C.C. the puzzle #177

I am experiencing the tree falling in the forest dilemma once again. I finally completed a jigsaw puzzle but with no one here to bear witness to this accomplishment of mine, the question can be raised – ‘did I really finish the puzzle or not?’ I say finish because my older daughter started the puzzle and did about three-fourths of it before she left. So all I had to do was to fill in the remaining gaps, she had done the harder work of bringing the puzzle to this point. I confess – I am intimidated by all those tiny pieces and I further confess – I felt challenged in her absence, compelled even, to finish what she had started. So rather than putting the puzzle pieces back in the box, having never completed the picture that the puzzle would reveal, I dedicated myself to putting the remaining puzzle pieces into their proper places, thereby completing the picture.

Trouble is, they are tiny pieces which all look alike basically. Actually, there are differences in shape and in shading, but they are subtle differences, not obvious to the casual observer. These minute differences, which make all the difference in finding each piece’s proper place, only become apparent as I spend time studying the pieces and the possible connections available to make. It is a slow, time consuming process, this pastime of puzzling. Nevertheless, there is such a feeling of accomplishment when I find the proper place for each piece (after despairing of ever finding a fit for some of the pieces) and there is the thrill of victory when the puzzle is finally complete, every piece in place.

Too bad life isn’t like my puzzle – every piece in place, connecting together to create a beautiful picture. I think it was intended to be that way, but ever since ‘the fall’, which caused separation from our Creator, life has been full of missing pieces, disconnected pieces, pieces that don’t seem to fit together the way we want them to do in order to create the picture of our life that we are longing to have revealed. But maybe that’s part of the problem. With my puzzle, there is a picture on the box of what the puzzle will look like when all the pieces are correctly connected together. I can use that picture to guide me as I attempt to put the pieces together in the way they were meant to fit together. If I succeed in putting each piece in its proper place, my puzzle is a perfect reflection of the picture on the puzzle box.

But putting together the puzzle that is my life isn’t so easy. I don’t have a picture on a box to guide me. Then I realize the picture that I need is in God’s Word. The Bible contains the blueprint for my life. Everything I need to put the pieces together correctly is given to me in my Heavenly Father’s love letter to me, His Word, the Bible. I was made to reflect His glory, and when all the pieces are in place, that will happen. The master plan is His and I often don’t see the whole picture because my vision is so limited. That’s why I have to trust Him. By myself, I’m not all that, but connected to other people in God’s bigger puzzle picture, we all together become a thing of beauty, a beautiful reflection of the One who designed the mosaic and designed it with a specific place for each of us in His finished work.

What does a puzzle look like if even one piece is missing? It is glaringly incomplete. It is unfinished. Its value is diminished. Its beauty is marred. It is not whole because it has a hole. God feels the same way about us as His creation. Look what He says about the stars in Isaiah 40:26,

” . . . He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Our Creator is a God of completion, of perfection. Not even one star in all the galaxies of all the universe is missing! Likewise, I will not be, you will not be that missing puzzle piece in God’s mosaic. John 10:27-30 clearly explains it this way,

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

We are held securely in God’s hands. He has a purpose for us. He has a place for us. You and I have a specific place to fill that no one else can fill. I know that in my puzzle, only one specific piece will fit perfectly in the space that is its to fill. No other piece is the exact right shape, the exact right shade and color combination to connect correctly to all the other puzzle pieces adjoining its space. 1 Peter 2:4-5 describes it like this,

“As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

We are parts of a spiritual house being built, being put together by God for a purpose – the purpose of offering spiritual sacrifices to God – the purpose of reflecting His glory when the house, the mosaic, the puzzle God is putting together is complete. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us just how vital each piece, each part is to the whole and therefore is to God –

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 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. . . . But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 18-20, 27)

the lessons of the puzzle are many – I have a place, I have a purpose, I am a part of something bigger than myself. You, too, dear readers, have a place, have a purpose – you are a part of something bigger than yourself. We all search for a place to belong. As it turns out, God created us and prepared for us, prepared for you and for me, a place to belong, from the very beginning.

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

Even if I can’t figure out quite where I fit in this big puzzle that is life, God knows which space is the space that only I can fill because He designed me uniquely, specifically with that space in mind, for me to fill that particular place in the puzzle. Being placed in that unique space requires that I connect perfectly with the puzzle pieces that surround me on every side. When I make those connections, more of the mosaic God is creating is revealed as it comes to life. What a beautiful, powerful picture of God’s loving intention towards each one of us.

We were created for connection! Our divine purpose and potential are only realized as we are connected to those around us, as we are connected to each other. We cannot fulfill our God given calling in isolation. The puzzle pieces are interlocking parts of a bigger picture. By themselves, no one piece conveys any sense of the whole. Only when the individual pieces are connected to each other, does the picture emerge. Maybe that’s why this past year has been so difficult. We have all faced hardships, loss and trials in our lives before. But we have always been able to face disasters in community with others, our families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow church members etc. We did not have to face illness, unemployment, fear and uncertainty alone – until COVID. We were isolated at the very time we most needed connection.

Hopefully, it is now a time of reconnection, a time of finding our place in the puzzle and locking arms with our connecting pieces of the puzzle. I want to find and to fill my place in God’s puzzle. The beautiful thing about this mosaic put together by God is that each and every piece is irreplaceable and of infinite value. That’s you and that’s me, that is each and every piece/person created in God’s image. We are all equally precious in God’s sight and so should we then be in each other’s sight. I recognize that without you, my brothers and my sisters, without even one of you, this puzzle which God is putting together, will have a hole in it. This puzzle will not be complete. Each puzzle piece is uniquely irreplaceable, just as each person is to God. This is the lesson my puzzle taught me today.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)

Today, may you know how much your Heavenly Father loves you – you have a place in His puzzle – a space all your own, that only you can fill . . .

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. you have to be taught #176

There is an old musical “South Pacific” which I loved as a child and still do today. We actually performed that musical in high school. There is a song from South Pacific, whose words seem particularly relevant today. The song title is “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Some of the lyrics are, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and to fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year, It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.” The words continue in the second verse with,

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a different shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.” A third verse continues, “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

This song and these words play in my head often as I watch events unfold on the news and wonder (along with everyone else probably) what this world is coming to? Division and conflict are nothing new to human history, however. In the musical West Side Story, rival gangs were fighting each other. In Romeo and Juliet, it was the Capulets and the Montagues that were at war with each other. They all had the same skin color, just different last names. It seems we will allow ourselves to be divided and set against one another for any reason, be it gender, age, economic group, religious group, political persuasion, educational group, skin color group, ethnic group, working group, (management vs. labor), rural vs. urban, – the list is endless because there is no end to the myriad of ways we are taught to classify, identify and separate ourselves from each other. We have to be taught to do this.

We are taught to focus on our differences rather than on our similarities and our commonalities. It’s like the song says, “we have to be carefully taught.” And taught we have been. Or maybe, for some of us, we weren’t taught to hate and we’ve been getting along pretty well until now, when we are being told to hate, even if that is not what we were taught. We are being manipulated, taught, to hate and to fear one another all over again. All our past progress is being undermined by those that would benefit from social unrest and division. Hard to believe that not everyone wants peace. Yes, not everyone is pursuing peace, or even desires peace in our time.

The antidote to hate is love. Just as we have to be taught to hate, as the song says, we can also be taught to love. We can learn how to love because love is an action verb, not a feeling. We read a further definition of love in 1 John 4:10-12,

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

We get further clarification about what love looks like from these words,

“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21)

Seems pretty clear – we are to love each other, not spend our time hating each other. We all share something in common – our origin.

“Then God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Created in God’s image, we were created and commanded to love God and to love each other.

“The most important one, . . . Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

We realize our God given potential through our acts of love. Acts of hate only diminish us as well as those who are the objects of our hate. The way out of our current state of affairs is to learn to love each other. If we can be taught to hate, as the song says, we can also learn to love. God’s word leads us in this learning process of what love truly looks like.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“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.” (John 3:16)

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

that says it all, doesn’t it? love does no harm love does no harm – if we all lived by that law, how different our lives would look . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. a work in progress #175

I have a lot of those laying around my house, “works in progress”. They clutter up my basement, my garage, my closets. They litter my life with their unfinished, unrealized potential, leaving me feeling vaguely restless and incomplete myself. No wonder that today I am still thinking on those words from Ephesians 2:10 – after yesterday’s post, “a work of art.,” I can’t get them out of my mind.

“For we are (you are, I am) God’s workmanship, (handiwork, creation, masterpiece) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

But I have to confess to you, dear readers – today I don’t feel much like, actually anything like a masterpiece. Today I don’t feel like “a work of art” at all. I feel more like a work in progress. And very slow progress at that. I feel as though I have been “under construction” for a very long time. There’s a very good reason I should feel this way. It’s true! I am a work in progress. And God isn’t done with me yet. I don’t need to be discouraged, even though the progress does seem oh so slow to me. I have this promise from God’s word in Philippians 1:6 –

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

These words are reassuring to me for a couple of reasons. One is, it is God doing the work in me, not me. It is His power, His creativity, His Master Artist’s eye and His Master Artist’s plan that He is creating in me and bringing forth in His timing, according to His perfect design. My part is simply to submit to Him as the Master Artist. The second reassurance is this – God is not going to give up on me. (like I have done with projects or works in the past) He is going to carry His work in me forward until it is complete. Completion is up to the artist. An artist knows when His creation is complete. My Heavenly Father will not abandon me, nor will He leave me unfinished. I can rest secure in His promise that He will complete His work in me.

After all, God was the One, the Artist, who began His creation of me as His personal masterpiece. He was there from the beginning. I was His idea!

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

These words remind me that all God’s works of creation are wonderful. And I am one of them! Each one of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation because everything that God does is good and perfect. Philippians 2:13 tells me,

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

His good purpose, that’s something I can count on. He is getting me ready for that day when He will complete His work in me.

“But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:22-23)

My Heavenly Father truly is the Master Artist, if when He finishes His work in me, I have become holy and without blemish and free from sin’s accusations and free from the stains sin leaves behind, marring my appearance. But God will bring me forth as gold, as His masterpiece, when He has finished His work in me.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Yes, I am God’s workmanship and God is still working on me and in me to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus, and to complete the masterpiece that He began when He created me. He began a masterpiece, a work of art, when He created you, too, dear reader. And our Heavenly Father is still holding the brush, adding color and texture and richness to our life’s canvas, smoothing away the rough edges, correcting our mistakes, filling in the empty spaces – with the outcome of a beautiful work of art, His vision for my life and for your life, too.

You and I can’t see what God sees in us. We can’t know the vision that guides God’s hand as He faithfully completes our canvases. We just have to trust His work in our lives to bring forth His masterpiece in each one of us, because His word says we are all God’s workmanship or handiwork. And even though we are all, works in progress now, we certainly would do well to start treating each other like the future masterpieces we are all on our way to becoming under God’s guiding, creating almighty hand.

Might as well get a head start, right? So today, even though I am not feeling like one of God’s “works of art”, I can know that this “a work in progress” phase will eventually come to an end and He will complete His work in me.

“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)

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

God, as the Master Artist, is making us new through His creative, transformative power, each and every day, making me and you into the masterpieces we already are and will one day be. Let us not give up on God (He doesn’t give up on us) and let us not give up on ourselves or on each other – we are all works in progress under God’s perfecting touch – masterpieces in the making –

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. a work of art #174

I have a friend who creates works of art out of old and broken things. Now I confess – when she described to me what she uses to create her art, I couldn’t visualize anything of value or of beauty being made from these discarded, broken materials. But then I saw her works of art for myself. Their beauty took my breath away. Who would have guessed that such beautiful works of art could be created from discarded canvases and broken glass? But seeing is believing and the proof was right before my eyes in dazzling, joyful, glittering, light reflecting, colorful canvases. What a transformation my friend, the artist, accomplishes in bringing these works of art into existence.

I can’t help but think of Ephesians 2:10 when I look at her artwork. It says,

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

Other translations of this verse say we are God’s handiwork, or His creation, or His masterpiece. In each case, God as our Creator, is the only artist who can bring beauty from our lives even if all we give Him to work with is ashes and brokenness. Maybe that’s why I so identified with my friend’s art work. She brought beauty out of what she had – she brought beauty out of broken glass and discarded canvases.

I guess that’s what I want God to do with my life – make something beautiful out of all the brokenness and dust. I can see that’s what He’s doing with my friend’s life. We are born into this broken world and then we are broken by the hurts, the hardships, the evils, the trials that come into our lives, sometimes at such a young age, we have no defense and no escape. We are broken beings living in this badly broken world. Who can make sense of and bring beauty from the bits and pieces of a broken life, with all its shattered fragments, sharp shards and jagged edges producing pain and keeping everyone at a distance? My friend’s broken glass art is to me a visual metaphor of our broken lives and what God can make of them if we will but allow Him to work His way in us.

This is good news to me, that God can and does use the broken, the blemished, the discarded, the unlovely to create His masterpiece for His glory. That’s actually our purpose, His glory, to bring glory to Him, to glorify our Creator, God.

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

I would think an unbroken mirror would do the best job of reflecting, because it would provide a smooth, unbroken reflection. In the same way, I would assume an unbroken person (if there is such a thing), a person with a smooth exterior surface, would do the best job of reflecting God’s glory. But my friend’s broken glass art work produces a dazzling brilliance of light and of reflected light – light in constant motion, ever changing and engaging, light different from every angle, light endlessly revealing and reflecting off of too many surfaces to count – that an unbroken mirror is not capable of producing. That’s the thing about broken glass – it has multiple facets rather than one smooth surface. Multiple facets mean more ways to reflect light – more ways to reflect God’s glory – more ways to glorify God. When my friend takes old, broken mirrors and smashes them to smithereens, they are now ready to become part of a new creation – a new work of art, which will be a thing of light-reflecting beauty, bringing joy to all who behold it.

Funny how the bits and pieces of broken glass, the shattered fragments and the sharp edges produce such a thing of beauty under my artist friend’s careful hand. Likewise, I never would have considered that maybe my broken life, with all of its bits and pieces, full of shattered dreams and hopes and the sharp edges of hurt and rejection, would be better able to reflect God’s glory and bring Him honor and praise, precisely because of its brokenness. Brokenness lets the light in, brokenness exposes multiple surfaces, multiple facets to the light. Brokenness lets the light do its illuminating, beautifying work and ultimately the work of reflecting God’s glory. No greater joy than that!

God, as the Master Artist, can take all the shattered, broken bits and pieces of my life and put them together in a way that creates something brand new and beautiful – something that is able to reflect His glory infinitely better than before. Sometimes we have to be broken to be used by God. Sometimes we have to be broken in order to be able to realize our full beauty and value to God. As my artist friend does her work of breaking glass and then creating something beautiful, something full of light and lifegiving out of what would otherwise be discarded rubble, I see her living out the metaphor of what God can and will do in each and every one of us. If we bring our brokenness, all of it, all our broken pieces to Him, He will take what we offer up to Him and in His hands, it will become something new and beautiful, full of light and life.

Soon I will have one of my artist friend’s works of art hanging in my home. It will be a visual reminder to me that God can bring beauty from brokenness. My Heavenly Father will bring beauty from my brokenness. I will be reminded of that promise and that hope every time I watch the light reflecting off multi-faceted (broken) surfaces of the broken glass now transformed into a thing of beauty.

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

we are God’s masterpieces! we are God’s works of art!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the three B’s of books #173

today that seems to be ban from the market, banish from the culture and to be sure, burn in a bonfire – to be certain the offending book is gone – gone for good. This banning, banishing and burning of books does not happen in a free society. The fact that it is happening here, now, in this country, the United States of America, should concern everyone. Because today someone else’s books and ideas are banned. But tomorrow it could be your books and your ideas that are no longer welcome. When one person loses their voice we all lose our voices. I must defend those whose ideas I do not agree with, because they have the right, the freedom, to write and create whatever they want to produce.

I am free also. I don’t have to read a book or to buy a book if it offends me. Simple as that. I just don’t buy it or check it out of the library. Same with art. If I find it objectionable, I don’t have to look at it or purchase it. If something offends me on the TV or the radio, I can simply change the channel or turn it off. I don’t have to watch or to listen. I am free to choose what I read, listen to or watch. I am free to choose what products I purchase and what products I don’t.

But why do I need to have the things that offend me taken off the air or off the shelf in the bookstore or the library? Isn’t it enough that I am free to choose for myself? Why would I want to make those choices for other people about what they can or can’t read, or listen to or watch or purchase? I don’t want anyone else making those decisions for me so why would I want to make those decisions for other people? Even if I am in a position of leadership or of power, I don’t want that responsibility. Individuals need to be responsible for their own decisions and they must be free to make those decisions for themselves as they see fit.

Freedom believes in the individual person. Freedom believes people will choose well and do right by themselves and by each other if left to their own devices. Why? Because without intervention and rescue, they will experience the consequences of their choices and adjust those choices accordingly. We don’t need government making decisions for us that are ours to make for ourselves.

It has been said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Perspective is everything apparently. What one person finds offensive may not be so to other people. So by whose standards do we live? Who gets to dictate to the rest of us what books are available for us to choose from, for us to read or to purchase? Through whose “eye” will we be required to view the world in all its various aspects? Whose vision is deemed the “correct” vision?

Recently some Dr. Seuss books were labeled something – offensive, racist, problematic, unacceptable . . . by whom, I would ask? Who gets to dictate to the rest of us what we can and can’t read? Offensive to who and by what standard? Problematic is a convenient, catch-all label that could mean just about anything to anybody. It implies the book creates a problem, I guess. Questions at this point could be, “a problem for who?”, “what is the actual problem created by the book?” and “is a ‘problem’ a bad thing, a harmful, damaging or a fatal thing?” or is a problem just something to be solved as in a math problem or a puzzle? If a book is challenging or thought provoking or provides a new perspective is that to be feared and therefore eliminated so that people don’t have access to this book or to this information?

I thought diversity was the desirable goal in all things. Do we no longer want diversity in our libraries and in our bookstores? Why would we allow the elimination of diversity in our literature, which leads to the elimination of diversity of thought and ideas? Why would we not want diversity in the publishing world that brings to market all types of manuscripts? And why is someone (whoever is raising these objections?) evaluating books written in other eras by the standards of today rather than by the standards of the era in which they were written and published? Are they not able to understand and apply context? Do they not realize what books written in past time periods are? They are windows into a world we would altogether miss if not for the view these written accounts provide us. Books are windows with a view – a spectacular, personal, intimate, unique view into the world others lived in before we came to be here. Books are our invitation to share in that world and in the lives of people we otherwise would never meet, due to time or distance.

Books invite us to view the world through the eyes of someone else. The author makes available to us a perspective we could not experience on our own. However, we don’t have to accept the author’s invitation. That choice is ours alone to make. But why would I want to deny someone else the opportunity to accept that invitation, ie. to read that particular book even if I choose not to read it? It is at this point that I am wondering just who is denying me (and others) the right to read certain Dr. Seuss books if I so choose? If they (whoever “they” are) are offended by these books, they don’t have to read them or purchase them or have them in their home. But why are “they” allowed to make that choice for other people? Why are “they” allowed to make that choice for me? This is not what Freedom looks like.

Freedom’s face bestows her favor on one and all equally. She does not take kindly to anyone who would deny another person access to her many benefits and protections. Freedom protects our “unalienable human rights” which God gives us. (remember “endowed by their Creator”?) So I am wondering who are these anonymous, deeply offended individuals who are denying the rest of us our right to decide for ourselves what we read and don’t read? Are an anonymous but vocal few dictating to a silent majority what we can and can’t read? That used to be called censorship. Censorship has no place in a free society. Which then begs the question – are we a free society today?

Without a free press and with books being banned without debate or discussion, the face of something dark, ugly and oppressive.hoovers over our land, threatening to extinguish Freedom’s light. If one book can be banned (removed from libraries, stores or not allowed to be published) then any book can be banned because every book is bound to be offensive to someone, somewhere, at some point in time. (pun intended) Well, I guess without any books left to read, we won’t need Freedom’s light to read them by anyway.

Books may be banned but my thoughts are still my own to choose. I think I will follow Paul’s advice to the Philippians, when he said –

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. voices from the past #172

I confess – history wasn’t of any particular interest to me as a child. It was simply a required subject of study in school. Although, from time to time, certain people did stand out to me and capture my imagination. In elementary school one of those people was Harriet Tubman. Her bravery, her daring, her courage captured my imagination like few other historical figures did. I imagined her hardships. I cheered her clever escapes and rooted for her as she put herself in danger over and over again, in order to help other slaves escape to freedom. I admired her greatly.

Today, though my perspective is now that of an adult, my admiration and respect for Harriet Tubman has only grown. I now more fully realize the truth of who she was and what she accomplished. As the full weight of her courage and her contribution to history and to humankind becomes clearer to me today than it was for me as a child, my appreciation for the person of courage, commitment, and perseverance that Harriet was only deepens.

That is probably why these words on the classroom wall stood out to me today. “There was one of two things I had a right to – liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have the other.” – Harriet Tubman spoke those words. Immediately I thought of Patrick Henry, who years earlier (1775) had cried out, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Kindred spirits, separated by time, Harriet and Patrick both knew the value of freedom and the price often required to obtain it.

Both desired to be able to live free above all else. And both were willing to pay the price necessary to purchase freedom for themselves and for others as well. Unless one has lived in bondage and oppression, I don’t think one can truly appreciate freedom. Must be why so many people from around the world continue to come to the U.S. As awful as we are told our country is and has always been, people arriving here from other countries tell us that they prefer to be here rather than living in the nation they left.

Turns out there is more freedom, opportunity and possibility of prosperity and success here than in many places around the world. But if America is no longer a nation of free peoples where will the oppressed of the world look for help and hope? If the light in the darkness goes out what good will an unlit torch be when passed to the next generation? America has long been that “shining city on a hill” to other nations. This description of our nation arose out of a sermon John Winthrop preached in 1630 aboard the ship, the Arbella, which was sailing for the New World. Winthrop’s expectation was that the new Massachusetts Bay colony would shine as an example to the rest of the world. The Puritans on this ship were leaving everything behind in pursuit of their dream of freedom. They wanted to be free to worship God, not forced to serve their current King. They had made a pact with God and the world would be watching.

In his sermon, Winthrop proclaimed, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” It would be one hundred and forty-six years later that similar words would be written into our Declaration of Independence saying that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The dream was still alive but much hardship lay ahead if it was to survive. The Revolutionary War would exact a price for the freedom our founding fathers sought.

Almost one hundred years later, freedom was still being desperately sought after right here in our own country. Again the price was high. Many gave their lives so that others might live in freedom – a freedom they themselves would not live to enjoy. The future of our nation was uncertain, as Abraham Lincoln acknowledged when he said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

We were a new nation, a young nation. Could we endure? How had America come to be? Lincoln said we were a nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’ ” No kings or caste system here. One didn’t have to be a rich monarch to own land. Could this great experiment succeed? The world was watching as we went to battle with ourselves, to decide whether equality and freedom were for everyone (as promised) or were they only for some? So many lives were lost in those battles fought to ensure that everyone was to be free in this country. They did not die in vain. Slavery was abolished and the long process of implementing this ideal began.

People continued to pour into America over the next century. America had become that “shining city on a hill” that John Winthrop had proclaimed in 1630 that she should be to the world. The vision that the Massachusetts Bay colony would shine as an example to the world had been realized. The U.S. was that light of freedom, that beacon of hope to other people and nations around the world. Most recently, Hong Kong, in their valiant efforts to remain free, looked to the U.S. for hope and encouragement. But if we are no longer free, the light of freedom will fail to shine and the beacon of hope we have been will be no more. It is a dark world in which no liberty lives.

Harriet Tubman knew that to be true. So did Patrick Henry. They both dedicated their lives to keeping the light of freedom alive. After the Civil War, Harriet continued to be a freedom fighter. She dedicated her efforts to helping women fight for the right to vote. Harriet understood that freedom has a voice and a vote is a voice. Without a vote, our voices are not heard. Harriet knew that if our voices are silenced, we are no longer free. Harriet was courageous enough to let her voice be heard as she traveled around speaking in favor of the women’s suffrage issue. I wonder where Harriet got her courage?

She was a woman of firm faith in God and this no doubt fueled her conviction that all are equal and all must be free.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

Harriet understood that all lives are infinitely valuable to God, who created us in His image. Her faith fueled her desire to see everyone set free. I’m guessing Harriet experienced the truth of these words in her own life –

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)

“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)

“Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32)

These words illuminate the connection between faith, freedom and truth. A country founded on faith in a God who “shows no partiality”, will be charged with providing freedom and equal opportunities for all of its citizens, not just some of them. Nations ruled by monarchs, dictators, despots and other power hungry people have no such mandate guiding them in governing a people who “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Governments that do not recognize God as the Source of life and of all things, do not recognize individual human rights. They have no reason to do so.

This foundation of faith is what set America apart from other nations. When America loses her faith in Almighty God, her people will lose their freedoms and she will cease to exist. The light will go out. The city on a hill will be no more. The world is watching, wondering, waiting. When we are no longer free, to where will they go in search of that “better life” that Freedom provides, known as the American Dream?

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

“if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15)

humble ourselves, pray, seek God, turn from our ways to His ways – leads to – God hearing, God forgiving, God healing . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. an anniversary? #171

Today is March 12th. As I sit in the classroom, I have two students here in the room with me and sixteen students are logged in online at the moment. I can’t see their faces, just their names appear on the screen. They can hear me (if the connection is working properly) and I can hear them (again, if technology is holding up her end of the bargain). The significance of today’s date does not escape me. March 12th is a memorable date for me and perhaps for many of you as well.

A year ago today, I was here at school. My classroom was full, it was full of noisy, sometimes inattentive students interacting with each other and hopefully with me and the lesson being presented. Passing periods were loud as the halls filled with students trying to get to their next class. There were announcements and much discussion of upcoming school events such as sports, prom, exams, college applications, graduation. The building was alive with the people that filled it up everyday. It was full because the students filled it up with their dreams, their daily struggles, their fears, their failures, their growth, their successes, their questions, with their quest to discover and to become who they were meant to be –

with so much going on inside these walls, school a year ago was a busy, bustling place, bursting at the seams with the daily drama of teenage lives on their way to adulthood. That was the reality of March 12th one year ago. Little did I know that day, that the next day all the schools would be closed. Little did I know that they would remain closed for so long. And who would have predicted that today, one year later, schools still are not fully open? (unless two students in a classroom is considered full now?) Learning is still online several days a week, if not completely. Today’s virtually empty (pun intended) classroom stands in stark contrast to my memories of one year ago.

It is difficult to look back over the past year and reflect with any sense of making sense of what we have been through. It has been a corporate experience and it has been an individual experience at the same time. Things we all took for granted have been taken from us and we are still waiting for them to be returned to us. I look back over a landscape of loss, of loneliness and of isolation. It is hard to find the path that leads back to connection, to community and to abundance. Finding that path back seems to be the challenge both publicly and personally. How do we come out of isolation and reconnect with those we have not seen in so long?

I confess – a year ago, I never thought that I would still be writing “Corona Chronicles – True Confessions” one year later. I keep waiting for an end point, a graceful exit as it were. But none seems to be in sight. I thought when COVID no longer controls our lives, that would be a good end point to “Corona Chronicles.” When COVID rules and restrictions don’t dominate the news and dictate our decisions and our daily lives, maybe then? When the virus is a memory rather than a daily reality? It seems false to end when we are not at the end. As I continue looking for the way forward, as each of us must determine for ourselves, these words come to mind,

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

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

Those words give me hope as I continue to trust my Heavenly Father to lead me through this seemingly never ending era of COVID. He knows the way. Today, on this one year anniversary, as I look back and now look forward, I will trust Him and follow Him, knowing there will come a day when I will say these words along with David,

“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. an offer I can’t refuse #170

we all want a really good deal, something too good to be true and yet there it is, right in front of us, a great bargain, something we’ve been wanting, something we’ve been searching for, something we desperately desire, but haven’t been able to find – now the offer is given, it is made – we just have to decide whether to accept or to reject this offer that seems so ridiculously wonderful that we find ourselves questioning if it is even real or is it just a scam designed to deceive and to damage anyone foolish enough to fall for this unbelievable offer?

there are a lot of scams out there right now, but then there always have been – because there have always been people willing to take advantage of other people by deception and trickery. One simply can’t be too careful these days – or any days.

However, there is an offer, a long-time, standing offer, always on the table, that I would be foolish to overlook, to ignore or to turn down. It is an offer I simply can’t refuse – to do so would be the death of me. The promise does seem too good to be true. This offer is a free gift with huge benefits – but many consider the cost too high. Most are not willing to pay the price. (irony – a free gift with a high cost? how can this be? spoiler alert – that high cost has already been paid for me by Someone else – so now the gift is free to me)

So just what is this fabulous, life saving, life giving deal that I dare not refuse? Jesus reveals it when He extends this offer in Matthew 11:28-30 saying,

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I am weary, I desire rest – especially rest for my soul. Rest for my body is easier to obtain (take a nap) but rest for my soul is totally elusive. And what is more, I wear myself out chasing after and searching for the soul rest I seek – the rest that my soul cries out for. So the cost is that I leave my yoke behind and instead I come to Jesus, I take His yoke, I learn from Him and I find rest for my soul in the process. come – take – learn – find. I can do that. What else is included in this “too good to be true” offer? Isaiah 1:18 tells me,

” ‘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.’ ”

That’s something I need in order for my soul to rest – forgiveness. And forgiveness is part of this outlandish offer that I dare not refuse. This offer even comes with a promise (better known as a guarantee in the retail world) I find this guarantee in 1 John 1:9 which tells me,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The price is confession before God, the price is honesty and humility – but what a bargain I receive in return! the forgiveness of my sins, restoration of my relationship with my Heavenly Father, right standing with Him. Why would I not be willing to humble myself and honestly confess my sins and shortcomings before Him each day? What a generous offer of forgiveness and purification if I accept instead of refuse His invitation.

But there’s more to this offer, it is kind of a package deal. (isn’t that what bargains are? you purchase something but other things are thrown in as bonuses to sweeten the deal) John 1:11-12 tells me what I get in return for receiving Jesus because incredibly when Jesus came, there were those who did not receive Him. (I guess they could refuse His once in a lifetime offer?) Nevertheless I read,

“He (Jesus) came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God -”

the price? receiving Jesus, believing Jesus. the purchase or the offer? becoming a child of God! priceless!

Being adopted into God’s family has a ton of benefits! I read about some of these in Psalm 103:2-18,

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. . . . The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. . . . as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. . . . from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.”

what a benefit package! with bonuses too numerous to enumerate them all. this list from Psalm 103 is just a preview, a glimpse of all that God gives to His adopted sons and daughters. the cost? I am to keep His covenant and obey His precepts. In return, I receive so many priceless gifts included in His offer – forgiveness, healing, redemption, rescue from the pit I dug for myself, love, compassion, giving me good things that satisfy me, renewing me, working righteousness and justice in my life and on my behalf, removing my transgressions and keeping His covenant not only with me but also with my children’s children!

I confess – this is way more than I deserve, way more than I could dare to hope for – and yet this is all part of the offer God makes available to me through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. I would be a fool to refuse this offer so full of life and of all things good and true. In fact, the missionary Jim Elliot said as much when he stated,

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

How true! This really is one offer I can’t refuse. Well, of course, the choice is ultimately mine to make – I could refuse God’s offer of eternal life with Him, but why would I do that? Do I think the cost is too high? giving up what I can’t keep anyway to gain what my Heavenly Father will keep secure for me until I need it – that doesn’t sound like a bad trade off at all. In fact, I say along with Paul, who wrote in his letter to Timothy,

“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

So what would stop me from accepting this offer? It requires that I swallow my pride – is that too high a price? Repentance, confession, humility, acknowledging my need for a Savior – are those too costly for me to give? Losing my life to find it, doing things God’s way rather than my own way – is that too high a cost? Would that cause me to refuse this unrefusable offer from God?

Jesus declared, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) How can I refuse that offer? John 3:16 reveals God’s offer to me (and to each person) very clearly saying,

“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.”

cost – belief in Jesus; offer – eternal life. Romans 10:9-13 explains God’s offer this way,

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ”

Wow! an unrefusable offer with an irrefutable guarantee! cost – confess out loud, believe in my heart, trust in Jesus, call on Him; offer – eternal salvation. that’s an offer I can’t refuse, an offer I dare not refuse, an offer I can embrace with confidence – one that you can, too, dear readers . . . this offer is for everyone, while supplies last, of course – but being an infinite God, His supply of all that He is offering to you and to me will never run out – it will last for eternity.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. a lullaby #169

every head’s in the house tonight, every head’s on a pillow, gonna be alright.

the Savior’s love stands guard tonight, every head’s in the house, gonna be alright.

let time stand still in this house tonight, while every head’s on a pillow it will be alright.

with the melody of the moonlight lullabying us through the night, while every head is in the house, it will be alright.

books were read and prayers were said, now a pillow’s been found for every head –

and every head is in the house tonight, every head’s on a pillow, all is right –

let tomorrow take her time in coming round, for tonight every head’s in the house, all safe and sound.

let sleep be sweet as dreams take flight, while God’s grace keeps us all the night.

and if the night should fill with rain and wind arise against the pane – still every head on their pillow slumbers, for Your protection all danger outnumbers.

Heavenly Father,Your mercies are many, Your care is complete – even as we slumber, all our needs You meet.

yes, every head’s in the house tonight, while every head’s on a pillow, gonna be alright. 

the Savior’s love stands guard tonight, every head’s in the house, gonna be alright.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” (Psalm 3:5)

“I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.” (Leviticus 26:6)

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8)

“On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:6-8)

“He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:3-8)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. loving you today #168

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.’ ” (Acts 3:6)

once carried in my arms, now carried in my heart – time and distance intervene to keep us far apart

yet know, I am loving you today – standing in the gap for you, as you go on your way.

storming heaven’s gates, calling on angels’ care – asking God to watch over you, every mother’s prayer.

praying you sense His presence, when you feel most alone – that you know Christ’s love for you, which on the cross was shown.

asking God to give you strength, when your path grows steep – asking His light in your darkness, the night-light that lets you sleep.

pleading God protect you from dangers that surround – begging Him to guard your heart and lead you on level ground.

asking Him to guide you when the way is no longer clear, asking Him to hold you up when your faith gives way to fear.

praying that you feel His feathers, as He shelters you under His wings – praying that you can hear His voice, as over you He sings.

asking God to meet you on the road you take today – just like Jesus sought out Saul, as Saul traveled on his way.

beseeching Him to heal your hurts, to comfort you in your sorrow – to give you peace in this current day, to fill you with hope for tomorrow.

asking God to make you wise and kind and good and true – praying you will allow Him to have His way in you.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, . . . I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart (s) through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

sincerely, Grace Day