C.C. guided by the goalposts #166

they moved the finish line again (if there even is a finish line?) Actually, the finish line has been moved so many times in the past eleven months that I fear I have lost sight of it for good. (if indeed it ever was in sight to begin with) But then I remember when the end was in sight. The end was in sight at the beginning of this race. How’s that for irony?

That was when this race was a sprint and we were to give it all we had to give. (that’s how you run a sprint – all out) And as good Americans we did, we gave our all. We all gave our full compliance for two weeks to “flatten the curve.” For some this meant shutting down their livelihoods, their source of income to provide for their families. So restaurants, gyms, salons, barbershops, movie theaters, clothing stores, book stores, all retail shops, schools, churches, business offices, sporting events, conventions, meetings, funerals, weddings, anything and everything came to a screeching halt so the curve could be flattened.

At the same time medical personnel and delivery people, anyone deemed “essential” worked more than ever in an effort to meet the immediate needs of the sick and of those now required to stay at home. The finish line was in sight and we all did as we were told to do. But after two weeks, we did not find ourselves at the finish line. (well, we were there but the finish line wasn’t) The finish line had been moved. It was now thirty more days to flatten the curve. For example, schools were set to open back up May 1rst now, instead of the previously promised April 6th date.

But we needed to catch our collective breath. After all, we had been sprinting. But the race was no longer a sprint. It had gone from the 100 yard dash to the 220 or the 440. This would require a different strategy. The finish line was still visible, but farther away than before. We adjusted our stride and our expectations and continued on toward the goal.

As we again drew near to our finish line, however, we found that it was no longer there. The finish line had been moved once again while we were busy running the race. Our track meet had become a cross country competition. Our course would now wind through woods, at times going off into the weeds. No more level ground of the track. There would be ups and downs, steep inclines, slippery descents, water and wilderness and more – all waiting on the path up ahead of us.

The finish line was out of sight, but we knew there was one. With the May 1rst reopening date come and gone and schools still closed, we were told that was it for the school year. School would start back up in the fall for the new school year. That was the new finish line. Restrictions continued as summer arrived and we strove diligently to stay the course laid out for us. But when schools did not open for the fall semester, when churches and restaurants remained closed and people continued to work from home – the cross country meet morphed into a marathon.

Ironically, many actual marathons had been cancelled by this time, as they draw large crowds of spectators, participants and support personnel. Most of us had not signed up for a marathon when we agreed to the two week sprint event. We had not trained, we were not prepared. Evidence of this lack of preparation was seen in shortages of various supplies, the shortages of toilet paper being the most drastic and the most notable. Apparently toilet paper is the survival purchase of choice? Who knew? But this seemed to be what people thought would enable them to run this race (now a marathon) and emerge victorious.

Although there was no visible finish line for us, the runners of the race, there was a finish line. Marathons by definition have a limit to their length. There would be an end and we would reach it if we persisted in this race against COVID. So on we ran. Well, maybe jogged, walked, limped, crawled, stumbled and struggled – but on we pressed toward the goal. And just what was the goal, we wondered? Where were the goal posts?

Weddings were cancelled and postponed, funerals were not held, the 500 was eventually run but with no fans in attendance – it seemed to be the middle of the marathon – the end was not in sight. But there was an end, a finish line up ahead, we were told. Summer streets were filled with protesters in every city – but schools, churches, businesses, stores, salons, restaurants etc. remained closed. Were we running in different races? Had they already arrived at their finish line and so were now free to live their lives, now free to determine their own path, to run their own chosen race – now free to be with other people in large crowds if they so chose? while at the same time, we were still required to run our race in masked, socially distanced isolation?

No one can say for sure just when it happened, but at some point during this time, the finish line for our marathon vanished. It simply ceased to exist. We were still in a race but there was no longer a finish line, an end point. This is no longer a marathon or even a triathlon, it is now simply the race of life. (some used to call it the “rat race”) People stopped pretending that there was a finish line. But the race to nowhere continued. Schools did not open or open fully in the fall. Outdoor dining became less desirable as the weather grew cooler and indoor options remained limited if available at all. Pubic events and family gatherings remained on hold, postponed indefinitely. That was the big shift. After months of multiple reschedulings, people stopped rescheduling public and private events. They just gave up trying to put a future date on the calendar.

Planning is not possible without a finish line in the future. The goal posts have been moved so many times, no one knows where they stand anymore. Yet still we press on in our race against COVID following – well, following who? Oh that’s right. We are following “the science” in this race – which has led us through woods, weeds, water and wilderness to where we find ourselves today. Which is where? on a very restrictive path, to be sure. There are a lot of rules for running this race. Some would say we are handicapped and hamstrung, giving COVID an unfair advantage.

But we continue on the course laid out for us, following our pacesetter and leader, science. We mask, we distance, we quarantine, we don’t gather together for celebrations or events, we don’t hug or shake hands, we work from home, we learn online, we worship online, we zoom in place of the in person encounter, restaurants operate at twenty-five percent capacity (which is not sustainable for any business), sporting events take place without fans in the stands, – life is lived virtually instead of in reality. (I guess virtual is the new real?)

We were told a vaccine was the finish line. We were told we could resume freely living our lives once a vaccine was created and made available to us. The vaccine is here but the end of this race is not yet in sight. Even fully vaccinated, we are still to mask, to distance, not gather in person in groups – we are told we are still carriers of the virus, even though asymptomatic and vaccinated. So I guess the vaccine wasn’t the finish line in this race after all?

It occurs to me now, that as much as I want there to be a finish line in this race, maybe the reason there isn’t one, is because this COVID race is really just a leg (that’s track talk) in our larger race, which is the race of life. This race begins before birth, as we grow strong in our mothers’ wombs, preparing for the race that will unfold before us, the race whose finish line is death. Ok, that makes it sound like we should all be running away from the finish line rather than towards it! Or at the least, we should be taking our time, stopping often along the way. But stick with me here for a moment, dear readers.

I confess – death does not appear to be a very desirable finish line. But perspective is everything, isn’t it? Paul shared his perspective on this race we all must run in his letter to the Philippians, telling them –

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

So Paul understood the race. He knew to “press on” and he knew where the finish line was even if he couldn’t see it. In Hebrews 12:1-3 we read another description of this race we are running, indeed, that we are called to run, and we are given these instructions –

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Here we are given some helpful hints for how we are to run this life race. We are to travel light, throw off what holds us back. We are to look to Jesus, He is our finish line! We are to endure in this race and not grow weary. Why? Galatians 6:9 tells us,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

There is a reward for finishing the race. James 1:12 and Revelation 3:21 tells us something about what awaits us at the finish line –

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

I confess – I am often weary and discouraged as I run this race, or more often as I plod or limp along. Still I want to be able to say what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 when I finally reach my life’s finish line –

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

the gates of Heaven are the unseen goalposts that guide me in the race I run – I only want to run it well. Even though the obstacles named in Romans 8:35, trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword are all present on the path upon which I am called to run my race – I am told this in Romans 8:37-39,

“No, in all these things we are (I am) more than conquerors (more than a conqueror) through Him who loved us (me). For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us (me) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is time I stopped looking for an earthly finish line. The finish line, death, is actually the doorway to eternal life with Jesus. The end is really the beginning. All things will be made new. I will receive a new and glorious body. Good thing, I will need it after running this race which is totally wearing it out.

“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 3:20-21)

I will not put my hope in an earthly finish line, seen or unseen. I will put my hope in my Heavenly Father and let His goalposts guide me. He knows when I am weary, despairing and ready to quit running the race. But . . .

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in 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.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

that’s how I want to run this race – with hope, perseverance and the strength God gives, eyes fixed on Jesus – soaring to His glory –

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. snow days #165

We’ve had a lot of snow lately, which is not surprising since it is winter, after all. Snow is magical when it is falling from the sky, whether in big fluffy flakes or delicate crystals swirling through the air. Snow is lovely when it first blankets the ground, covering everything in sight in a soft glow or in dazzling white when the sun reappears to inspect what the clouds have poured out upon the earth in her absence. Either way, the fresh snowfall is beautiful to behold.

I wish it would stay that way – the snow – fresh and new and unspoiled and perfect – but it never does. Soon enough, there are tracks on her once unscarred, unbroken, pure white blanket that envelopes earth for the briefest of moments. Footprints, animal tracks, tire tracks, all make their mark on her previously perfect snowscape, changing her character with every new wound upon her perfect countenance. I watch from my window as this transformation takes place before my eyes. I cannot stop it. And I confess – sometimes it is my own footprints, my own tire tracks that tread upon her unmarred surface, leaving permanent scars behind.

Eventually, the fresh snow is no longer new, she loses her dazzle, gone is her clean, serene countenance. In its place are piles of dirty snow and slush and a landscape scarred by the day’s treading upon her cover. There are now holes in her once perfect, white blanket where pavement or brown patches of earth poke through, spoiling her once spotless presence. Sometimes my life feels like the spoiled snow – such good intentions, such desire for the purity of the clean slate, the possibilities of the fresh start, the promise of the new beginning. Isaiah understood what snow represented when he wrote these words,

” ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ ” (Isaiah 1:18)

David also desired the purity of unblemished snow. In Psalm 51:7, he cried out to God,

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

But the white snow soon becomes dingy and dirty and blemished and broken as it is not protected from the events of the day. A day can be full of many things, both the mundane and the miraculous, trials and triumph, heartache and joy, despair and hope, – a lifetime contained in each day – each day a gift. Matthew 6:34 says this about our days,

“Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The Modern Language translation puts it this way,

“Each day’s peculiar troubles are sufficient for it.”

And those “peculiar troubles” sure do make their mark on my day and on my heart. They do so as clearly as the tire tracks and snow plows leave their lasting marks on snow’s new, pristine work covering the earth and her multitude of hurts and sins, dressing her in pure white splendor for a breathless, miraculous moment, like a bride ready to meet her groom. I want to feel like the new snowfall – bright, hopeful, unscarred, unstained, unmarked by the world’s cares – but today as I look out on piles of old snow, grown gray and dingy, its luster lost long ago, I feel like the snow that’s been walked on and trampled down and shoved aside to await the melting away process.

Nothing new or fresh about today. But then I remember these words from Lamentations 3:21-23,

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The Living Bible translation uses these words,

“Yet there is one ray of hope: His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us (me) from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His lovingkindness begins afresh each day.”

That’s what I need – hope, compassion, God’s mercy, faithfulness and lovingkindness – and all new “afresh” every day! And that’s just what God gives – and He gives these gifts daily. This is a good thing because by the end of the day I definitely feel like I’ve used them all up and I am running on empty. However, God’s word tells me this important truth – His supply is limitless and He graciously resupplies me every morning! His lovingkindness begins afresh each day.

I like that. Each day is a new beginning with my Heavenly Father. I don’t have to feel or look like old snow. Every day is a fresh start, with a clean slate – no tracks or treads from yesterday marking up today, which will have enough peculiar troubles of its own. But I get to blaze a new trail today, the old tracks are wiped away. Each day, God gives renewal, like a fresh snowfall covering my ugly sin and making everything beautiful. And predictably, I trespass on that pure snow, making marks where moments before there was perfection. But God pours out His mercy on me again today, covering yesterday’s mistakes – giving me a clean slate and renewed hope for today. David desired that new beginning. In Psalm 51:10 he cried out to God,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Other translations say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,”.

Oh, to have a clean heart! How wonderful that would be! Yet how quickly my own trespasses leave dirty tracks across my heart that only God can wipe away with His forgiveness. I am so glad His mercies are new every morning – that like a fresh snowfall, His mercy covers my sin, then washes it away. I need His covering and His cleansing. Everyday He provides me a fresh snowfall (like the manna falling from heaven) and everyday I mess it up. But God’s grace is greater than all my sin. He continues to rain down fresh snow. He continues to rain down fresh forgiveness. He continues to make all things new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ (Revelation 21:5)

thank You, Lord, for making things new – for making each day new – thank You, Lord, for making things beautiful – thank You for the beauty of newfallen snow . . .

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. farewell Freedom’s voice #164

today the world fell silent, listening for a voice, a voice familiar as our days are to us – stunned by the absence of a voice, a voice that filled the void in truth’s pursuit and freedom’s following –

a courageous voice, faithfully proclaiming, undeterred by men’s scoff and scorn –

one voice amid the noise of all the world – gone – yet there seems now an eerie silence in the midst of clamoring, striving voices raised in rhetoric to be heard – but none are clear nor understood –

I listen for the lost voice, that is no more – willing words of wisdom to rise above the din of hate and fear – wishing words of truth and freedom once again to hear –

who will step into this void so abruptly vacated, where a patriot’s words once fell? not upon ears grown deaf, but upon minds and hearts learning how to love a country in word and deed as well –

myriad voices fill the world, strange – one less would be worthy of such note – with this voice lost, we must find our own, speak into the silence, speak through the noise, speak into that space a patriot’s voice once occupied – freedom’s call should not cease – truth’s proclamations should increase –

today earth has one less voice but heaven’s chorus can rejoice – in that choir every voice finds its place, every voice is heard, every voice given grace –

may this voice’s void be filled with the legacy he leaves – may we love each other well and this country freedom bequeathed – may we cherish her as he did, may we sacrifice to keep her alive – though his voice has gone silent – his legacy will survive –

to us to carry on the chorus – to us to let our voices sing – let the bells be heard again, today let freedom ring!

“lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of Liberty . . .”

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

rest well freedom fighter, lover of liberty, pursuer of truth, defender of America, respecter of all people, – thank you for fighting for us, thank you for fighting for me, you were our voice, you were my voice, you were our encourager, you were my encourager, you were our teacher, you were my teacher, you were a voice of truth amid the din of deception, a model of perseverance, you fought to the end – victory is yours!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. they don’t know #163

It dawned on me today, I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before now – such a simple truth, such an obvious fact, such a reasonable explanation for their behavior towards me – and it is this – they simply don’t know. How could they? It’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. Well, it’s COVID’s fault actually, but who’s pointing fingers? (ok, I confess – I am)

When I am out in the world, whether that be at school or getting groceries or at church, I am often not getting the reactions and the interactions that I had with others pre-COVID as I went about my day. I hadn’t realized how much those thousand little, often non-verbal, interactions with others went together to make up an important, yes, even essential, part of my day. Those thousand little interactions would weave together into each day’s fabric, sustaining and covering me, connecting me to my brothers and sisters, my family, the human race.

But now those precious interactions are interrupted, even erased from my day. They have been stolen by a virus. How did said virus accomplish this theft of human interaction? Covid did this by silencing our universal language. Ironic, since this language has no words and needs no voice. Yet, still it has been silenced by COVID. And that’s when I realized this truth, they don’t know, they simply don’t know.

The people that I pass in the hall or in the grocery aisle or see in the check out line or in the office, they don’t know. They don’t know that I am smiling at them! They don’t know that I am wishing them well, hoping they have a good day and giving them encouragement should their day be less than desirable at the moment. Yes, a kind, friendly smile can do all that for another person, whether friend, foe or complete stranger. A smile says so much, says so many things without the need for words. A smile says, “I see you, you are not invisible,” “hang in there,” “you’re accepted,” “have a good day,” “glad to see you,” “let’s talk,” “thanks,” “you’re welcome here, come on in,” “I recognize you, I know you,” “I would like to know you better,” and on and on. The language of the smile is universal. The language of the smile is a positive language. It is a language of peace. It is a language of possibility.

Why don’t other people know that I am smiling at them? Because I am wearing a mask! They have no idea that I am wishing them well, that I am open to engagement with them. A smile is an invitation to interaction. They have no idea an invitation has been issued. No wonder they don’t respond.

A smile is also an acceptance of the invitation. I get none of those (smiles, acceptances) because everyone I meet is masked like I am. (so they can’t see my invitation and I can’t see their acceptance – and I may be missing their invitations as well – maybe they are wondering why I don’t respond?) The universal language of the smile is completely silenced by the masks of COVID. The silence is sad. The silence is isolating and breeds conflict rather than the companionship we all crave after being separated for so long.

At this point, my memory is vague of the time when we were without masks, a time when smiles were freely given and received. It seems just when we most need a universal language, a way to connect with other people, our language is silenced by the covering up COVID requires. I confess – I think I have taken smiles too much for granted in the past, until I have had to do without them. It took me awhile to realize what was missing. I knew something was lacking from our current interactions. Who would have thought it was as simple as a smile?

Now, you may be thinking that I must be one of “those people” who want to bond with every person in the grocery check out line and hear their life story. Please know, that is not the case. I don’t bother random strangers with questions about their lives. Although I am curious to know about others’ life experiences. And everyone has a story to tell, without exception. (post – “Crocs and socks/looks and books”) I would hear them all, if I could. But sometimes a smile will suffice to bridge the gap and say I care. Even though I will not learn your story today, I will send you on your way with the parting gift of a smile.

How sad! I am walking through my days with a smile on my face for my fellowman but they don’t know. I know I need the encouragement and acceptance I used to receive from the smiles of others. And here’s something else – you never know where a smile will lead. It might lead to a conversation which might lead to getting to know someone which might lead to making a new friend for life. And it all starts with a smile! (a smile that needs to be seen)

I’m thinking of a dear friend of mine. We are recent friends, but luckily we met pre-COVID so we were not wearing masks when our paths first crossed for a brief encounter. From the invitation of a smile, to the acceptance of a conversation, to discovering that we are soul sisters, – what would have been missed if we had been masked and simply silenced into doing our respective jobs without making the effort to interact because neither could be sure of the other’s openness to share our stories without the encouragement of a smile.

Not every smile leads to a life long friendship, but every smile serves its good purpose – whether to brighten someone’s day, to welcome, to include, to uplift, to affirm, to connect, to invite, – smiles work their magic in the moments of our days – stepping stones to the stories of others or their purpose fulfilled in the moment they are given – because their purpose is for that moment alone. A world without the language of our smiles is a world of disconnected silence.

Which is what I was experiencing, which left me wondering why no one was responding to my friendly smiles, then realizing – they don’t know – they don’t know I’m smiling at them because they can’t see my face for the mask. It’s an odd feeling, not being able to connect in those moments and ways that used to be so effortless, because they happened naturally. A smile was the connection, momentary as it was. Or it was the open door to more. Either way the smile serves its purpose in our lives.

In Numbers 6:25-26 I read these words,

“the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

I’m thinking God’s face shining on us is like God smiling at us. It is being looked upon with favor. A smile bestows favor. A smile is a gift to those around us. The smiles of others are gifts to me. When our smiles are masked, something of value is lost to all of us. We are all missing the miracle of a smile amid the mundane of our everyday lives. A smile lights up a person’s face as it lights up any darkness around them at the same time. Psalm 4:6 says,

“Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord.” or another translation says,

“Let Your face smile on us, Lord.”

In Psalm 119:135, David asks God this,

“Smile on me, and teach me Your laws.” or “Make Your face shine upon Your servant and teach me Your decrees.” then in Proverbs 15:30 I read,

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”

What is a smile but a “cheerful look?” so I can bring joy to the heart of others with just a smile? why would I not do what is within my power to do if it would bring joy to someone else? Looking forward to the time when masks are removed, I think of these words from 2 Corinthians 3:18,

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

unveiled faces, now that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it? Until then, I will leave you with this, dear readers,

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

“turn His face toward me?” I’m both grateful and glad that my Heavenly Father’s face isn’t hidden behind a mask – letting the light of His face shine upon us, bestowing His favor, bidding us come, enter in . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. put on your oxygen mask #162

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard those words because it’s been awhile since I’ve been on an airplane. And I have to confess – when I was on that airplane, getting ready for takeoff, I did not give my full attention to the person going over the safety instructions which always included the words “put on your own oxygen mask first.” I’ve never really given further thought to those words, but upon reflection now, they do seem to be quite selfish on the surface.

Seems like they are advocating looking out for myself rather than those seated around me. But actually, there is more to it. What if I am traveling with or seated by an elderly, handicapped or a very young person? They may need my help, but if I don’t secure my mask first, thereby ensuring that I remain conscious, I am not able to lend anyone else aide. In other words, if I don’t take care of myself first, I am not able to take care of others who might need my assistance. Unconscious, I am of no help to anyone. So maybe, putting on my oxygen mask first is not ultimately as selfish as it seems to be.

If I don’t help myself, I have no ability to help others. It is the same for the United States – if she doesn’t put on her oxygen mask first, she will have no ability to help those in need around the world. America has long been a sustainer of peoples on every continent. Out of our abundance we share with those in need in developing nations, with those devastated by natural disasters and with those oppressed and suffering in other countries. We produce an abundance of food and other goods and services which sustain those living in poverty in other nations.

MAP International is one U.S. organization which supplies donated medicines and medical supplies to those who need them around the world. They also work to provide clean water, health training and CHE (community health evangelism) to poor communities in other countries, helping them to become self-sustaining and therefore self sufficient, with the goal of them then being able to help other nearby villages (communities) to improve conditions, just as they were themselves helped. There are many other organizations from our country that have ministries of caring for people and their needs in countries on every continent.

Our government supplies a lot of aide but much is donated and delivered by private charities, churches and other groups who share out of their abundance to bless those in other nations. Family Legacy has built many schools throughout the city of Lusaka, Zambia and staffed them with trained Zambian teachers. Through the sponsorship of many donors, orphans and other vulnerable children who would not otherwise be in school, are given tuition, uniforms, books, food for their families, health care and the opportunity to go to school every day. Through education they are given hope and a future.

There are countless organizations and churches in our country that send people and supplies around the world to bring clean water, health care, education and the good news of the gospel to many who would not otherwise have access to these things. We are free to participate in these ongoing endeavors or not. I think of the times I went to Haiti – of the churches and schools we supported and worked with there in addition to an agriculture program and a small business training program. Farmers and business owners took time away from their jobs to help those in another country succeed. That’s what is possible when you are successful, you can lend a hand to others.

When your country allows you to be successful and free, you are free to lift others up in whatever ways you choose to do so. We are able to live out the words in Isaiah 58:6-7, where God says –

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

The world has long looked to the U.S. as a source of help in times of trouble. But if we don’t put on our own oxygen mask first, we will not be able to help any other nation. If our economy collapses, if our farmers can’t grow crops, if people don’t have jobs, if we are no longer energy independent, – we have nothing to offer anyone else. If we are no longer free, we are no longer that light of hope to refugees and other oppressed peoples around the globe. America has long been the champion of the oppressed, but if we ourselves become the oppressed, what hope is left to the world?

How sad for those who have risked everything to come here, only to find Freedom floundering, fighting for her very life as liberties continue to be lost while anyone who would object is silenced or cancelled into compliance with whatever today’s new edicts might be.

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of My people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain.” (Isaiah 10:1-4)

Oppressive decrees? Isaiah could have been writing those words today. The world is watching, holding its collective breath, waiting to see if this nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, . . . can long endure.” (Gettysburg Address) We were the great experiment, the newest of nations, founded out of our forefathers’ desire to be free to worship God and not the current King of England. We were a nation founded on God’s laws, including equality for all, as we are all created in God’s image. The idea that we derive our rights from God and not from government, or a monarch or a dictator or any other person, was revolutionary at the time of our founding.

This new country drew many to her shores who were in search of the freedoms they lacked in their own homelands. That trend continues to this very day. The opportunity for self determination is something worth sacrificing for, as those who begin new lives here know all too well. But if America doesn’t put on her own oxygen mask first, she will have nothing to offer to the world.

No safe harbor, no light of freedom, no hope for the oppressed, no aide, financial or otherwise, will she have to offer to others. With economic collapse like Venezuela and Zimbabwe have suffered since socialism took hold in their countries, we will be equally destitute. The testimonies of those who have escaped to come here are telling as they recognize what they experienced in their home countries, now happening in the United States.

Maybe wanting America to be great wasn’t such a bad idea after all? I guess it depends on what you do with your “greatness.” Maybe better words would be free or independent or prosperous or strong, any of those would allow us to extend a helping hand to other countries – if we ourselves are free to do so and have the resources to provide aide because we are a strong, prosperous, independent people. A strong military, (providing protection and peace) an economy where everyone is working, as opposed to being dependent on government for aide, (that’s prosperity) and freedom to choose your own path, (unlimited possibilities) – that is a great country – one that provides protection, peace, prosperity and myriad possibilities and paths for its citizens to pursue happiness, their dreams, their God, whatever they want – they are free to choose.

I guess that’s why so many people keep risking so much to come here? People want to start their own businesses, they want to worship unrestricted, they want to pursue their dreams just as the declaration of our independence proclaimed all those years ago – our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” When America is no longer “great” she will not be able to lend that helping hand around the world that the world has come to count on – not unless she puts on her own oxygen mask first.

As citizens, it is up to us to be sure our country’s oxygen mask is on – it is up to us to make our country strong, make her prosperous, make her full of opportunity for everyone, make her safe, make her peaceful, make her law abiding, make her God fearing, make her generous, make her just, make her good, make her free. If these are the attributes of greatness – what is wrong with being great? The world is watching – not wanting to see Freedom fall from the face of the earth. Where will they go when we are no longer free? when we are no longer great?

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. freedom’s ring #161

there was ringing, the ringing of the bells, meting out their message, assuring us all was well. Time to gather, time to sing, praises to God, our Savior and King.

there was singing, singing in the stands, before the contest of the teams – there was cheering, much cheering from all the assembled fans

there was laughter, there was laughter all around – as children chased and climbed and swung – the footfalls of their feet echoing on sacred ground

there was dancing, much dancing of every kind – in every place, so free and flowing – so slow and steady, the beat keeps growing, till dancing with a graceful precision – creates in that space a beautiful vision

there was weeping, much weeping when loved ones lost were laid to rest, there was comfort, much comfort in the gathering, the presence of those who loved them best

there was music, so much music – the world could not contain, all the symphonies and children’s choirs, singing a glad refrain, churches filled with familiar hymns sung – while outdoor concerts thrilled old and young

there was joy, there was celebration at many myriad events – weddings, graduations, birthdays, such special times were spent

together, sharing life’s journey, we did not walk our path alone – created for community, in each one God’s image shown

in solitary silence, I wait for freedom’s bells to ring, hoping once again to hear the voices of the people sing

no bullets brought this end to freedom’s ring – it simply became unlawful for anyone to sing – the praises of our country, the praises of our God, no voices heard from shore to shore, where pilgrims’ feet once trod.

dictators deliver their edicts, kings issue their decrees – our democracy had neither, to God we took a knee

we had laws, God’s laws were our own, no more were we subjects to a king on a throne

a dream of freedom was conceived, a nation of freedom was born – to this end they pledged their very lives as their allegiances were sworn

would they wonder why freedom’s ring is silent in our land today? would they listen for the bells calling out, compelling us each day? to take heart, be brave – we will not again be enslaved.

the battle rages all around, now is the time to stand our ground

Truth, was the first to fall, she is the most formidable foe of all – but with Truth gone, fear fills her place, and Freedom falls without a trace, without a sound, without a cry, with no one left to wonder why

why the bells no longer ring, why of our country we can no longer sing – or celebrate or commemorate those who died to make her great – is the hour now too late?

no history to remind of what has gone before, we soon forget the price those paid who once guarded Freedom’s door. No dissent and no lament, one cannot mourn what one does not know, what one never knew nor can’t recall – our history erased, Freedom free to fall – and fall she will on ears grown deaf and hearts grown hard and eyes grown too blind to see Truth

Truth, no longer able to come to her aide – Truth long since banished from every portal where previously she poured forth in generations past, from every pulpit, every courtroom, every classroom, every town square, every home – Truth makes Freedom’s existence possible- without Truth, Freedom dies – freedom of speech, freedom to pursue dreams, – no limits placed by birth bequeathed status or lack thereof

oh to hear the bells! bells ringing, ringing out fear, ringing in freedom – one of my favorite hymns is based on the poem “Christmas Bells” written on Christmas day 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It begins with these words,

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat, of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

His poem then becomes a lament of sorts as the Civil War was raging at the time he wrote these words and his son Charles was serving with the Union Army, having gone against his father’s wishes to enlist. The poem continues and as it nears the end we read,

“And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!’ ”

But then we come to the final words of the poem,

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.’ ”

The ballad of the bells is peace, freedom for the oppressed, (which was why the Civil War was taking place) and hope, hope that good will always win out over evil. And when there were people like Longfellow’s son, that was a sure hope. This is what his son, Charles, wrote to him in a letter after he left to join the Union army in March 1863, without his father’s knowledge or permission,

“I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer. I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”

Reminiscent of the patriots of 1776, isn’t it? Imagine it – he was not worried about losing his popularity, his position or his power, not worried about losing his job or even about losing his very life – he apparently loved his country, messed up as she was in 1863, enough to die for her. That is the definition of a patriot.

Currently, we may feel our country to be very messed up. I confess – it is easy to find her faults and her failures. Is that why no one is willing to risk the sacrifice of being defriended or deplatformed, let alone losing a job or personal popularity or power, simply by standing up for her? Do we now value personal comfort over freedom? It seems we are willing to sacrifice, we are now willing to sacrifice freedom for our own comfort instead of sacrificing our own comfort for freedom, for the freedom of others, for the freedom of the many, for the freedom of those who will come after us. (our founding fathers secured freedom not just for themselves but for the generations to come) No wonder the bells are silent.

still, I will hope, I will keep on listening for the bells – let freedom ring!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the elephant and the emperor #160

Headlines swirl around us at a dizzying pace. I confess – it is hard to keep up with the daily drama of our country. Two headlines which stand out because they remain constant are, “There’s an elephant in the room” and “The Emperor has new clothes.” There’s no denying a connection between the two. However, we are told to pointedly ignore the first headline while simultaneously profusely praising the second one.

What must the rest of the world be thinking as they watch the theater of events parading before us all? Currently, our lawmakers, (that would be the men and women we chose through election and whose salaries we pay – they work for us – we hired them to do a job for us) are preparing to hold a trial in the Senate. The sole purpose of this trial is to determine if a sitting president of our country should be removed from office or not, depending on whether he is convicted or acquitted. By definition, that’s what an impeachment trial is. It has one purpose and one purpose only, according to our constitution – to remove a sitting president from office.

So now, you may be puzzled. Joe Biden has been in office barely more than a week. And they want to remove him already? That does seem a bit hasty by anyone’s standards. Then you realize the purpose of this trial is not to remove Joe, but to remove a president who is no longer in office. Questions may come to mind at this point such as, why am I paying people to remove someone from office who is already gone? Could my money be better spent? Could my lawmakers’ time be better spent on other, more pressing concerns? Could it be no one has informed the Senate members that the defendant in their trial is no longer in office? That must be the explanation. They simply do not know he is gone from office, because if they did know – how foolish they would look to the watching world.

The other possibility is equally embarrassing. They have not read and therefore do not know what our country’s Constitution says about such matters. Or far worse and actually quite alarming, they do know what the Constitution says and they simply don’t care. Our Constitution is what separates and sets apart this country from the rest of the nations in the world. These Senators took an oath to uphold and protect it – how ironic – how grievously sad for our country and for us, that these are the people we entrusted with our liberties and our laws.

Why is no one pointing out the obvious? The person who is the target of this trial is no longer in office, thus the need for and the reason for the impeachment trial no longer exists. This is the elephant in the room which no one is talking about. He is gone! But we are not supposed to acknowledge the presence of the elephant in our room, no matter how big or how obvious the elephant becomes and no matter what we have to do in order to tiptoe around the elephant rather than admit it exists.

If truth be told, (which is rare these days) there is another elephant in our room – the constitution. This is one elephant that has been ignored for far too long at great peril and price to our beloved country. This is another elephant we are not to acknowledge or discuss. If we did read the constitution and follow its dictates, it would become glaringly apparent immediately that there is no need for a trial. Impeachment and the subsequent impeachment trial are matters of constitutional law. Their sole function is to remove a sitting president if the need should arise. There is no other purpose for these actions.

One does not need a law degree or a degree of any kind for that matter, in order to recognize the elephants that fill the room at present. We don’t have to be constitutional scholars to question why a trial is being held for an issue that does not exist. However, no one even raises the question, let alone outright objects to these proceedings moving forward in the Senate. Why will no one state the obvious? One doesn’t hold an impeachment trial for a person no longer in office. It just doesn’t make sense. Also, that’s the law.

Which is yet another elephant in the room – the law – the law which isn’t observed or followed or enforced or referenced in any way, except when it is twisted beyond recognition to achieve the desired outcome of the law twisters. So many elephants. Such a small room. We are running out of room in which to tiptoe quietly around these elephants. Soon we will be tripping and falling all over them. Yet we dare not call attention to their presence for fear of being removed from the room ourselves and permanently exiled, thereby permanently silenced. Seems to me we are silenced already. We spend our days silently tiptoeing around the ever growing elephant population in our room.

While our silence is demanded where the elephants are concerned, our voices are simultaneously solicited to speak up and pour out our praise of the Emperor’s new clothes. And they are quite beautiful and extraordinary, these clothes, we are told daily. I have to confess – I don’t see them myself, but I dare not admit this to anyone, lest my lack of perfect, clear vision be exposed and I am ridiculed, then outcast because I am unable to participate in the collective vision of the Emperor’s new clothes.

It is a hard lesson to learn. There is one vision, one viewpoint, one perspective and if I can’t see the Emperor’s new clothes (which I am told are absolutely fabulous) there is something wrong with me and I must be reprogrammed. Or is it deprogrammed? Either way, I am told to ignore the elephants, admire the new clothes and so get with the program. I wish I could. It would be so much easier. It is always easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream. It is easier to stay silent and hope someone else has the courage to admit that they can’t see the Emperor’s gorgeous new clothes either, but they can see the ever multiplying elephants that are filling up the room.

Who has the courage not to see the Emperor’s new clothes? Who has the courage to see the elephants and call them out? – out of the room and back to their rightful places. A place in time when the law was to be followed and the Constitution of our country was to be upheld and protected at all costs in order to preserve its protections for future generations. I confess – (I seem to have a lot to confess today) the song playing in my head at this point is “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till its gone” and I further confess that I am as guilty as anyone of taking this wonderful country and all the freedoms and opportunities she has afforded me, for granted. I have been privileged to enjoy these gifts freedom bestows my entire life and only now when they are disappearing while our attention is diverted elsewhere, do I realize how precious they are and at what cost they were purchased and passed down to us today.

There is a reason we remember the statement, “Give me liberty or give me death.” There were those in our history who valued liberty more than their individual lives. Now we value not just our life, but our own personal comfort over almost everything it seems. There is nothing worth dying for. The concept of sacrifice for something bigger than our own concerns is as unfamiliar to us today as is the concept of personal struggle and hardship being an inevitable part of achievement, growth and character development.

No wonder we refer to the WWII generation as the last great generation. They knew something about sacrifice and courage. What is more surprising is that, in large part, their sacrifices were on behalf of other nations and other people around the globe, as much as to preserve our own freedoms. We (the U.S.) could have just stayed home and defended our own shores. We didn’t have to free anyone else. But we did. Many Americans got death so that others could have liberty. When the last of these patriots are no longer living, will we completely forget this part of our history? Will it be erased?

Which is another elephant in the room we are to ignore – our history. Well actually, this elephant, like the other elephants, is getting new clothes along with the Emperor. We have permission to admire the new clothes, but must continue to ignore the elephants at all times. The tailors and the seamstresses for the Emperor and the elephants have been hard at work as you can imagine. Elephants, by virtue of their size, require a herculean effort to clothe properly. But the costume creators, aka, the media, work round the clock to continuously provide cover – did I say cover? – I mean to provide the new clothes which the elephants and the Emperor so desperately need and regularly require.

This is definitely a full time job, being an elephant dresser and an emperor maker. (must be why they say, the clothes make the man – must be why the Emperor needed new clothes) It takes a lot of fabric to cover an elephant or to dress an Emperor properly – to make the unpalatable, palatable – the unconscionable, conscionable – the absurd, sane or reasonable – well, you get the idea, it’a a big job.

What must the world be thinking as they watch the re-imagining of America into something unrecognizable? Or maybe it is something easily recognizable to Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, China and many more because it is their own existence they see mirrored in the events of our nation at present. They remember all too well the path we currently follow which will lead us to where they already are. I only know I can’t see the Emperor’s new clothes at present but I can clearly see the many elephants that nobody is talking about, but which continue to crowd the room, nevertheless . I am tired of tiptoeing and desperately desiring a return of truth to rescue us before it is too late. I understand how David felt when he said,

“Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for Your law is not obeyed.” (Psalm 119:136)

It is painful to watch what Isaiah talked about taking place before my eyes,

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. . . . who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.” (Isaiah 5:20-23)

Even as I despair for my country, my hope is in the Living God and in His words which remain throughout all generations.

“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. . . . The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.” (Psalm 37:16-17 & 32-33)

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10)

today, I will be brave. I will acknowledge the existence of the elephants and I will admit I cannot see these fabulous new clothes of the Emperor that everyone is talking about. There is something else I can do as well – I will attempt to live out these words in Romans 12:9-19,

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, . . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,”

that is a long list, I had better get busy putting those words into practice in my daily life – it will not be easy but nothing worthwhile is ever easy . . . truth, sacrifice, freedom – the more valuable they are, the greater the cost . . . a cost that not many are willing to pay at this time in our history . . . easier to let a country and a people perish . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. hard to hear #159

“I cry out to You, O God, but You do not answer;” (Job 30:20)

“O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:2)

Ever feel like that? – like Job did or like David did when he called out to God but God was silent. (or so Job and centuries later David, thought at the time) I confess – I’ve felt this way – but

it occurs to me today as I ponder this, that maybe when I am thinking God is silent, when I am complaining that God is silent . . . I should take off my headphones, take out my earbuds – I should turn down the volume on my TV. Then a much more radical thought presents itself – don’t just turn the volume down – turn off the TV!

With that noise silenced, I hear the radio and realize I could turn that off too! The praise music, the pod cast, the audio book, the phone, the talking, the texting (which can be quite loud) – what if I turned them all off? What would that sound like? Whose voice would I hear then?

Could it be, that while I have been assuming God’s silence, He has been speaking? – tenderly, soothingly, clearly, truthfully, forcefully, gently, in every way from thundrous thunder to the gentlest whisper, my Heavenly Father has been speaking, singing over me even – He has not been silent – I just haven’t been listening. I say I want to hear His voice and then I don’t even take the time to listen – to turn down the volume, no to turn off the volume and seek Him in silence . . .

Guess this one’s on me. Forgive me, Lord.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

“But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

“Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling.” (Zechariah 2:13)

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

My Heavenly Father is not silent – He is singing, whispering, teaching, disciplining, reassuring, shouting, proclaiming His truth to me – and to anyone who would be still and listen. I have His promise,

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

My Heavenly Father is not silent! But I need to be!

“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

“So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ ‘ . . . The Lord came . . . Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’ ” (1 Samuel 3:9-10)

so am I Lord, listening, teach me to listen well,

sincerely, Grace Day