 February 2023

Thinking We Can Find Our Way In The Dark

Or Even In Daylight?

Think Again.

Joshua 22:5

Take good care to observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commandments, and to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

John 12:26

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

Words of Grace For Today

Getting around to serving Jesus, following him, and therein loving and serving God is not something for the faint of heart. If it is left up to us, none of are able to ‘get around to it’. Not on our own.

So why all the wasted words about trying to ‘get’ us to make these choices?

Nothing good comes of those words and nothing good goes into those words, no matter how many people and how many times people think that they are ‘encouraging, commanding, or inspiring’ others to follow Jesus and love God.

We are sinners. Simple start for each day is to admit that as best we can, and then pray for mercy.

Then maybe God will give us sight to see, hearing to hear, and heart to love God and God’s creation.

For today, how does it start?

Again, simply: confession, mercy, and hard work on our part, praying that God will make something good out of all our efforts.

Inversely

Proportioned Grace

Monday 6 February 2023

We, at our best, are like the moon,

(that shines fullgolden, mysteriously down on us)

wondrous reflections

of God’s Light.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Galatians 6:9

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

Words of Grace For Today

Francine gave most of her bountiful produce from her raised garden beds each year to others in need. But one person received the most. He lived in an old folks home. She would visit him each Sunday afternoon. During the harvest she’d bring bushels of produce and set them in his room. She would tell him each time that the vegetables were good for him, he should eat and enjoy them and the life they gave him. This old man had not lost any of his sharp mind, though his body was slowly giving out on him so that his mobility and daily care were always an increasing concern.

As she left, his friends would come to visit him. She was glad that they did, though she knew that this visit was more than a visit. It was an exchange. For her fresh produce he would trade them for all sorts of treats, sweet breads, pastries, and chocolates. She had known this was the deal for almost as long as she had been bringing him the produce. But what was she to do? He was a grown man, still with a sharp mind. It was his choice to give away the good produce for food that the dietitian strictly denied him, but which he’d always enjoyed too much, as he had all his life, and as was poisoning what life he had left. It would not be long now.

What was she to do? Her mother had died decades ago, and this man was her father, who had raised her, cared for her, protected her, and taught her to be generous with everything she had. Her Pappa got everything she could give while he was still alive. He certainly did not need ‘advice’ from her. He’d call it and it would really be nagging.

He had also taught her that many people in many ways would try to teach that everyone got according to what they did, good for good, bad for bad. But he had shown her that this was blatantly not true in life, and also not true according to Jesus. For God was always more generous, gracious, forgiving, and merciful than anyone ever deserved or earned.

The only way that we can understand that God gives us according to our ways and the fruit of our labour is the simple truth:

The worse our ways and the more evil the fruit of our labours, the more merciful and hopeful God is that we will turn, confess our bountiful sins, repent, and return, so that God can demonstrate how loving, forgiving, and life-giving God is to all God’s people.

Not that we need go out of our way to sin so that God can make a good demonstration out of us. If we are honest with ourselves and confess our sins, they already are more than enough for God’s demonstration to be an amazing display of the power of forgiveness, so as to astound anyone who cares to pay attention!

So this day, yes, we give it our best effort. Most of all we trust that God will bring from us all that God wishes: that we might reflect Christ’ light, mercy, and love to all people.

Proud Potters

Or Humble Clay

Friday 3 February 2023

The Potter Makes Beauty Like This,

And We Mess It Up Real Bad!

God Planned For That, Too!

Isaiah 29:16

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?

Ephesians 2:10

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Words of Grace For Today

We are the clay, God is the Potter.

We are created to do good works, God is the one who demands it of us, since we are made that way.

Well, not quite so. That is all upside down!

If one wants to control others and make demands of them that they cannot fulfill and thus make them guilty and thus all the more susceptible to one’s control, then this is the right thing to say and teach and demand.

But Jesus came not to lay an impossible guilt trip on us, yet again, as the writer of Ephesians does so well.

God created us so that we will be demonstrations of God’s Love, Grace, and Compassion for all people. That is by our visibly, humbly, and gratefully accepting God’s forgiveness for our inevitable sins, failings, imperfections, and downright ornery stubbornness at wanting to the the Potter instead of the humble moulded clay, God makes us into demonstrations for all other people of how God works. God works not by demanding perfection or good works. Instead God makes us free to choose to love (and also then free to choose not to love – which is to sin). In our freedom we lose life and all that is precious in it, because we simply cannot always choose to love. God also made us to strive to be better, and in that striving we inevitably choose to be Potters of our world, and then of our own lives.

Ahh, if we were made just to do good works, then God did not need to give us freedom to love and not to love.

But God created us to love. And knowing we would choose to sin, inevitably, terribly, wretchedly, God planned for that, with compassion, forgiveness and unbounded love.

We were created to receive that love, and share it with others, first in being demonstrations of God’s love for us and all people, and then in being that love for others,

which is to do good works …

It’s just cutting it down to that we are created to do good works would make our lives impossible! That is the curse of scripture that asserts we are not potters of creation, and then tries to lay the guilt trip on us that we are made to be doers of good works, ie. good little potters and putterers.

That leads us to futile living (trying always to do good works), and at the same time surrendering our ability to choose to love (replacing it with blind obedience to others who tell us what good works are), and inevitably trying to become the ones who tell everyone what good works are … and there ya go, right down the rabbit hole of everything that is not love.

So simple. So complicated. So impossible.

And for that God planned the power of love, which is self-sacrificing giving so that others may live with the freedom to choose

to love or not to love,

and be forgiven when it is so often needed.

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.’

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.