C.C. Stella and Toby’s Thanksgiving story #125

It was not going to be a traditional Thanksgiving. Of that they were certain. Stella and Toby were miffed, actually they were downright, outright, mad. Their housemates had departed for the holiday, dashing off to Denver to be with family. Weren’t they family? Stella and Toby wondered as they wandered around the now suddenly empty house, which had seemed so full only hours before.

So how would they spend this holiday? Neither Stella nor Toby had a driver’s license, (they had always had drivers) although their housemates did leave one car in the garage. Being older in age, both Stella and Toby had come to depend on their housemates more than either would admit to the other, or to anyone who should chance to inquire, for that matter.

Should they have something delivered? At least the deserting housemates had arranged for a cleaning service in their absence. Stella and Toby were accustomed to being waited on and catered to, as they had never known anything else.

In truth, they looked upon their housemates more as the help than fellow home dwellers. But now Stella and Toby missed them terribly. Or was it simply the services those two provided that they were missing? Someone had come in briefly yesterday and cleaned their bathroom. That same person also delivered the day’s mail and supplied food and drink in the silver bowls Stella and Toby preferred when dining in.

But now it was Thanksgiving Day and no one had come to visit them or to serve them. Food and drink were running low on this day of all days, when food and drink are supposed to be consumed in an abundance exceeding other more ordinary days. Where was a phone? Had the housemates taken both the phones with them? Of course they had! They were never without them.

Later in the day, both Stella and Toby heard voices at the front door. There was some commotion, but the door never opened. Watching unnoticed through a side window, Toby saw the cleaning lady from yesterday struggling with the key in the front door’s lock. Soon she was joined by a very large gentleman. Toby thought he recognized this man. “I must have seen him while watching football on TV,” Toby thought to himself. But without the uniform Toby couldn’t be sure.

Soon another woman joined the cleaning lady and the NFL linebacker on the front porch. She seemed to be the brains behind the operation, but since the linebacker had already pulled the metal door handle right off the door, and the key still refused to turn in the lock, there didn’t seem to be a solution short of doing more harm to the door in order to gain entrance into the house. (isn’t that called breaking and entering?)

As if on cue, another man showed up on the front porch, a state trooper. He didn’t arrest anyone however. There was some continued conversation, then the four quietly dispersed. Toby correctly surmised where they were all headed. Off to family feasts, no doubt. Their houses were probably full of food and drink and football and fun and family. It hardly seemed fair to Stella and Toby.

Toby shared this news with Stella as the two of them pondered their Thanksgiving Day predicament. The food from yesterday was finished, the water was running low, the bathroom was becoming intolerable. I cannot say for sure, but perhaps Stella and Toby spent this time plotting the demise of their housemates upon their return, or at the very least in planning effective revenge strategies to be executed while said housemates slept.

Stella and Toby may have contemplated turning their housemates in, not for their act of abandonment on a national holiday but because they were in defiance of orders not to travel and not to gather together with loved ones to celebrate this holiday. That’s why Stella and Toby had refrained from issuing invitations of their own for Thanksgiving. They didn’t want to be in violation of the six or less edict. Stella and Toby are nothing if not law abiding.

But as I said, I cannot say for certain how Stella and Toby spent those lonely Thanksgiving hours with their food supply depleted and their cleaning lady unable to gain entrance into their home. What I do know is that on the following morning Toby witnessed another front porch discussion between the cleaning lady and another gentleman who also tried the key without success. When they left, Toby’s hopes for food went with them.

Shortly after that reappearance of the cleaning lady on the front porch however, there was a stranger causing quite a commotion at the front door, so much so that the door knob on the inside of the door fell to the floor leaving a hole where Toby could see clear through to the outside. Next thing Toby knew, the door was open, the stranger stepped in, dismantled the rest of the hardware on the inside of the door, put it in a pile and left, closing the now unlocked door behind him.

Stella was furious. The stranger had come and gone without so much as a “how are you doing? is there anything I can get you before I go?” Toby shared Stella’s sentiments. They were both definitely mystified by the stranger’s behavior which left them miffed and mad, exactly where they had started this holiday. They were spending Thanksgiving being anything but thankful.

Then the cleaning lady mysteriously reappeared, entering through the now unlocked front door, greeting them warmly, talking soothingly to them both. Stella couldn’t believe it. She would have none of it. She remained cool, watching from a distance and Toby followed her example. That is until he heard the sound of food falling into the previously empty silver dish and of fresh water filling the almost empty silver bowl. Then Toby had to make his move. After all, hunger usually wins out over anger.

Toby found there was more food than normal and the water tasted particularly cool and refreshing. The bathroom was cleaned to perfection, which made Stella ecstatic, though she would never let on nor admit to it. This cleaning lady was still a poor substitute for their absent housemates, housemates that are going to be in the “doghouse” when they return home. Stella and Toby will see to that!

What is my part in this story of Stella and Toby and their very distressing Thanksgiving holiday? I confess to you, dear readers, I am the cleaning lady in this saga of Thanksgiving woe. I am the one who could not get the key to turn in the lock. I am the one who enlisted the help of the linebacker who didn’t know his own strength. (well, maybe he did, but he did not mean to dismantle the door handle by sheer force, he pulled it off the door without even breaking a sweat, totally an accident)

I further confess to you that Stella and Toby are the cats who live across the street, who are in my care until their housemates’ return. I’m sure these two find me a poor substitute for their housemates’ care and company. (didn’t I just write about the shortcomings of things we substitute for the real thing in “the substitute” post?)

So now you know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. I was able to lock the front door from the inside and am now using a garage door opener left in the car to enter and exit the house where Stella and Toby reside. I am sure I am now off their Christmas list as I have in all probability been moved to their “hit” list. (which I hear is quite a lengthy list, you know how cats can be)

Still, I did recommend to Stella and Toby that they start practicing 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which states,

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

with that in mind, Toby, Stella and I have declared every day Thanksgiving Day and we have made a pact to acknowledge God as the source of all good gifts, and furthermore we have promised to each day,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the gift of gratitude #124

Of course on Thanksgiving Day, the logical topic is gratefulness. So it is both fitting and necessary that I reflect on gratitude on this national day set aside for us to give thanks. Many events, celebrations, holidays and gatherings have been cancelled this year courtesy of COVID. And now given the current situation here in the U.S. and around the world, perhaps a holiday whose focus is solely on being thankful seems to be sorely out of place. Or is it? Is this a holiday we want to skip because of what we have experienced this year?

Or could it be that true gratefulness is an attitude of the heart and therefore not impacted by my circumstances nor by my current situation? In this scenario, my ability to be thankful depends on the condition of my heart rather than on the condition of my surroundings.

Paul understood this and wrote about it in Philippians 4:11-13, sharing his secret in these words,

” . . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Paul knew that God’s presence with him didn’t come and go, depending on his earthly circumstances. Rather it was constant, God with him in want and in plenty. Must be why Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians,

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

King David also knew the importance of a grateful heart. He wrote these words in Psalm 116:17,

“I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 50:14 tells me to, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,”

Why should my gratitude and thanksgiving be directed to God? because –

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Why are we not aware that anything and everything good we have is from God? When we were a more agricultural society, this connection was more obvious, I think. Consider these words from Psalm 147:7-9,

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”

We read in Acts 14:17, “Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Full stomachs and full hearts, both food and joy in abundant supply (it says plenty of food and fills my heart/ your heart with joy) Yes, if we are going to spend a whole day in giving thanks, it would be helpful for us to be clear on, to be certain of just who it is that we are thanking. Psalm 145:13-16 answers this question clearly saying,

“The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

So many good gifts contained in those words! I am loved, I am upheld when I fall, I am lifted up when I am bowed down, I am fed and I am satisfied. Not a minimal sustenance, just enough to get by, but satisfied because He is the Creator of the universe and all it contains. He holds everything and everyone in His hands. No wonder that when He opens His hands every living thing is satisfied, including me.

Is that not more than enough reason to give God thanks, right there? Out of the abundance of the earth God provides for us. Not just food, but other things like energy as well. From coal, to oil, to natural gas, wind, solar and water power are all gifts from God’s creation. Farmers throughout history have felt this connection with God as the Giver of every good gift, maybe because they have lived it out as they receive their living from the land. And with that living, with their labor, they sustain the rest of us. We need to thank God for that and for them.

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were both clear about the reason for a national day of Thanksgiving when they issued their respective proclamations, the first on October 3rd, 1789 and the second on October 3rd, 1863. In the former Washington stated,

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor – and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

These words of Washington leave no doubt that Thanksgiving originated as a day of thanks and prayer to Almighty God. There was no confusion about who we were thanking. We were thanking the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Makes perfect sense. Then Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday with his proclamation on October 3rd, 1863.

That year, 1863, would rival 2020, I think as a year when perhaps people were not feeling particularly grateful. (they were in the middle of a Civil War, so not a lot of peace and prosperity going on at the moment for them) I guess we can relate a little?

In his proclamation, Lincoln lists some benefits such as peace with other nations, the wealth of the country from industry, the plough, the shuttle, the ship, the axe and the mines, a growing population and an increase of freedom. Then Lincoln says,

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

And so Thanksgiving became a national holiday, a day set aside for giving thanks, praise and prayer to Almighty God. It’s purpose was clear from its inception. Thanksgiving became an official, national holiday during the divided, uncertain time of the Civil War. It would seem that this current divided, uncertain time is not the time to abandon nor forsake this uniquely American tradition. We need God’s presence in our individual lives and in the life of our beloved country now more than ever.

Both Washington and Lincoln clearly acknowledged our nation’s legacy of looking to God for guidance and protection and giving Him the credit and the gratitude. This is not the year to abandon our Thanksgiving traditions. Gratitude has a power all its own to refocus our wayward vision back to the Giver of every good gift and to remind us just how rich we really are as children of the Almighty God of all creation.

I confess – an old hymn is playing in my head. You can’t hear it, dear readers, but I will share some of the words with you now.

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

Today, I will choose gratitude – I will count my blessings and thank my Heavenly Father for each and everyone of them.

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:21-22)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the substitute #123

There is no substitute for the real thing. How often have I heard those words repeated? And who better to vouch for the truth of those words than myself? Why? Because I, myself, am a substitute for the real thing. Yes, it is true. I confess – I am a substitute teacher.

When I show up in another teacher’s classroom, I am all too aware that I am not the real thing and if I were to forget that very pertinent fact, the students are always diligent in reminding me that I am not, in fact, their real teacher. So I understand a lot about the cost of substitution.

Remember when butter was out? It was declared to be bad for us and the butter substitutes were supposed to be healthier and better tasting. Never mind that they were not actually the real thing, namely butter. Then butter made a come back! It was decided that butter wasn’t actually that harmful after all plus it actually tasted better and was best in recipes.

This also happened with sugar. There are many synthetic sugar substitutes available which have been used over the years, but now sugar is considered better for us than the artificial sweeteners which we have been substituting for the real thing – sugar. Apparently our bodies metabolize real, natural sugar better than synthetic, chemical containing sugar substitutes. Who knew?

We are currently in a season of substitution. We are being required to substitute the virtual experience for the in-person experience multiple times a day. And being the adaptable, persevering people that we are, we have adapted and persevered. We are now being told to continue with our virtual lives, while putting our in-person lives on hold. No one has talked about a finish line lately . . . if indeed one exists at all.

We have satisfied ourselves with zoom meetings and zoom exercise and zoom worship and on line education – well, maybe satisfied is not a completely accurate word. Are we satisfied? Or are we craving something more, something that this cyberspace substitute cannot provide for us?

There really is no substitute for a gym full of screaming teenagers at a high school pep rally before the big homecoming game. The band plays, the cheerleaders cheer, the dance team dances, student reporters take pictures while other students video the event for the school news, the players are introduced and cheered in a supportive send off for the upcoming “big game.” It is a big deal to the students who are drawn together in supporting their school and in supporting their classmates in all the many capacities in which the students participate. It is about so much more than just the team. It is about belonging to a community, in this case a school community.

There really is no substitute for a sanctuary full of people praying, singing, worshiping, hearing together the word of God spoken out loud – there is no substitute for the power, encouragement, comfort, joy, hope, sense of belonging and sense of connection that take place in the sanctity of that full sanctuary Sunday after Sunday.

There is no substitute for the arena filled with screaming sports fans, cheering their team on to victory or sharing in the agony of their defeat. It is always an exhilarating roller coaster ride, that we share for a few hours with thousands of otherwise complete strangers – but united for this brief time in supporting the team for which we all share affection and allegiance. This shared experience lets us know we belong to a community. We are not alone in our passion for this sport nor in our devotion to this particular team.

There is no substitute for sharing a live music performance with hundreds of other strangers who also love the music that you love. I guess that’s why people wait in long lines for hours to get tickets to concerts that sell out so quickly. It must be the shared experience which adds to the enjoyment of the music, to the enjoyment of the event. We experience it in community. We are not alone.

There is no substitute for that moment in live theater when the lights dim, the audience quiets, the curtain rises revealing the surprise of the always wonderful set and you and everyone around you settle in for the suspenseful delight of the story that is ready to unfold before your very eyes.

Likewise, there is no substitute for the wave of emotion felt as the final curtain falls while everyone in attendance rises to their feet in one accord applauding, as though some invisible force were at work among us all – connecting us in this shared experience of the drama (or comedy) in which we have just participated. To experience something so profound in community with others in the audience, makes the shared experience deeply memorable.

For me, there is no substitute for exercising at my gym. Anything on my own, virtually, is just not the same and I don’t stick with it. I loved going to my particular exercise class because of the people in that class. Working out with other people provides the accountability, incentive and inspiration I need, which virtual exercise is simply not able to supply. After all, it is only a substitute for the real thing. What did I expect?

There is simply no substitute for the people in my exercise class. I have written about them from time to time in past years, in previous posts, calling them the “Indomitables” because they are just that, indomitable in body, mind and most importantly in spirit. To be in their presence is to be encouraged to persevere in my own challenges. There is no substitute for my in-person gym community.

How have we been so easily persuaded to abandon the substance of our everyday lives for the shadow of what it once was? A shadow has no power to satisfy. A shadow is only a substitute for the real thing.

Tomorrow would be the annual Drumstick Dash, a run/walk to raise money for Wheeler Mission here in town. It will take place virtually, participants who register get a t-shirt. But tomorrow’s virtual “event” will be a shadowy, shallow substitute for the real thing. The real thing is approximately twenty thousand people of all ages, ethnicities, athletic abilities, walks of life etc. gathered together, filling the neighborhood streets, many in colorful costumes, (turkeys, pilgrims, Santas, elves, reindeer).

There are pets and there are strollers. For the walkers it is more of a parade than a race. It is definitely a party atmosphere, with all of us strangers coming together to support the work of caring for the homeless in our city. Bonded by more than just having the same color shirt, we are bonded together in this effort to make a difference in the lives of others. We are a part of something larger than ourselves and all we have to do is look around us as we walk to witness this truth. This is what community looks like, and on Thanksgiving morning I get to experience this. (well, in years past, not this year)

Substitution comes at a high price. Community and connection are sacrificed, replaced by loneliness and isolation. There is no substitute for a sense of belonging and the presence of a purpose which belonging brings. It is community events that allow us to plan and to participate, community events that connect us in myriad ways that strengthen our neighborhoods and ultimately our nation.

From county fairs to farmers markets to parades to public celebrations of various things, such as my city’s “tree lighting on the circle” or Times Square’s New Year’s Eve celebration or 9/11 remembrances – these all bind us together as Americans when we participate in these experiences common to us all.

When we are separated and isolated, we tend to forget all the ways we have belonged to each other and to this country throughout the years of our history. And when we forget, we are more likely to allow a substitute to stand in for the real thing. We forget just how good the real thing was.

Paul witnessed this very thing take place and he wrote about it in Romans 1:25 saying,

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.”

They substituted a lie for the truth. A substitution with disastrous results. Romans 1:28-32 tells us what happened next.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Substituting lies for truth never ends well. America was a nation founded on God’s truth and when we abandon that foundation, we have nothing left to stand on. It is as if we have substituted a foundation of shifting sand for our former foundation of the rock of God as Creator/Sustainer of our universe.

We cannot build anything lasting upon the shifting sands of constantly changing lies masquerading as truth. Only the unchanging truth of God’s word is a rock sufficient to provide a firm, unchanging foundation upon which to build a faith or a nation.

There is no substitute for the real thing. The virtual cannot substitute for the in-person and deliver satisfying, life sustaining results. It is not possible. Lies cannot substitute for truth and sustain anything, a relationship, a family, a community or a country. Shifting sand is not a suitable nor a sufficient substitute for solid rock as a foundation for anything lasting.

Our country has been doing a lot of substituting lately. We have substituted the virtual for the in-person, lies for truth and we have abandoned the rock of faith upon which our nation was founded, in favor of the shifting sands of a post-truth era.

I don’t know about you, but I sink in the sand. I need a rock to stand on.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

I can find no substitute for God – there is none.

” . . . I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the return #122

The bright yellow taped arrows on the floor of the hallways and on the stairways were new, although if those arrows had been there pre-COVID, I never would have noticed them because the halls and stairways were usually full of students going in all directions, doing their daily scramble to get to class ahead of the ringing bell. So my attention was never focused on the floor, even if I could have seen it for the crowd.

So truthfully I must confess – I cannot say with any certainty that these bright arrows and blue tape lines down the center of these same hallways are in fact new – perhaps they had been there all along. (which would mean no one had ever paid them any attention nor followed their clear instruction – until now)

And so it happened that I now entered the very same building I had exited seven months earlier at the end of a most ordinary of school days. The building was familiar, but the eerie quiet that met me when I entered was not. The tall plexi-glass shield in place on the counter in the front office was new. But the welcome, familiar voice that greeted me from behind it was not. She had changed her hair (as is a woman’s want to do) but the same kind lady was still running the front office. I would add that her smile was unchanged, but the mask she wore made that impossible to verify. (I’m pretty sure she was smiling though – I hope she knew that underneath my mask, I was smiling back at her)

So this is school now? This is school in the time of COVID. The bell rang and a few students entered my classroom and took their seats. The desks were already spaced further apart than in the past in order to comply with distancing guidelines. Of course, the students wore masks. (maybe that accounts for their uncharacteristic quietness?)

My classes during the day had as few as one student or as many as ten, usually four or five was typical. The rest of the students were attending the class virtually, I could see their names on my computer screen and hear their voices, but no faces were visible. They were each just a name on the screen.

The students’ assignments were on their computers, even for the students physically present in the classroom, they worked in silence on their computers. No pencils to sharpen, no one putting work on the classroom whiteboard, nothing being presented in class on the overhead, no class discussion, this was a whole new world – a very silent world.

Pre-COVID, it was an impossibility to keep the students in their seats and quiet. (of course there were usually twenty to thirty of them) but still . . . the contrast was not lost on me. I should be grateful for the peaceful atmosphere, right? Is it one of peace or one of fear? I cannot be certain. But I am already missing the many small, personal interactions that usually occur during the school day.

Toward the end of class, I spray each desk with disinfectant and each student wipes down their desk and seat before leaving the room. This is a newly instituted COVID ritual, one among others added to the students’ daily routine. I wonder if the students miss the full classrooms and crowded hallways, alive with the noise of conversation and sometimes confrontation, but alive nonetheless?

Is it wrong to wish for the return of something you formerly complained about? (crowded classrooms and noisy students) Do we learn better in isolation or from interaction with others? It is clear students need more than online interaction, but at the moment that seems to be the most widely available alternative to in-person learning. How this will affect students going forward remains to be seen.

For now, we walk into these uncharted waters and do what we can, while looking for any semblance of what used to be. I found one – the “eye roll” is still alive and well – the mask does not, cannot hide this universal form of protest. How reassuring! Some things have not changed.

I hope that a love of learning is not lost in this time of isolation and of regulation. I hope that when the students return and the masks come off, students will again ask questions, speak their minds, give oral presentations, (book reports, show and tell etc.) engage in debate, theater, public speaking – do science experiments and cooking labs and ceramics and painting, all the hands on things that go into a full education.

There is a long standing saying that “the church is the people, not the building.” I think that must be true for school, too. I am in the same school building, but without all the students and all the activity, without the energy, the life, the vitality they bring with them into the building, school is a very quiet, very different place. It is the students who determine the character and the spirit of their school, not the building. Anything else is a poor substitute for the real thing. (post “C.C. True Confessions – the real thing #83)

I will continue to show up and continue to hope for more opportunities for in person learning in the future. As always, my ultimate hope for anything and everything that is good lies with my Heavenly Father. He is the giver of every good gift. I can truly say along with the psalmist,

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

“May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33:22)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the citizen #121

Was it only a year ago we were together for Thanksgiving? I confess -seems like it was more years, many more. Actually it must have been in another era altogether, when life was what is now just a memory. It was then she made the announcement that was met with applause and such joy. We all celebrated with her as we shared in her accomplishment and her new status.

The reason for the celebration? This beautiful young woman, who had married into our family several years prior, had become a U.S. citizen. She had studied, put in time and effort to make this dream a reality. And now it was real. Why is it people who risk more or invest more to become citizens of this country value it more than those of us who have this status awarded us because birth bequeathed belonging upon us before we could even desire it for ourselves?

I guess it is because we tend not to value that which costs us nothing. King David knew this very well. There is a story told in 1 Chronicles 21 about David and a sacrificial offering he made to the Lord. David had done wrong and God was punishing Israel for David’s sin. But . . .

“David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O Lord my God, let Your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on Your people.’ ” (1 Chronicles 21:17)

David was then instructed to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. There he would sacrifice to make atonement for his sin. To this end David said to Araunah,

“Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.” (1 Chronicles 21:22)

Now we are told that when David approached, Araunah “bowed down before David with his face to the ground.” Remember, David was the king and Araunah was simply one of his many subjects. Why did David offer to pay him? He could have simply taken it as his own, that was his kingly right. Araunah even offered his oxen for the sacrifice, his wheat for the grain offering and his threshing sledges for the wood for the fire.

As king, David could have demanded a discount. But he didn’t. He offered to pay full price. In reality, David didn’t have to ask for any of it. It was freely offered up to him for his use by Araunah simply because he was the king. But surprisingly, here is David’s reply to Araunah’s generous offer,

“No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)

Perhaps King David understood that there was no element of sacrifice involved in making a sacrifice or a burnt offering of other people’s property, which would require nothing from him and therefore could have no impact on him. The things that are dear to us are things hard fought, hard won, hard to replace, precious and priceless because they cost us something.

David’s relationship to God was that precious, priceless, costly thing that required he be willing to pay a price. Obedience can be costly, but a right relationship with a holy God demanded nothing less of David. Such a relationship demands nothing less of me, either.

“So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.” (1 Chronicles 21:25)

David was willing to pay the price – the full price. Am I? Citizenship has a cost. Just ask those who escape to our country seeking asylum. Asylum from what? – we should be asking ourselves. People are still pouring into our country even while those brought up here under the protections and freedoms America provides are actively attempting to tear her down.

Why? Could it be because the freedoms, opportunities, peace, prosperity in this land full of possibility and hope have cost them nothing personally? So they spend their days in idle diversions, disgruntled, entitled, envious of anyone who seems to be better off, eager to blame anyone or anything for their discontent, whether individuals or institutions.

They tear down our statues, our cities, our businesses, our public spaces, – they tear down our laws, taking with them our safety and our peace – they tear down our Bill of Rights, taking with it our protections of free speech, of the ability to worship as we choose and of assembly. (well some people have been allowed to assemble in large numbers while others have been forbidden to assemble, turns out it depends on the reason for the assembly of people together – which begs the question, Who is deciding who can assemble and who can’t?)

When did we become so comfortable, so complacent that we are unwilling to sacrifice even the most minor of our conveniences or our comforts in an attempt to preserve our vanishing freedoms? Will we not lift a finger, not raise an objection, not a cry of protest, not even a whimper?

It will cost us, that is certain. In this cancel culture, the price is escalating. For some, it is now more than being cancelled on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV, radio or in print – they may fear losing their jobs if they speak out. This is a big price to pay. Still . . .

Will we watch our freedom of speech slip away while we stand silent? Soon censorship will have silenced us all into submission and into the unity of thought and action which censorship demands. I find this ironic in that I thought diversity was the mantra, the banner under which we are being shamed into silent compliance with whatever is deemed currently correct discourse at the moment.

Is the classic book “Gone with the Wind” now literally gone with the wind? Or is it promised to return to us in some new reimagined, rewritten, sanitized, politically correct form that will now be deemed acceptable (even though unrecognizable) but nevertheless now approved by . . . by whom?

Who gets to make these decisions? I didn’t vote to ban “Gone with the Wind”. Did you, dear readers? Which books are next? The Bible? (it is currently banned in China as well as in other countries) This is what we call the slippery slope. How much are we willing to risk?

Nathan Hale paid the ultimate price saying, “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Others have also paid full price for the freedoms we have known in this country. These brave patriots knew what King David understood – there is a price to be paid for anything of significance.

Jesus explained it to His disciples and to the crowd of people surrounding them in these words,

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

Some things are worth paying full price. What did Lincoln say about the fallen soldiers’ sacrifice when he spoke at Gettysburg, dedicating the cemetery where they would be buried? Lincoln said the soldiers had given “their last full measure of devotion.” They had given their all so that others might live in freedom and in peace.

Today, the world watches, waiting to see the outcome of our struggle. Refugees risk everything to come here, not unlike the first “boat people”, those on ships like the Mayflower. Now that was one perilous journey. There was no guarantee that one would arrive safely in the “New World” and many died before their ship ever reached shore. But they were willing to take the risk in their pursuit of a better life, a life defined by freedom – freedom from the crown, freedom to determine their own destiny, freedom to worship openly without fear, freedom of speech and of assembly.

If only we fought with swords and sabers, our battle might be in clearer resolution before us. But we are confused. Who is the enemy? BLM says black lives matter, but their actions say no lives matter to them, just their ideology and their agenda of tearing democracy down. No lives are lifted up by any of their actions. Antifa by virtue of its name, implies that it is fighting fascism. But its actions are the opposite of its name. CRT (critical race theory) one would think would be anti-racist, but the perspective, philosophy and actions of this teaching create and empower division and racism where none existed before. They are racists pretending to be anti-racists by their rhetoric. But their actions speak louder than their words.

Time we stopped listening to the rhetoric and started looking at what is happening around us. Time to speak up or forever hold our peace. (there will be no peace if we hold it now)

My ultimate citizenship, however, is not here.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20)

This heavenly citizenship comes at great cost. The cost? Jesus’s death on a cross, paying with His blood for my sins.

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

I want to be like the person in this parable in Matthew 13:44,

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Anything worthwhile comes at a cost. Citizenship in a free country, citizenship in God’s kingdom. Both are worth the price of admission.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the power of a preposition #120

Prepositions are typically small words but they pack a deceptively powerful punch. They make a difference, a big difference. Consider if you will, the difference between being in the car, under the car or beside the car. In the first scenario you are driving the car, (or possibly a passenger) in the second scenario, you have either been run over by the car or you are a mechanic fixing the car. In the third scenario, it is unknown whether you will become the driver, a car vandal or car thief, or perhaps you are simply admiring said car.

But all these possibilities become reality by simply changing the preposition. Who knew prepositions were so powerful? Well, turns out they do have a certain impact. Prepositions can totally change the situation.

Consider the difference between someone giving money to you and someone taking money from you. In the former, perhaps you are being paid for work you did or you won a bet. In the latter, you are being robbed, my friend.

Think about the difference between Jesus walking on the water and Peter, who ended up walking in the water. It’s the difference between being dry and being wet. (and also between being divine and being human)

It makes a huge difference whether the tornado goes through the city, around the city or jumps over the city. The end result on the ground is very different depending on which preposition tells the story of the tornado’s journey.

Prepositions tell us a lot about location and location is important as it determines so much. Take for instance Jesus’s location revealed to us in Romans 8:34 which says,

” . . . Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

The preposition “at” tells me where Jesus is and the preposition “for” lets me know that He is interceding on my behalf. I am also reassured by what Romans 8:31 tells me,

” . . . If God is for us, who can be against us?” I confess – it makes a huge difference in my relationships whether someone is for me or against me. What a difference a preposition makes!

We are getting closer to the season in which we celebrate Christ’s birth. We are remembering that this was the time when God came to dwell with us and walk among us. Two very important prepositions that changed the course of human history. Matthew 1:23 tells us,

” ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’ ”

“With” is a wonderful preposition when I consider what it means. It means that the Creator of the universe came to live among His people, came to share in their daily lives. For a miraculous, mercy filled moment in time, God inhabited human history in human form.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Approximately thirty three years later a very important prepositional change would occur. Jesus would go from living with His disciples here on earth to living in His disciples through the person of His Holy Spirit. Jesus attempted to prepare His disciples for this big change by explaining to them,

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. . . . when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7 & 13)

Jesus also told His disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)

So Jesus was leaving earth but would send the Holy Spirit to believers after His departure. Paul referred to the Holy Spirit’s presence in every believer when he wrote to the Colossians saying,

“the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27)

That switch from with to in was a big one. What a difference it makes in our daily lives. It happened at Pentecost, this miraculous arrival of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of a prophesy made by Joel so many years before when he foretold that God would do this,

“I will pour out My Spirit on all people . . . And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:28 & 32)

Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven after His resurrection when He told His disciples in parting,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So . . . “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. . . . All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Later, Peter would explain to crowds of curious people what had happened to him and the other disciples in these words,

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

Peter made it clear that God’s gift of His Holy Spirit was for anyone who would believe on the name of His Son, Jesus.

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ ” (Acts 2:38-39)

Everyone receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, not just living with them but in them. The Holy Spirit was Jesus’s parting gift to us, so to speak. Jesus was no longer going to be physically present with us, but He would be spiritually present in us twenty-four/seven forever. Maybe this is why Jesus said it is better for us that He went back to the Father because then He could send us His Holy Spirit to live in us instead of with us.

“In” is closer than “with”. It doesn’t get any more personal. I’m thinking about the ten commandments, which God wrote on the stone tablets and gave to Moses to present to the Israelites, so that God’s laws could be with them. Those sacred stone tablets remained with the Israelite people in their Ark of the Covenant but those laws being “with” the people didn’t really change their lives in any meaningful, ongoing sense or way.

This is probably why in Hebrews 10:15-16 I read these words,

“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ ”

Wow! What a difference a preposition makes! From external to internal is an important distinction. And it is a distinction that matters greatly to God. Paul describes the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit this way in 2 Corinthians 4:7,

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (our bodies are the jars of clay, the treasure is God’s Holy Spirit living in us)

I’m sure the disciples were feeling quite abandoned as Jesus began preparing them for His return to the Father after His resurrection. But Jesus reassured them with these words,

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” (John 14:16-20)

He lives with you and will be in you. Jesus was with the disciples and many other people during His time here, but upon His return to heaven He fulfilled that promise that He would no longer abide with us, but in us.

And that is the power of a preposition, dear readers. Prepositions determine position and God prioritizes the internal over the external. He says in John 15:4,

“Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”

a particularly powerful preposition, that one “in”.

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the making of a hermit #119

Would I be considered an introvert or an extrovert? That is the question. The answer probably depends on the beholder of my behavior and on the circumstances. I have been and can be both of these, it just depends on the day and the situation in which I find myself. But now I find myself taking on the characteristics of a hermit more and more as this covid crisis continues. Maybe you do, too, dear readers?

To be clear, the only hermit I ever knew of was the grandfather in the story “Heidi”. He lived alone up on a mountain as I recall and so both mystery and myth contributed to his mystique as a hermit. Of course, he was a hermit by choice. My hermit status is being chosen for me as a response to the presence of covid in our midst. But I must confess, as time passes, I am becoming more and more comfortable with my hermit label and my hermit lifestyle.

It doesn’t happen overnight, this transformation from involved to isolated, from connected to cut-off. Rather, it takes place incrementally. Schools are shutting down again, as are businesses and other things. We are being told not to gather with other people, especially for the upcoming holidays. The weather is getting colder and there is less daylight every day. So increasingly, there is nowhere to go and no reason to be outside. Thus a hermit is born! ( or maybe created is more accurate)

It is safer, it is easier to stay home. No chance of chance interactions to endanger one or to brighten one’s day. The hermit lifestyle may be becoming the norm, but is it normal? These are two very different things. (the norm vs. normal) Which causes me to ponder, are animals hermits or do only humans become hermits?

There are herds of buffalo, cows, elephants etc. There are schools of fish, flocks of sheep, a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, a pack of wolves, a float of crocodiles, a pod of whales, a swarm of bees, a caravan of camels, a colony of ants, – you get the idea. Animals are born into their animal families and live out their lives as part of these animal communities. Birds, buffaloes and butterflies alike live together, migrate together and survive together. To separate from the herd (or whatever group name) would mean death. They need each other to survive.

Are we any different? God, Himself said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) And that is when God made Eve so that Adam wouldn’t be alone. Adam wasn’t created to be a hermit living in isolation.

Neither are we. We do better in community. Psalm 68:6 tells us that –

“God sets the lonely in families, . . . ” or another translation says, “the desolate in a homeland.”

A place to belong, isn’t that what each one of us desires whether we will admit to it or not? Romans 12:5 tells us how we belong to something, really Someone, greater than ourselves which provides us with our connection to others – a connection that gives meaning and provides purpose for us in our day to day lives.

“so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” There’s that belonging that I so long for! Being a part of something bigger than just myself. We are members together of the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 it is described in this way –

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. . . . God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. . . . As it is, there are many parts, but one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Isn’t that the assurance that I long for? That I belong somewhere to someone? Those words above just confirmed that each one of you (I) is (am) a part of it. God really does set the lonely in families. He has adopted me into His family. Just as it is written in John 1:12,

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

“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 Heavenly Father knows my need for connection and belonging, my need to live for a greater purpose than myself alone. He has adopted me into His family, made me a part of His body of believers, given me a job to do within that body (remember the body doesn’t work well without each and every part participating – everyone is essential – there are no non-essential parts or members – everyone is needed – everyone has value)

God did not create me to be a hermit. He created me to be salt and to be light to His hurting world. Matthew 5:13 & 14 makes that clear when Jesus says,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, . . . You are the light of the world. . . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The world may have plans for me to become a non-essential hermit, but it would appear that my Heavenly Father has other plans for me as His child, as a part of His body of believers here on earth. He has placed me in community, connected me with all the saints, (by making them my brothers and sisters in Christ) and called me to serve in the capacity He has chosen for me.

If you are feeling isolated and lonely, dear readers, please realize that your Heavenly Father has done the same for you as well. You are essential to God. You have priceless value and your life has great purpose.

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

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. what is love? #118

Humankind has been debating and defining this word love for as long as we have been in existence. Love is the topic of and the inspiration for our art, our literature, our music, our movies – everything revolves around man’s quest for love. From country western songs to Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals to rock & roll, it is all about love.

We long to find love, to experience love, to hold onto love. We dedicate our lives to pursuing love, understanding it, defining it, acquiring it, but not so much to giving it away – that would be too costly.

Just what is love, anyway? Is it that elusive entity that makes the world go round? Is it really true that love is all you need? Have I, or have you, dear reader, spent your life looking for love in all the wrong places? Can I even say for sure that I know what love is?

Recently, I have been seeing these words “love is love” on signs and posters and such. In fact, lately these words seem to be everywhere I look. I never noticed them before but now they are getting my attention. Still, I find those words confusing if not downright nonsensical. You see, in grade school English it was drilled into us when doing our vocabulary homework that you can’t use the word you are attempting to define in the definition of said word.

So if I don’t know what love is, telling me that love is love, doesn’t enlighten me or further my understanding of the word all that much. Fortunately, God’s word has a lot to say about love. In fact, there is a whole chapter in 1 Corinthians called the love chapter (that would be chapter 13) which describes love in the following words,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

These words about love paint a picture of what love looks like by what love does and doesn’t do. These words describe love so well that I would be able to recognize love if I saw her in action and to recognize a love impostor by their actions as well. This would certainly come in handy in my quest for love, this ability to to tell the real thing from the impostors.

I will recognize love by its actions. Because at its core, love is a verb, not a noun. Love is an action more than a feeling. Love is both, but it is the actions of love which define her, release her power and give her life. Love’s actions reveal her true character and expose all pretenders. Actions are the way love is lived out in this world.

Love is defined in John 15:13 in this way,

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Then we read in John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So we see the definition of love includes the action of giving, even the giving up of one’s life. Love is an action. In Ephesians 5:25 we read,

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . .”

In Romans 13:10 I find love further defined in this way,

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

I love that explanation. (oops, that is the feeling I’m referring to in that statement) How often do I say I love this or that? I have to confess – pretty often and the list is long (ice cream, kittens, sunsets, campfires . . . ) but am I living out the actions of love or still just searching for the feeling that we have labeled love?

Love does no harm – oh if I could live that way. Never hurting anyone with my words or my deeds because love does no harm. That should easily weed out all the pretenders, who profess their love to those around them but with their actions tell a different story.

Love is the fulfillment of the law. And what is the law? The two greatest commandments we are told, are to love God above all else and to love others as yourself. In Matthew 22:36-39 I find this confirmed,

” ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

This kind of love requires action on my part. This loving God and loving my neighbor is hard work. It is more than a feeling expressed by an emoji. The kind of loving Jesus was talking about will be time consuming and costly. But to this we are called.

Jesus made clear this connection between love and action in John 14:21 & 23 when He said,

“Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. . . . If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.”

My love for my Heavenly Father is lived out in my actions of obedience to His teachings, in my following where He leads and in my doing things His way, not mine. There is a story in Luke of a woman who showed her love for Jesus by her actions, though she was criticized greatly for what she did. This is how it happened.

While Jesus was having dinner at the house of a prominent religious leader, a woman of questionable character entered and began washing Jesus’s feet. His high class host took issue with the woman’s actions and Jesus’s response is worth noting –

“Then He (Jesus) turned toward the woman and said to Simon, (the one who thought he was the one who loved Jesus because he was religious) ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ ” (Luke 7:44-47)

Did you catch that? This woman loved much according to Jesus. It wasn’t a feeling, it was all action. She cried, she wiped, she kissed, she poured perfume on Jesus feet, something that cost her dearly as perfume was very expensive but she spared no expense – by her actions she loved much.

What is love? Is it more than the fleeting feelings of a romantic fairytale? Could love be an act of kindness in the face of cruelty? Could it be the parent who doesn’t give up on a child, no matter what? Could it be gentle words in response to harsh ones? Could it be sticking with a friend through tough times? Could it be loving the unlovable? That’s what God does, you know. Yes, He loved us while we were still sinners. God loves us even when we are unlovable. What is love?

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)

what is love? love is a myriad of actions chosen and taken every moment of every day that can add up to a lifetime of love – love is all those things in 1 Corinthians – patient, kind, long suffering, trusting, hopeful, persevering, faithful . . .

love is self-giving, compassionate and courageous – love really is a many splendored thing . . .

love was never more visible than that day on Calvary when love hung on a cross, dying for a world that would otherwise die, love – the ultimate sacrifice, love – the gift of God.

what is love? “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. pleading Your Presence #117

The sun came up today, bringing with it hope, possibility and promise. It is a new day. A new beginning. A fresh start. A clean slate. These are things I don’t deserve, but as the sun rises every morning, God gives me these good gifts new each day. Never underestimate the power and the value of a new beginning. Unsought, unasked, undeserved – nevertheless these gifts are mine when I wake. They are part of God’s provision for me of manna and of mercy, new every morning. Everything I need to face another day with courage, compassion and conviction, God supplies out of His infinite resources.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we (I) are (am) not consumed, for His compassions (mercies) never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Lord, please bring Your assurance into my uncertainty. Bring Your clarity into my clouded vision. I desire Your order to replace my chaos, Your calm in the middle of my storm. Lord, I ask for Your comfort in my pain, Your healing of my hurts, Your abiding Presence when I am all alone.

Lord, this world needs Your peace to permeate our conflict, Your unity to overcome our division and Your truth to dispel all deceptions that lead us away from You and keep us captive. Lord, let Your love overcome our hate, Your goodness win out over our evil. Let Your faithfulness overcome our propensity to doubt You.

Heavenly Father, today, help me to do what Your words in Romans 12:9-13 instruct me to do. May I love sincerely, hate what is evil; cling to what is good. May I be devoted to others, honoring others above myself. Enable me to persevere in doing what pleases You. Make me joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, always generous and hospitable.

Let these words be my guide in everything.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Lord, Your abiding Presence with me is peace, is comfort, is hope, is joy, is life itself.

Isaiah said the train of Your robe filled the temple. Indeed, Your Presence fills all the earth.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

You, Lord, fill everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:23)

Fill the earth with Your glorious Presence, fill my heart, fill every heart to overflowing with Your mercy and Your goodness. May Your lovingkindness fall over all You have made.

“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

Your Presence, Lord, makes all the difference to me.

“Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)

Your Presence, Lord, is that precious. It is life, it is abundant life, it is eternal life.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. unlikely companions #116

Today, on my solitary morning walk, I was accompanied by two most unlikely companions. Silent though they were, I found them to be quite congenial. Indeed, I welcomed the comfort of their presence keeping me company in the stillness of the early morning. And so we journeyed together, my companions and I, the rising sun on my one hand and the fading moon on my other.

They were sharing the sky, while keeping their distance from one another. But let’s face it, it is a big sky. A sky certainly big enough to accommodate them both, and so it did. I did not ask the moon why she lingered long past her bedtime, loathe to leave the now daytime sky. She must have had good reason, this morning moon, to hang around and hoover over me as I walked and talked to no one in particular – yet I gave the nod of notice to each rabbit, bird, duck, goose and yes even squirrel that shared their morning space with me.

I wondered that my one companion was not wanted in someone else’s sky – was she not expected as darkness fell somewhere in this world? this lesser light, to illuminate a sky all her own, no need to share her mysterious magic with the one whose presence dims her luster, forcing her to fade from view – when she could have the sky all to herself, save for a thousand million twinkling lights as backdrop for her luminous presence, reigning over the night.

But this morning, I welcomed her company, intrusion though the sun must think it to be – not only because she is forced to share her sky, but it is usually just the two of us on these morning walks and the moon never has to share me in the evening.

I confess – my attention was definitely divided today. I watched the sun grow brighter as she rose with slow splendor, while simultaneously I beheld the sinking moon, fading, yet with a transformed translucence that held my gaze upon her morning beauty – afraid to look away lest she would have disappeared from my sight while I looked upon lesser things.

However, there were no lesser things to look upon on this fall morning. Every tree was full of a color all its own, each more glorious than its neighbor, together an array of colors defying description. I let the colors fill my eyes, sink into my heart, then settle in my soul. I will need them, these living, indescribable colors. They will be my hedge against the gray of winter, when I shall recall to mind this particular morning when the three of us, the sun, the moon and I – gathered colors, in quiet camaraderie, shared the still beauty of the morning, and stored up all its pleasures as treasures to be closely guarded.

Today, I gathered pictures in mind’s eye of trees’ reflection on still water, of reeds and swimming ducks and geese in flight between sun and moon, in perfect form against blue sky. Yes, my unlikely companions and I had a most spectacular time together, sharing our morning’s journey. For we were each on our own path, when our paths per chance converged – merging for moments fair though fleeting – for the sun had much to do before her pre-appointed time to leave the sky should arrive and so did I, come to think of it. And the moon? Well, she was already late for her next appearance.

I can only guess at the impatience of a starry host somewhere over a vast ocean eagerly waiting her arrival into their midst, completing the lighting of the night sky. And so our paths, so happily but briefly merged, now digressed as the sun, the moon and I said our goodbyes, continued on our separate ways, carrying the joy of the journey shared between us on into our coming day.

thank You, Lord, for unlikely companions to keep me company on my journey . . .

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. . . . God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, . . . And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:14-18)

sincerely, Grace Day