Prison?

or Free?

Saturday 11 February 2023

The Horizon.

God’s Gift,

one of many.

Psalms 142:8

Bring me out of prison, so that I may give thanks to your name. The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

John 8:36

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Words of Grace For Today

Of course, you, yes proud, upright, self-righteous you, have never been in prison, so to be set free, and to be free indeed is nothing, right! Not to you.

But let me tell you as one who spent time in prison, put there by lies about a crime that did not even happen, by judges, prosecutors, lawyers, RCMP, and witnesses who all knew they were lying, for it was that blatant, being set free is an experience one does not ever forget. Nor does one forget the time spent as an inmate. Life threatened in various ways at least once a week, by real violent inmates prompted and setup by guards, and by nurses, and by the brass, but protected by real criminals and maybe even a few honest guards … and by God and God’s people. Food and medication that were not tolerated by my system. The noise. The predictable and irregular inspections and demands and new impromptu ‘rules’ and the lack of horizon and photography and intelligent conversation … and the boredom.

The real prison that we find ourselves in does not have brick and mortar walls and evil people attacking us, and uncommitted crimes dumped on innocent scapegoats, and other ‘real’ criminals (guards include) so unpredictable and demanding. The real prison we find each find ourselves in is the one we make out of our own sins. Lies that corner us. Deeds that destroy others (as we intended) but that also haunt and destroy us. Words that we used to try to create a new reality for ourselves, and in denying God’s real creation we step right into the Devil’s playground, where a physical jail would be millions times more preferable!

This is the prison that God has always offered to free us.

This is the prison that the Devil has sent so many ambassadors to, to offer us yet again another way out, which is really another shackle to add to the many that choke the life right out of us.

This is the prison that we try and try and try to free ourselves from, and too often delude ourselves that we have succeeded, only to see the Devil’s playground has expended again around us and our lives and around those we love.

This is the prison that Jesus frees us from. And when Jesus frees us we are free indeed.

So we breathe.

So we dance.

So we take photos.

So we enjoy the horizon.

So we delve into intelligent conversation when it is possible.

So we worship each day to begin the day.

So we sing God’s praise and give thanks for all that keeps us alive, by God’s grace alone, for obviously we do not deserve any of these blessings.

Our task is simply to extend these blessings to as many other people as we possibly can.

That’s life lived richly, abundantly, as God created us to live.

So on this day, what will we do?

What will you do?

Boots

(Or Shoes)

Friday 10 February 2023

Paths Tromped Repeatedly

by Boots

Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

Ephesians 6:15

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

Words of Grace For Today

My feet ache. My right foot especially aches and gives me pause before I slip on my boots to walk outside in the snow. I bought a new pair of boots, knowing that they would need a felt insole to be warm enough. Before I was able to get an insole, I wore them as they came, and discovered that something, something almost imperceptible is wrong in the moulding of the foot area and in the insert in the right boot. There’s a bump or something, a wrinkle in the insulating insert. And it’s wreaking havoc with my foot, just a little bit at a time. Even with an additional form-fit insole in on top the felt insole it’s gotten to the point where I go outside with plastic sandals if I can, instead of subjecting my feet to the slowly accumulating injuries that these boots are causing. Of course when I put the boot on it feels okay. When I ordered the boots on sale, for that was already a stretch, I ordered my size. The arrived and were too small by far, so I returned them and ordered the next larger size. When they came the right insert was wrinkled oddly. I tried to straighten it out and put them on. I needed them desperately for the cold of winter came early and quickly. So months later my feet ache.

Now if I had lots of money to spare or even some, I’d go out and buy a pair of boots at a more regular price, nearly three times what I paid for these. But that’s not an option. So trudge on I do, but it’s difficult to bring a word of peace while wearing these boots, or any of the other boots that I have that have holes, tears or simply no insulation left in them.

Putting on a good pair of boots would be a luxury at this time, for me and millions of others around the world.

Yet God sends us out, with our best shoes or boots, to bring God’s word of peace to all people. Our feat may be celebrated, and our feet may look beautiful to our listeners to take God’s Word to heart. That doesn’t mean that our feet (or any other part of us) will survive unblemished, injured, or healthy.

That’s just they way the world wears on us, and only God’s Word of peace can make the wearing of the world not cause us injury and pain.

Another day, giving it our best, wearing our best, prepared for the worst. Out of the worst God always brings deliverance. On we go, which is our testimony to how beautiful God’s creation is.

Found

In The Silence

Thursday 9 February 2023

God Sees Us,

No Matter Fog, Snow, or the Darkness

of Our Hearts

and God still walks with us.

Zephaniah 1:7

Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

Matthew 24:44

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Words of Grace For Today

When we are still, quiet, calm, and silent what do we hear?

The traffic pounding the pavement, going back and forth, who knows why so many of us have so many places to go, just because we can or others will pay us if we do or we have learned that we must in order to eat (the things we want to eat)?

The bells ringing across the countryside inviting people to worship, or tolling to mark the funeral of yet another person no longer breathing, or clanging in alarm as the war reaches the outskirts of this area?

The manufacturing cascade of sounds of machinery churning, pumping, grinding, and wearing themselves out before their time?

The wild music of alcohol and drug induced partying that can erupt into all kinds of behaviour and violence spilling over into others’ safety?

The squirrels sounding alarm, crows cawing, an owl hooting, and the lynx silently invisibly avoiding the stinky skunks?

The ravages of a brain fully engaged in multiple tracks of problem solving stuck spinning against the slings and arrows of time?

Sometimes, not wanting to be silent is a reasonable protection from the cost of our times of industry chugging along to sustain an unsustainable life-style, nature fighting us into extinction with climate change, viruses, and fungi, and our inevitable defences of rampant escapism.

But

every once in a while for most of us (and always for some ‘blessed’ mystics), when we are silent, we not only hear that silent lynx, but we see that God walks with us crunching footsteps into the snow-pack.

God’s day is here, with us, always has been. Best is to get used to it.

For whatever we are up to, God is up to it with us, celebrating our thinkings, sayings and doings, or suffering the same.

Smile you are on ‘candid camera’, God’s view of us each and all, as it has been since before we were born, and even before time was created

when God consecrated us to ….

We All Have Our Reasons …

Reasons for Rejoicing

Wednesday 8 February 2023

This Thing Is On Water,

Accessible Through Holes in the Floor,

Otherwise It’s Just Ugly

As OSB Siding Always Is When It’s Worn.

At Least The Sky Behind It Is Awesome,

Sort Of.

Psalms 33:21

Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing …

Words of Grace For Today

Lots of things can make our hearts glad, like our solitude respected, the warm winter weather, the sunny skies providing great solitude, and … repairs finished to the water pump so that water now flows if we give our all to haul water and pump it where it belongs.

The wonder of life is that even if nothing is so to be enjoyed, God walks with us, and we are glad for God’s presence.

Therefore we have reason to rejoice and pray always, perhaps not unceasingly since it takes a bit of concentration to repair a pump and supply water to it, for instance, but in our pauses most certainly.

Again this day.

From the front

it’s got character too,

and a wood stove for heat.

That’s a start,

but not a home.

Word-Wise

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Like the Beauty All Around Us,

God’s Word Permeates Everything.

Trust It.

Isaiah 55:10-11

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

John 15:7-8

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Words of Grace For Today

Lots of ‘hot air’ blowing around these days, climate change not the cause. It is the age old thing about humans that deceit always seems a nice short cut to achieving what is desired.

So much ‘hot air’ (lies, deceit, fake news, perjury, corruption from the lowest to the most ‘trusted’ levels of everything – even courts, bishops, and … well everywhere!) floats around one has a real case to say that the case of global warming is due mostly to ‘hot air’.

In fact all the climate change deniers producing fake science, fake news, and fake intelligence kept the obvious from happening sooner, ie the reduction of everything that causes climate change.

But boys will be boys, girls will be girls … OK it’s really lying boys will be lying boys even when the get old. Mean girls will be mean girls even when they get old, and the Devil’s temptations to ‘short cuts’ that destroy the doer and many others keep catching more and more people meaning the increase in ‘hot air’ outstrips any incident of inflation ever.

Our words are very effective, at destruction of life, and at healing life.

No question which God intends for us to use with our words.

Thank God everything is not determined by our words, or there would be no hope for any of us.

God’s Word determines everything, even that we are capable of such ‘hot air’ destruction. God’s Word is simple: life is intended and best lived by accepting our sinfulness, confessing them always, repenting (turning back towards God’s will for us), and accepting God’s sending us out to be imitators of Jesus the Christ: sacrificially giving of ourselves (exercising compassion, forgiveness, and unconditional love) so that others may live as God intended us to live.

In a Word: God’s Word for us is that we love God, ourselves, and our neighbours, even our enemies.

Today, as each day, that’s more than enough to keep us busy, focused, and working on making the world a bit better around us for us all.

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.

With

Monday 30 January 2023

Wherever the paths and tumbles of life take us,

God is with us,

Our Shining Light

Joshua 24:17

for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed

Matthew 28:20b

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Words of Grace For Today

A pilot, a rather sane, sober and sombre individual most of the time, lands after a transatlantic flight, just a routine flight. But he expects in New York that day he will find an answer to a puzzle that has challenged his sanity. It even sent him banking a plane for no good reason (apparently) to avoid another plane that was not there, a ghost plane as it were. But today, he knew he would unravel the mystery and his life could return to normal.

As he steps off the plane he realizes that, in stark contrast to his regular orderly and stayed mood, he is rather giddy. More than giddy even, an over-drive of exuberance he could call it. And that makes him wonder, yet again, if he really has, perhaps, started to go insane. Not something too attractive in a pilot who is trying to move from the right seat to the left seat, or stay in any seat at all.

Then he realizes, whatever is going on with him, whether he really is mad or not, he is no different than everyone else, we all have to work with the equipment we are given, Right!?

Sounds of Wings, paraphrase from p. 79 and before, Spencer Dunmore, Tom Dohetry Associates, 1984

It’s just some of us are given some very special equipment that makes being a pilot possible. And for a few of us it makes us extraordinary pilots, the creme of the creme as it were.

In the rest of life, and maybe even for us gifted with equipment that makes flying possible, the real ‘equipment’ that counts is hardly our brain, our hands, our coordination, or our heart. What really counts is the gifts God gives us that help us recognize how God has accompanied us, as God did our ancestors through the generations, even as they ventured into foreign and hostile lands, as God does for all the saints.

Knowing that God protects us along all the ways, with their twists and turns and setbacks, that we journey in live, gives us a piece of unequal ‘equipment.’ It is God’s presence each day, which guides us, and picks us up when we take a tumble into horrendous sins, and heals us, and walks with us out into the world of …

everything.

Again today, we work with the equipment we are given, right!

The DawnShine

From On High

Sunday 29 January 2023

Blues, Peaches, and De-Light

Psalms 80:20

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Luke 1:78-79

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. ’

Words of Grace For Today

After a long, dark night, after many days of snow and clouds, freezing rain and wind, nothing quite compares to the light of the dawn breaking in on this life with blues, peaches and golds spraying the white snow-laden ground with all colours of the rainbow.

These are reminders of God’s promise not to abandon us, not to the floods, nor to the disasters of any kind, nor to the darkness that can creep up on us and catch us, drawing us down, down, down.

God’s promises renewed, our hearts buoyed once again, and our minds set on what lies ahead, even the shadow of death cannot steal the peace from us. Our enemies that would do us harm have no chance, nor have they had any chance of succeeding in bringing about our demise.

Instead we have found refuge in God’s great light, in God’s great forests, and beside God’s great waters. The sun powers our shelters, wood heats our bones, and clean water refreshes us each day, as we feast on simple foods, enjoying every bite.

Even as the cold winds blow, there are moments to find the solitude warming our hearts, bodies and minds as we work outside to provide the basics for the coming days.

And writing, writing, writing keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, as we explore the truth of the past, present and future.

This is the light of Christ, God’s countenance that shines brightly here on us, and everywhere.

May the light find you today filled with gratitude for God’s gifts and the opportunities to share life with those in need (which is pretty much everyone.)

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.