pondering the “pith” of the pithy

ever wonder about expressions we use such as “cute as a button”?   okay, babies are cute, and puppy dogs are cute and kittens and  . . .  but buttons?  really?  (I guess it depends on the button)

then there’s “neat as a pin”  –  are pins that neat?  really?  not if they’re spilled all over the floor they’re not  . . .

and what about “sharp as a tack”?  okay, that one I get, tacks actually are sharp!

but “clean as a whistle”?   I don’t think so, you put whistles in your mouth, so no, I am not buying this one

now “cool as a cucumber” has possibilities if you keep your cucumbers in the refrigerator but as vegetables go, I doubt that cucumbers are considered the cool ones among their vegetable peers  . . .

then there’s “smart as a whip”?   what’s that all about?   whips aren’t smart . . . are they?    I’ve never had a conversation with one but  . . .

now “slow as molasses”,  there’s one that makes sense – no explanation is needed

“pretty as a picture” is no mystery,  probably depends on the perspective of the person making the comparison – but what they consider to be pretty will be the same for both people and pictures  . . .

“mad as a wet hen”?   are hens any angrier when they get wet than other animals such as cows or pigs or squirrels or rabbits or bears or birds are when they get wet?  I think not  . . .   they are just more dramatic in expressing their outrage at being wet, thus exposing themselves as being the divas that they are among their animal peers . . .

“dumb as a rock”?  are rocks getting a bad rap here?  are stereotyping and profiling at work?  I bet geologists would beg to differ with this unflattering comparison; rocks, silent though they are, are wonderful storytellers.  They have remarkable stories to tell us when we take the time to look at them closely, to listen to them intently and to learn from them their hidden secrets – secrets kept for oh so long – a record of ages past, now revealed to those who would crack the code –  rocks are the secret keepers of our earth and of us all, not to mention that they are beautiful in their own right – each unique in color, form, composition and so on . . .

rocks may be the strong, silent type but they are not dumb by any means.  they actually have enough sense to cry out in praise of their Creator, even when we human beings do not.  In Luke 19:40, Jesus told the Pharisees who were attempting to quiet the crowds of people crying out to Him, “If they keep quiet, the stones along the road will burst into cheers!” (so rocks are neither mute nor dumb – another myth busted)

“busy as a bee”?   well, I guess bees are pretty busy, they always seem to be working, making all that honey and doing the hard work of cross pollination and such, but they still seem to find a way to take time out of their busy schedules, time off from their work if you will, to sting human beings – so how busy could they be, really?

“strong as an ox”?  yes, this is one that makes perfect sense with no explanation needed, oxen are indeed very strong!

“snug as a bug in a rug”,  well being snug sounds good to me, especially with this winter weather we’re having but  . . .  in a “rug”?  I don’t think so.  Isn’t rug just another name for carpet?  and carpets get walked on!  that’s what they are made for – so, how can bugs relax and get comfy with people and pets walking all over them?  they can’t!  They must be constantly on the move trying to avoid being crushed to death – they are literally running for their lives – so I personally don’t think bugs in rugs are snug at all.  and I don’t want bugs in my rugs or anywhere else indoors for that matter.  so where does a bug go to get snug?  well, that’s a matter I’ll leave to the scientists who study and catalog them . . .

what about “happy as a clam”?  are clams happy?  as anyone ever bothered to ask them?  have there been surveys and scientific studies?  are they happier than say, other molluscs?  are they happier than oysters? who really knows – so why do we hold clams up as the epitome of happiness?  is it a marketing conspiracy?  have we been duped?  maybe it’s time to go digging, clam digging that is, time to dig up some dirt on clams and their outrageous claims of cornering the market on happiness  . . .  why should they have all the fun?

I guess I want to be some of these things – happy, busy, smart, pretty as long as I don’t have to be a clam or a bee or a whip – well, you get the idea – but what do I really want to be like?

then I found these words, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  why is this so?  because  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”   (Psalm 1:1-3)

I guess I want to be like a tree, but not just any tree.  I want to be like the trees described in Psalm 92:12-13, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’ ”

Yes, that’s it – to be fresh and green and flourishing, growing and productive, that’s what my Heavenly Father wants me to be – in His service, growing strong in His courts  . . .

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”   (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

“The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted.  There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees.”  (Psalm 104:16-17)

that’s what I want to be, a tree in God’s court, planted by Him for His purposes, a tree under His care.

“I will be like  the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.  Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.  His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.  Men will dwell again in his shade.  He will flourish like the grain.  Hi will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.   . . . I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from Me.”   (Hosea 14:5-8)

sincerely,      Grace Day











the dropping of the other shoe

and other assorted dire predictions – pastimes of the anxious, the fearful and the overwhelmingly worried   . . .  who doesn’t fit into one of those categories at one time or another?  Even today’s sermon was on anxiety, an attempt to define it, to identify it, to pin it down – but

it is often as elusive as its causes, we can’t quite get a handle on our anxious feelings.  We are living as if we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, in a perpetual state of alert and anticipation, an anticipation filled with dread, of something we cannot predict nor control.  We find ourselves waiting on this next event, (the dropping of the other shoe) – something expected yet unexpected, something known (maybe from the dropping of the first shoe?) and yet unknown all at the same time.  How to prepare?  What to do?

It is unexpected in that we don’t know when the other shoe will drop, where it will happen or what form it will take.  So we can’t plan for the dropping of the other shoe, we can’t add it to our schedule and make the necessary arrangements ahead of time to accommodate this inevitable event.  It will happen when it happens.  All we can do is to wait.

And we don’t like waiting, waiting and wondering, waiting and watching and wondering.  And listening  . . . that’s where this expression got its start – in the tenements of New York City, with apartments on top of each other, one would hear one’s upstairs neighbor enter, take off one shoe and drop it – then would follow the sound of the second shoe hitting the floor.  It was predictable, it was the sound of the inevitable.

Today we use these words as an expression of our expectation that something undesirable is going to befall us, we just don’t know what or when – we are just waiting for “it” to happen.  In the tenements, there was just one other shoe to drop and it was done.  Today we all have so many shoes that it seems as if there is an inexhaustible supply of other shoes to drop.  

So how do we live?  Watchfully waiting, eagerly anticipating or defeatedly dreading what is to come?  I think it all depends on what we are waiting for.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”  (Psalm 33:20)

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  (Romans 8:23-25)

I like the translation (AMP) that says we wait with patience and composure.  To me composure is the opposite of worry, anxiety or fear.  We don’t have to live life always looking over our shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We can live life looking forward, forward to what we have been promised.  And those promises are good, not something that would cause us anxiety, fear or worry.  (like falling shoes)

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

”  . . . to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope –  the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,”   (Titus 2:12-13)

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”   (John 14:3)

We can have peace and joy and comfort as we wait in hope for the things that God has promised in His word.  There may be shoes dropping all around us, even hitting us but we know –

”  . . .  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

I don’t have to live anxious, fearful or consumed by worry, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  No, I can live with hope in the certainty of God’s promises and I can wait with patience, composure (which to me means being at peace) and persistence, knowing that when I do, I have this promise from Isaiah 40:31,

“but those who hope on the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

and they will not fear the dropping of the other shoe!    

sincerely,     Grace Day










secret Santa – secret service

It’s getting to be that time of the year once again – you know it well, those special days leading up to Christmas – where things change, the culture changes, people change during this special time, this brief time suspended between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This change then dissipates in the days following Christmas, disappearing completely by New Year’s Day.

But for a few days we can be caught up in this subtle shift which carries us toward a more mindful, a more compassionate view of those around us.  The invisible become visible, the needs of the needy are made known, and we mysteriously become intentional about practicing generosity.

Enter the phenomenon of the “secret Santa”, something each of us may have participated in many times over the years.  What is the allure?  I think it’s the secret aspect of the whole thing that draws us in.  There is drama, there is mystery, there is intrigue. There is the big reveal at the end. We get to silently, secretly, shower someone with kindness and thoughtfulness and small gifts, maybe someone we don’t even know well, maybe we just drew their name in a workplace exchange or other group exchange.

Nevertheless, being a “Secret Santa” gives us the opportunity to learn and to practice the art of giving under cover,   to practice the art of serving others secretly. And it does take some practice to perfect this form of serving.  Consider what it says in Matthew 6:1-4,

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

That’s the kind of Secret Santa that I want to be, I don’t want my left hand to know what my right hand is doing.  I want to serve undercover with no need for a big reveal at the end.  There’s no need for others to know what I’m up to, my Heavenly Father knows (because it’s His deeds I am doing) and that’s all that matters.

Being a Secret Santa may be seasonal but being a secret servant of Christ is a job for every season.  If I am in the secret service of my Heavenly Father, I am on duty everyday, (undercover, of course) performing those top secret tasks of serving others, loving others – even loving my enemies; all without blowing my cover.

which means serving in secret, without drawing attention to myself but instead turning the attention to God, so as to glorify Him.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  . . . For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

Jesus said in John 15:8, “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”

” . . .  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.”   ( 1 Peter 4:11)

In Christ, I am more than a seasonal Secret Santa, I am called to secretly, silently, sacrificially serve God by serving those people He puts in my path each day.  In order to maintain my cover I have to fight against my all too human inclinations of pride and self exaltation.  If these take over, my cover is blown!  And if God doesn’t get the glory, I have failed in my mission as a secret servant agent, in the service of my Heavenly Father.

Accepting the assignment of being a secret servant agent is not for the faint of heart.  It requires dedication, daring and discipline to serve without recognition and without reward.  (earthly reward, that is)  such is the life of a secret servant of God . . .

may I serve with joy at the pleasure of the King!

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.”   (Psalm 115:1)

sincerely,       Grace Day






identity crises – identity crimes

It seems to me we are a people in crisis.  We are in the midst of an epidemic identity crisis.  People today spend a lot of time searching for their identity, trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in this crazy world.  I think I know why.  Identity theft has been increasing steadily for years now.  No wonder we are all searching for our identities, they have been stolen right out from under us!

Identity theft is so common that protecting us from it is now big business.  Whole industries, such as LifeLock, are dedicated to protecting our identities 24/7.  Still the identity thieves are quite successful, judging by the number of people taking time to “find themselves” or to discover their authentic selves or to search for their roots.  But I gotta question why anyone would want to steal my identity.  Who in their right mind would want to be me?  Do they know what my life is like? Obviously not or they would do their identity stealing somewhere else.

I don’t have position or power, or fame or fortune.  But the cyber thieves must not know that because they keep on trying to steal my identity.  I had an alarming email yesterday that wanted my personal information in order to help me out, correct the problem and save me from certain impending disaster.  I almost fell for it.  It sounded true, it looked legit, it seemed plausible – but something wasn’t right.

Why am I so easily fooled?  Why is it easier for me to believe the lie than the truth? Who is trying to steal my identity and why?

Our identity is at the core of who we are and how we see ourselves.  I think identity is so important to each of us because our identity determines our purpose – and without a purpose our life is meaningless.  We each were created with an identity, we were created for a purpose.  But when we lose our identity, when we forget who we are, who we are created to be – we lose our purpose.  And loss of purpose proves to be both devastating and debilitating for those who experience it.

So we search.  We do genealogies to find information to connect us to people we have not met and to places we have not been.  We want to know where we came from so we can know where we belong and where we are headed.  We search for identity in our work.  Our work can define us and provide us with a purpose.  If I am a teacher, my purpose is to teach.  If I am a farmer, my purpose is to grow food. If a musician, to make music, if a builder of buildings, to build those buildings.

But something inside whispers to us that we are more than our job descriptions, that our purpose is larger than the confines of our work.  So we find ourselves searching still.  We look for our identity in the context of our relationships with others.  We are someone’s spouse or someone’s mother or someone’s boss.  But this isn’t the essence of who we are either.  Jobs change.  Relationships change.  Does our identity change with every change in our circumstances?  No wonder we are not sure who we are.

No wonder we are needing to find ourselves or to reinvent ourselves constantly. Having an identity crisis is exhausting!  Who is to blame?  The identity thieves, of course.  And who is the biggest identity thief of all?  I will tell you  . . .

First, I have to understand that I have been created with my own unique God given identity.

“For You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  (Psalm 139:13-14)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”   (1 John 3:1)

My identity is in whose I am, I am a child of God – created by Him – created for His glory – created for His purposes.

“everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”  (Isaiah 43:7)

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”   (Ephesians 2:10)

I have a secure identity in my Heavenly Father as His child – He does not change like shifting shadows -my identity in Him does not change

Only if I believe the lies of the enemy of my soul, do I forget who I am in Christ and suffer an identity crisis

“Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus warned His disciples saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10)

Satan is the master when it comes to identity theft.  He would steal my identity by deception; by getting me to doubt the truth of what God tells me in His word about me belonging to Him as His chosen child.

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”   (Romans 8:29-30)

My identity is secure in God, my Creator.  Identity determines purpose.  I may have many jobs and many different relationships, but they do not define me nor do they determine my purpose – my identity as a child of God does that  . . .

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

sincerely,          Grace Day






the lie of legalism

I find I am never lacking for questions on any given day.  It is the answers to those questions that I find myself lacking – leaving me searching for, wondering about; pondering the possibilities that would satisfactorily put to rest each and every query.  So it was no surprise that there were plenty of questions to discuss as my friends and I worked our way through a Bible study guide consisting of numerous questions but no answers.  It is left up to us to seek out the answers.

The value in the question is in where it leads us.  This particular evening the question that intrigued me was this.  “How does legalism threaten the message of the gospel?”  Contained within this question are the questions of  “what is legalism?” and “what is the message of the gospel?”  Defining terms is always crucial to any valid discussion.

Legalism is adherence to the law, which raises the question – “what laws?” or “whose laws?”  A nation’s laws?  a government’s laws?  a particular church denomination’s laws?  man’s laws?  God’s laws?  Who gets to make the laws anyway?

We get a good idea of God’s laws from Exodus 20:1-17, containing the ten commandments.  However, these laws received quite the clarification or update when Jesus came and explained things to the listening crowds in Matthew 5.  He said that hating your brother is the same as murder in God’s eyes.  It is not enough to keep the outward appearance of the law with God, because He knows our hearts and whether or not we are keeping the law with our hearts as well.  (let me give you a hint – we are not able to keep the law with our hearts at all)

We are given the two most important commandments in Matthew 22:37-40, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.   . . .  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I can’t even do the first one for a full hour, let alone a full day!  I am not capable of keeping the law, not part of it, not any of it.  But if I could, would that be enough?

Legalism points me to the Law, gives me rules to follow, gives me a checklist and puts me in charge of my own destiny.  That’s the lie of legalism.  I turn to the law instead of Jesus because I mistakenly believe I do not need a Savior.  I can save myself by following the rules, by keeping the law.

My hope then resides in the law and not in Jesus.  The lie of the law is that we can make ourselves acceptable to a holy God who says, “therefore be holy, because I am holy.”  (Leviticus 11:45)  But the message of the gospel is the truth of our situation before a Holy God – I don’t have the capability to make myself righteous in God’s sight, no matter how much I want to, I can’t fix myself or my situation before God.

I can’t fix my broken relationship with my Creator.  I am powerless to help myself. Someone has to do this for me – but who?  Who is there who has the power, the position to accomplish the impossible?  (this question has an answer)  namely, Jesus Christ, whose name is above all names.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:7-8)

If only keeping the law could save me, make me holy, make me right with God – but the lie of legalism is that the law has this power when it has no power, that the law can save me, when in fact, it can’t.  Laws can’t change people’s hearts, only God, the maker of our hearts, can change them.

The message of the gospel is grace, God’s infinite grace towards us, whom He created in His own image.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God’s grace does for us what the law is unable to do for us.  The law shows us our sin, but it does not provide the remedy for our sin.  The law shows me my brokenness but offers me no solution, no way to repair my brokenness.  The law offers me no way to repair my broken relationship with God, my Creator.

The law shows me how far I am from God but does not show me a way to bridge that gap.  And it is a very big gap!  It is a gap with a bottomless chasm, that separates me from a righteous, loving and holy Creator.

I have nothing with which I can bridge this gap.  But God does.  He has His own limitless supply of grace, mercy, forgiveness, redemption and restoration.  It is God’s grace that fills the chasm, it is God’s grace that builds the bridge back to relationship with Him, my Heavenly Father.  It is God’s grace that makes a way for me where there was no way.  And that way, that bridge built by God’s grace, is covered with the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  That was the price God paid to redeem me for His own.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”  (Ephesians 2:13)

So, our original question – “How does legalism threaten the message of the gospel?” The message of legalism is the law, the lie of legalism is that the law can save us from our sinfulness and make us righteous before a holy God.

The message of the gospel is grace – God’s infinite grace to man – grace through faith in Jesus alone and nothing else, such as faith in the law or faith in our ability to keep the law.  Legalism threatens to replace the message of the gospel by substituting the law for God’s grace, thus attempting to eliminate our need for a Savior and put us in control of our destiny.  (which is a deception because God is ultimately sovereign over everything and everyone)

The lie of legalism is that I am capable of keeping the law and that if I could keep it, that would make me right with God.  The law has no more power to save me, to change me, to transform me, to make me right with God than I have power to keep the law.  I am as powerless to obey or keep the law as the law is powerless to forgive my sin, to change my heart, to save my soul.

Legalism purports to put man in control by making us think we can simply follow rules, even create rules of our own, as many church denominations often do and that this will allow us a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”    (Romans 3:20)

But man is not in control.  We did not create the universe, nor do we control it. The message of the gospel is God’s sovereignty (control), from start to finish, from creation to eternity.

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”  (Isaiah 46:10)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:23-24)

sincerely,       Grace Day