C.C. remembering #200

I will confess – sometimes I think I forget way more than I remember. But remembering things is important – like where I put the car keys or the remote or remembering someone’s birthday or an anniversary or an appointment. Forget any of these things and their importance becomes all too apparent. We remember so that we don’t forget. Ok, that seems so obvious. But why do we not want to forget? Because,if I lose my memory, I don’t know who I am anymore. I have no sense of identity. My memories tell me where I’ve been, what lessons I’ve learned thus far, and inform where I’m headed.

Without memory, I have no past, so I can’t find my place in the present and I lack memory’s wisdom to walk beside me into the future. Our country even has a day for remembering – Memorial Day. It is a day to remember our nation’s history and specifically to remember those that gave their lives over the years in our nation’s defense. Although Memorial Day did not become an official, national holiday until 1971, it has been observed as Decoration Day since the late 1860’s. It began as a way to honor those soldiers who had lost their lives during the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. Today, on Memorial Day, we honor all those who have died in our nation’s service.

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

Over the past couple of centuries, countless men and women have laid down their lives for this country. They have given the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me as citizens of this country – a country they fought hard to protect and to defend. A country Abraham Lincoln wondered if would survive the internal conflict which threatened to tear it apart at the time he spoke these words,

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” (Gettysburg Address)

Those words were uttered November 19th, 1863. Our nation has endured and even though “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, we find ourselves today, still at war with ourselves as well as with other nations. Freedom, it seems, is something which requires constant vigilance. Milton Friedman in his essay, “The Fragility of Freedom” stated,

“Freedom is very far from being the natural state of mankind; on the contrary, it is an extraordinarily unusual situation. If one looks back through history, in any place on the globe, one finds that the natural state of mankind in most periods in history has been tyranny and misery.”

Why is it so important to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives so that we might live in freedom? Because freedom is a fragile, fleeting thing that must be protected, practiced, proclaimed, celebrated and cherished. Today, how can we take for granted something so valuable that people give their very lives in exchange for it? The least we can do is to safe guard and continue to fight for the freedoms that fellow Americans have given their lives defending. This is a day to remember their sacrifices and to gratefully cherish our freedoms.

We must carry on their fight. Ronald Reagan warned us when he said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Patrick Henry’s words “give me liberty or give me death”, echo still. From the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iran, Afghanistan, to today’s continuing conflicts – tyranny is the enemy, freedom the goal. Our founding fathers were pursuing freedom when they came here. We are pursuing her still to this day. Freedom’s fate is in our hands at present. Will we defend and protect her or will we watch her be taken from us without a word of protest? Do we no longer think her worth the effort, the risk, the sacrifice?

These words of John McCrae from his poem, “In Flanders Fields” say it all,

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, . . . We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie, in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”

The torch is in our hands today. The torch that burns with the light of Freedom. So many have given their lives to keep Freedom alive. We cannot let her light go out now. If Freedom’s light fails, the world goes dark. Tyranny takes root in the dark. But in Freedom’s light grow liberty, life, prosperity and the pursuit of dreams. Today, we remember the sacrifices of the men and women who loved this country enough to die for her. We remember so that we do not forget – so that we do not forget at what cost our freedom has been purchased. We honor their sacrifice by continuing to fight for and protect the freedoms they fought for so long ago and so very recently. We honor their sacrifice by loving this country which they died serving and protecting. It is up to us to be sure that they did not die in vain.

Memorial Day is our day to remember – so that we do not forget. so that we do not forget who we are or how we got here – we can take courage and inspiration from those who have gone before us, even as we remember them and honor them on this day set aside specifically for this purpose. We don’t say it often enough, but –

from a grateful nation and from my heart, thank you –

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. eyes on ? #199

I confess – I was never very good at softball, although it was fun to play in the summers in our backyards and in the empty lot down the street. What was my fatal flaw? I failed to heed the age old adage, “don’t take your eye off the ball.” Guess I blinked, or got distracted, or maybe I was already eyeing first base, my destination, or perhaps an opponent yelled out something distracting, or a car drove by or the runner on first took off as the ball left the pitcher’s hands, and for a split second I watched the runner rather than the ball that was headed my way. The reasons for me taking my eyes off the ball are endless. The result always the same – a swing and a miss. I know the secret. keep my eyes on the ball. I just didn’t heed it. There are always distractions – other things vying for my attention.

Distractions are just as prevalent in my daily life today as they were all those years ago on the softball field. Learning to deal with distractions is an acquired skill that would serve me well if I could master it. I think it has something to do with focus. And focus follows my gaze. Where my eyes go – there my mind follows. So if my eyes are on the ball, my focus (or my mind) will be on the ball as well. But when I take my eyes off the ball, my focus is no longer where it needs to be, but is somewhere else entirely. I guess that’s why Hebrews 12:2 tells me,

“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.”

Focusing on Jesus will get me where I need to go. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Jesus leads me, restores me, guides me. As long as I keep my eyes on Him and not elsewhere, I won’t be led somewhere I really don’t want to go. It depends on whom or on what I choose to fix my gaze. 2 Corinthians 4:18 tells me,

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

And I thought keeping my eye on the ball (which is seen) was hard! Now I am supposed to keep my eyes on what is unseen? How do I do that? Paul wrote this to the Ephesians,

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18)

Some things I have to see with my heart’s eyes, which makes sense in light of my favorite quote which says, “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” That explains 2 Corinthians 4:18 (above) – fixing my eyes on that which is invisible to the eye, (such a contradiction, I know) – but the unseen things are the eternal things – the things that matter most. Faith, hope, love, truth, freedom, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, . . . these are the things I should be fixing my eyes on –

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4)

This verse reminds me of one of my favorite hymns which says, “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

It matters where I look or to whom I look. In sports with balls, like softball, the secret is – “don’t take your eye off the ball.” In life, if my goal is to be a Christ follower, the secret is – “don’t take my eyes off of Jesus.” When I do, I lose my way. And that’s exactly what happens when the distractions of life shift my gaze, even momentarily. Where my eyes are fixed, my feet follow.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” (Psalm 25:15)

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:5)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. riding the roller coaster #198

I confess – I don’t ride roller coasters – they terrify me. One bad experience as a small child at a county fair (not even a “real” roller coaster, no loops or great heights, tame by anybody’s standards) and that was enough to confirm my life long decision to avoid roller coasters at all costs. While I have successfully escaped the ups and downs of all roller coaster rides, I have not been exempt from the ups and downs that are part of the ride we all call life. Everybody rides this ride.

The thing is, life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, times when I feel everything is upside down, (the loop) slow climbs to great heights and descents so fast they take my breath away and leave me wondering what happened. The view is great from the heights, but I don’t get to linger long there. It’s like mountain climbing. I spend days/months climbing slowly, overcoming many obstacles along the way until finally I reach the summit. From the summit, the view is spectacular. I can see in all directions at once from a perspective I have never had before. But my euphoria is short lived. After every ascent there must be a descent. This is no different. It is time for the trek back down the mountain.

I have had some mountaintop moments in my life. I always wish they would last longer. I want to live exclusively in those moments. But they are fleeting. They never last. They cannot sustain life. I want to live my life on the mountaintop but it just isn’t possible. There is no level ground there on which to build and the air is too thin. I may spend moments on the mountaintop but I spend my days in the valley. Not necessarily a bad place, the valley can be a peaceful, level place in which to spread out, put down roots and plant crops. (I wonder if that’s where the “putting down roots” expression comes from, a time when people planted crops or a garden signaling they planned to stay because they were literally putting down roots in the ground)

Too bad I can’t take up residence and put down roots on the mountaintop. The vistas from there are so breathtaking. Turns out that’s literally true as well as figuratively. The thin air on the heights literally takes my breath away. Moses met with God on a mountaintop – it was called Mt. Sinai. That’s where he received the ten commandments from God. For me, mountaintop moments are those times when I feel close to God, feel His overwhelming, infinite presence most closely, most clearly – barriers are gone – my view unobstructed – then the moment becomes a memory. These are only moments – not hours, not days, not weeks, not months. But Moses did spend forty days on a mountaintop with God once.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to Me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain;’ . . . So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; . . . Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:1-4 & 28)

Notice Moses was alone with God. Mountaintop moments are solitary moments between only the individual and God. They are unique, profound encounters that leave us forever changed. Look what happens to Moses after spending time on the mountaintop with God,

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. . . . When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.” (Exodus 34:29-30 & 33)

Yes, mountaintop moments will change us. They change me – that’s why I want to experience more of them. So I spend my time mountain climbing, wanting to be closer to God. So much time spent climbing – so little time spent at the top. But the struggle of my climb is necessary to prepare me for my time at the top. Moses returned from his time on the mountaintop equipped and ready to take on the tasks God had given him. Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountaintop with God. Then he spent forty years in the desert with the Israelites. But God was with him there also. Isaiah 57:15 tells me,

“For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

God is with me on my climbing journey, even as He simultaneously waits patiently, eagerly for me to reach the summit so that He can meet with me on the mountain top, just like He did Moses, spending a moment with me there before it is time for me to began my descent down the mountain into whatever valley God sends me, face shining, ready to face the hours, days, weeks, months, until I am summoned to the summit once again. It is an up and down life to which we are called – constantly climbing mountains higher than we thought we could climb – only to descend into depths deeper than we thought possible or even knew existed.

It is the mountaintop moments of revelation and clarity that see me through the murkiness of the mundane or the darkness of the deep places that make up my hours and my days – that and my Heavenly Father’s presence – His ever abiding, faithful Presence.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

Even though I run from roller coasters, I can’t escape the ups and the downs, the steep climbs and the swift descents, the twists and the turns, the mountains and the valleys that define my life’s journey and anyone’s life journey in this world. In every circumstance, I am ever grateful for the assurance of His presence –

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“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 121:5-8)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. conversation with a firefighter #197

Many of our cities have been set on fire over the past year. We have witnessed people’s livelihoods and dreams going up in smoke over and over again. I confess – it is heartrending to watch people lose their lives and their livelihoods and not be able to stop the senseless destruction which benefits no one. I recently had a conversation with a firefighter friend of mine, who said these obvious yet profound words to me. “You don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.”

My friend should know. After all, he’s a fireman. He fights fires for a living. He’s been putting out fires all of his life. Of course, he was speaking literally, about physical fires. But then he applied this truth to the metaphorical fires we all face in our lives saying, “you fight fire with water, but you have to figure out what the water is.” How true! What is the water that will put out, extinguishing for good, the flames of hatred, anger, greed, jealousy, hurt, revenge etc. that threaten to engulf us all and take our very lives? What is the water? We need to know because water is what will save us all from being burned up alive by the fire.

Indeed we are in danger of being destroyed by many fires – the fires others set, the fires whose flames we fan, the fires to whom we supply the fuel that keeps them alive, the fires we set ourselves. Just as a long, severe drought creates conditions conducive to fires breaking out and spreading rapidly, so COVID (well actually, not COVID, but our responses to COVID such as lockdowns and isolation and job loss and economic insecurity) has created the perfect storm of conditions necessary for fire to run rampant. Interestingly, this applies to both literal and metaphorical fires. The former seem to be a result of the latter. Our metaphorical, interpersonal fires are not put out and the result is the literal burning down around us of our cities, our neighborhoods, our homes, our businesses and our once beautiful public places and spaces.

I think it was Gandhi who said if you live by the “an eye for an eye” philosophy, the whole world ends up blind. Well, fighting fire with fire gets a similar result – the whole world ends up burned beyond recognition. So what is the water we all so desperately need in order to put out the fires that will otherwise consume and destroy us all? Proverbs 15:1, 4, 18, 23 and 16:24 tell me something about what this fire-fighting water might look like,

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!”

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

So my words can be fire starters or they can be the water that puts out the flames that otherwise will burn me and those around me. I learn from these verses that gentle words can turn away anger, patient words can calm a dispute, pleasant words can bring healing, indeed the right words can bring joy and life. It seems well chosen words are part of the water that I need to fight the fires I find myself surrounded by during these difficult days. What other fire-fighting weapons do I have at my disposal to add to the water in order to fight the fire? Romans 12 tells me some actions I can take to fight the fires surrounding me.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. . . . 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. . . . Live in harmony with one another. . . . 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, . . . ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.’ . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

That’s a lot of clear direction right there, isn’t it? Just as my fireman friend said, “we don’t fight fire with more fire”, God’s word tells me not to “repay anyone evil for evil” – but to “overcome evil with good.” I am to fight the fire of evil with the water of good. I read in Luke 6:27-31 more actions I can practice that will put out present and potential fires –

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Loving, doing good to, blessing, praying for, giving to . . . these actions are certainly water, life giving water, water that is able to put out the flames of hatred, anger, cursing, being mistreated, striking, . . . these make up the water I can use to fight the fire. I don’t fight fire with fire, I fight fire with its opposite, its natural enemy – water. I guess that’s why Jesus said to “overcome evil with good.” I am to overcome hate with love, darkness with His light, greed with generosity and lies with His Truth. Current culture would tell me to respond in kind to others, to fight fire with fire. But God has another, more excellent way for you and for me to follow.

When we figure out, as my fireman friend said, “what is the water that we can use to fight the fire?” we will be on our way to fighting the good fight and putting out the fires fueled by hate, anger, greed, envy, dissatisfaction, strife, lies, – all fires of the evil one, who is the enemy of our souls. Peter said,

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) and we know this about love,

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

love does no harm, hate destroys everything and everyone that it touches – the water of love will put out the fire of hate,

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

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. victor or victim? #196

I confess – I love a good comeback story. I always root for the underdog – the one facing the impossible odds. That holds true in sports and in life. One of my favorite football movies, “Facing the Giants” is inspiring precisely because the underdog team has to overcome many obstacles as they pursue success on the field. Another favorite movie, “October Sky,” tells the true story of four high school boys from a poor mining community in West Virginia, who eventually win the national science fair, but only after experiencing set back after set back, each one bringing their project seemingly to an end. But each time, the boys regroup and began again. One of the boys even had to drop out of school in order to work in the mines, because his dad had been injured in a mining accident and couldn’t work for a time. Nothing was in their favor, their school had no resources to help them, and yet they persisted and eventually prevailed, winning the National Science Fair in 1960.

By today’s standards these boys were victims – born into poverty, no prospects except to work in the mines as their fathers did, a disadvantaged school with no funds for things more affluent schools would naturally have, such as fully equipped science labs. But they didn’t see themselves as victims of anything nor of anybody. Instead they relied on themselves and their own curious minds and ingenuity. Consequently, not only were they not victims, they were victors in every sense of the word. Because they were winners in the science fair, they were able to get scholarships to college and choose for themselves their future careers. They persevered. They overcame. They became victors.

Overcomers. Indomitable overcomers. Such people were the pilgrims who sailed by ship across the sea for the opportunity to build a better life than the one they left behind. Odds were not in their favor that they would survive their voyage. After all, travel by boat in the 1600’s was not on luxury cruise liners like we have today. It was perilous. It was risky. And if they survived the voyage, they would still have to learn how to survive in the New World. That first winter, forty-five of the one-hundred two passengers from the Mayflower did not survive. The journey was risky, the destination was full of danger, risks and the unknown. Yet still, people came to settle in this land, now our country. The hardships they faced were many and they were continuous. But they did not think they were victims. They persevered. They overcame. They became victors.

Overcomers. Indomitable overcomers. Such people were the pioneers, who headed west in covered wagons into unknown territory until they eventually reached the Pacific Ocean. Well, some of them anyway. This was not the tourist travel of today, the travel of people on vacation. This was travel that involved great risk and many hardships, due to weather, the terrain itself, illness and the problem of finding food to sustain them. (there were no restaurants, fast food or otherwise along their route from which they could order up some food – there were no B&B’s or hotels either) Many pioneers died before they ever reached their intended destinations. Yet still, they set out on the journey west. The hardships they faced were many and they were continuous. But they did not consider themselves victims of anything nor of anybody. They persevered. They overcame. They were victors.

Overcomers. Indomitable overcomers. Such people were the patriots of the Revolutionary War. Willing to fight for the freedoms they had come to this New World to obtain, they risked everything for freedom’s sake. They were oppressed by the British government, oppressed in their status as subjects of the crown, subjects of the current King of England. The British Crown’s rule was strong and far reaching. Their navy, the most powerful in the world at that time. Likewise, British wealth, resources and military might were unmatched. How could poor, unorganized colonists stand up to such a force? – the very force to whom they paid taxes, the very force that had kept them successfully subdued and subservient since their inception. It would not be easy and victory was not certain by any means. But the patriots did not consider themselves victims of anything nor of anybody. They persevered. They overcame. They became victors.

Overcomers. Indomitable overcomers. Such people are our modern day astronauts. They choose to take on great risks when they train and prepare for space flight. The risks are real, as the Space Shuttle Challenger reminded us all in 1986, when it broke apart just seventy-three seconds into flight, killing all seven crew members. The space program did not die, but it would not be the last time that astronauts lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration. Seventeen years later, in 2003, all seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia were killed when the shuttle disintegrated as it reentered earth’s atmosphere. These crew members were not victims. They pursued and realized their dreams, including exploring space. They persevered to attain their personal goals. They overcame. They were victors – not victims.

Overcomers. Indomitable overcomers. Wilma Rudolph was one such woman. She was one of twenty-two children and she suffered from polio and scarlet fever as a child. Because of this, she wore a leg brace. By today’s standards Wilma would be considered a victim. Fortunately, Wilma did not consider herself a victim. Wilma became a runner. At the Rome Olympics, in 1960, Wilma became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She held the title of “fastest woman in the world.” Wilma persevered. Wilma overcame her obstacles. Wilma was a victor – not a victim.

I think of those that stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War two. Many of them lost their lives, but they did not think of themselves as victims. They would not want us to remember them as victims either, but as the victorious heroes that they were and remain so to this day. Likewise, the Tuskegee Airmen leave behind a legacy of courage, dedication and service to this country and to the world – a world which their efforts and actions helped to make free once again. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their service. Society at that time may have considered them victims but they saw themselves as victors. And indeed their accomplishments, valor and example for others to follow proved them right. They persevered under difficult, dangerous circumstances. They overcame. They were always victors – never victims. They proved that to the watching world.

There are so many individual stories to tell of valor and of victory, that I could never tell them all. One of my favorites, though, is that of Dr. Carol Swain. She was one of twelve children and grew up in poverty, dropping out of high school in the ninth grade. Poor, black, uneducated and a woman, Dr. Swain was, by our culture’s current definition – a victim. Married, divorced and with three children, Dr. Swain obtained her GED, then an associate degree, then a B.A. in Criminal Justice, then a Master’s in political science, followed by a Ph.D. in political science and finally a Master of Legal Studies from Yale Law School. This looks more like the life of a victor than a victim to me. How about you? In an interview Dr. Swain shared something I found very interesting and relevant to today’s culture. In one of her many college classes she was taught that she was an oppressed victim and would therefore never be able to achieve certain things in life. Fortunately for her, at the time she was informed of her victim status, she had already achieved all those things plus more, despite the label they wanted her to wear. (Labels can be so limiting, so confining, so final, if we accept them and wear them as our excuse for everything that we do or don’t do in life.) But Dr. Swain had not been told she was a victim from a young age, so she proceeded to live the life of a victor. And she succeeded despite numerous hardships and obstacles that she had to overcome along her way to victory. Dr. Swain persevered despite her disadvantaged beginning in life. Dr. Swain overcame. Dr. Swain is a victor – not a victim.

We each one face many difficulties, hardships, setbacks, tough times of every kind in our lives. That is the human condition on this earth. Justice Clarence Thomas summed it up in these words,

“Regardless of race, everybody faces adversity and must choose whether to buckle down and surmount it, shaping his own fate, or to blame the outcome on powerful forces that make him ineluctably a victim – forces that only a mighty government can master. The Framers’ Constitution presupposes citizens of the first kind. Without them, and a culture that nurtures them, no free nation can long endure. . . . there is no governmental solution to black America’s problems – . . . In this equal opportunity nation, black citizens must forge their own fate, like all other Americans. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

So many stories of overcomers! America is full of these individual and collective stories of overcoming adversity to achieve success. It is a shame that these are not the voices we are hearing and heeding today. At present, it seems to be the voices of the victims that are taking center stage. Why these are today’s role models, I do not know. We used to celebrate the person who triumphs over hardships and setbacks to emerge victorious. Now it is a competition to be the most oppressed, the most victimized, and therefore the most entitled. There is no valor in victimhood. There is no value in victimhood. There is no honor in blaming others, circumstances, everything and everyone but yourself for what you are doing or not doing with the life you’ve been given.

Have we gone from a nation of indomitable overcomers to one of oppressed victims? It seems everyone wants to claim victim status nowadays. Obstacles in life have never before been the end point – obstacles are the things we rise above and overcome on our way to victory. What is success without the struggle? Nothing. The difficulties that must be overcome define the achievement. The apostle Paul had something to say about this in Romans chapter eight. He was talking about Christ followers being more than conquerors. Ironically, that is the opposite of what Karl Marx would say. He said that “religion is the opium of the people”, a crutch for weak people and nothing more.

However, the life of a Christ follower demands just the opposite of a weak, victim mentality. Following after Jesus is not for the faint of heart. It requires hard core dedication and determination. This life demands standing firm and laying down your life, speaking up when others remain silent and holding your tongue when others have lost their grip on their tongues. It involves overcoming evil with good, hate with love, darkness with light and lies with the Truth. Jesus told us clearly what to expect when He said,

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

I am following the One who has overcome all things, even death. Even though He was crucified on a cross, Jesus was not a victim, but arose the Victor on the third day, defeating death. (without the struggle, where is the victory?) Jesus calls me to live life as an overcomer, not as a victim. Paul says in Romans 8:35-39,

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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, you) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (italics mine)

“but despite all this, (trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword) overwhelming victory is ours (mine, yours) through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.” (Romans 8:37 Living Bible translation – parenthesis mine)

Overwhelming victory is mine in Christ! I am told I am more than a conqueror as a follower of Jesus Christ. My Heavenly Father does not intend for me to live as a victim but as a victor. Today I am free to choose which path I will pursue, which label I will wear. I will face many obstacles, that is a certainty. We all have many hardships, hurts and hurdles on our personal paths in this life. But we can take heart, knowing Jesus said He has already overcome the world.

So I will take heart and continue to fight the good fight. I will choose to live as a victor, not a victim. And I will remember a favorite quote,

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.” The victor fights the battle – the victim refuses to engage.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. weary and worn out #195

Ever feel like that? too tired to continue? Maybe it’s more than physical fatigue. Maybe it’s mental and emotional exhaustion that has moved in and taken up permanent residence within you. The uncertainty of current events, the ever present and ever changing COVID related rules, restrictions, predictions and warnings take their toll daily until a day comes when we realize we have no memory of what it was to feel good – to walk out into this beautiful world unafraid and ready to embrace the day. Do you remember living like that? It was little more than a year ago, actually. I confess – it seems that it was a lifetime ago, a memory distant and almost forgotten – a life that so easily slipped away while we cowered in fear.

So today, many of us may find ourselves weary, worn out and at the end of our proverbial ropes. Actually, many of us may have passed that point months ago. What is the way out of this place of perpetual weariness in which I find myself today? You wouldn’t think the book of Jeremiah would be the place to turn for encouragement, considering Jeremiah wasn’t the most upbeat prophet around. Still, I found these words in Jeremiah 6:16,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ ”

Isn’t that what we all desire, rest for our souls? Soul rest is the best kind of rest. When I have soul rest, my body, my mind and my heart can be at rest also. Soul rest is a complete rest born out of relationship with the One who offers me this rest, who promises me this rest if – if what? In Matthew 11:28 I am issued an invitation to rest from Jesus Himself,

“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.”

Interesting isn’t it, that Jeremiah and Jesus both use the same words, find rest for your souls. I guess that’s because the desire for and the search for rest is a universal thing, we just don’t realize that it is a very specific kind of rest we actually need to be at peace – rest for our souls. We can get all the physical rest we need and still find ourselves feeling weary and exhausted, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Without soul rest, there is no true rest. Maybe that’s why Jesus offers what is best. Jesus offers what you and I truly need, when He issues us His invitation to come to Him.

What do I have to do to receive this rest for my soul? Jeremiah’s words and Jesus’s words in Matthew tell me the actions I must take – stand, look, ask, walk, come, take, learn, – all actions that are up to me to do. When I decide to do these things, I will find the rest for my soul that Jesus offers to anyone who comes to Him and takes His yoke. I wouldn’t have thought exerting myself with all these actions would bring me rest – but that’s what Jesus promised would happen and that’s what does happen when I take Him at His word and put Him to the test. I come to Him, I take on the yoke, I learn from Him, I look for the “good way” and I walk in it. – the good way is always the harder, more strenuous way – why would I choose that way if it is rest I am seeking? Because Jesus promised rest would be the result.

When I am following Jesus, wearing His yoke, I do find rest for my soul. Jesus gives me His peace and my soul can rest in that peace which only He can provide.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

And when my soul rests, my body, mind and heart share in that rest – the rest that is the gift of God to His children. Psalm 23 paints a beautiful picture of what that rest looks like as I follow after Jesus –

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

restoration, renewal, rest for my soul – what I deeply desire and desperately need – the rest for my soul that Jesus offers to me in Matthew 11:28, (remember?)

“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.”

rest for my soul – is available to me – I can accept Jesus’s gracious, generous invitation to come, take upon, and learn – receiving in return the soul rest that I seek – the answer and the antidote to my current condition of “weary and worn out.”

Now I understand why David wrote in Psalm 62 these words,

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

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)

David was fighting many battles. I’m sure he was tired and wanted rest. I think I understand David’s weariness and longing for rest. I am fighting many battles, too, every day. I bet you are too, dear readers. Long before Jesus issued His invitation, recorded in Matthew, to give rest to anyone who comes to Him, David had already discovered that the true rest he sought could only be found in God. Probably because it is soul rest that David needed and only God could give David that kind of rest. That’s what I want too – God’s rest, God’s peace, – the peace that passes understanding because it doesn’t depend on my circumstances –

My Heavenly Father knows I need rest, He understands my weariness. Psalm 103:13-14 tells me,

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”

My Heavenly Father knows how weak I am and He will provide what I need – rest, renewal, strength to keep going, hope (the reason to keep going) – indeed,

“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.”

no longer weary and worn out!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. learning to love Leviticus #194

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Now I confess – I don’t spend much time reading Leviticus. It’s not my favorite book of the Bible. Actually – true confession – I don’t know that I ever turn to Leviticus when left to my own devices. But 2 Timothy says “all Scripture”, not just some of it, is important because all of it, not just some of it, is “God-breathed” or God inspired by His Holy Spirit. Jesus weighs in on this issue saying in Matthew 5:17-18,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Leviticus is a book of laws. Moses recorded God’s commands, directions, laws and guidelines for His people, the Israelites, to follow as prescribed in this book called Leviticus. However, the recording of all these rules and regulations doesn’t make for the most riveting reading to be sure.

Leviticus is the third book of the Bible, following Genesis and Exodus. This is a tough spot to be in because Genesis and Exodus are hard books to put down. They are full of action, adventure, intrigue – all the things you would expect from the telling of a family saga, including, but not limited to – drama, romance, conflict, betrayal, war, plagues, floods, struggle, deceit, treachery, valor, faith, miracles and more. Seriously, the first two books are real page turners. There’s a beautiful garden, an evil deceiver, the betrayal of brothers, the trickery of twins, the baby competition of two sisters, the building of a really big boat, the burning of a city by fire and brimstone, the parting of a sea, a burning bush, an abandoned baby in basket, a sibling sold into slavery, the faithfulness of Abraham, the deceitfulness of Laben, the miracle of Moses, who went from murderer to deliverer – there is nonstop action and human drama in these first two books of the Bible.

But that all comes to a screeching halt when we turn the page and find Leviticus waiting for us. Gone are the love stories and the war stories, the stories of sibling rivalry, of victory and defeat. Now instead we read endless lists of rules and regulations and directions for how to carry out these duties, such as required sacrifices and offerings. Indeed, Leviticus chapter one starts right out with the rules and directions for making a burnt offering to the Lord. Then the rules and directions for grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings follow. Leviticus continues with rules for special days that are to be observed, rules for food, rules for hygiene, rules for sex, rules for priests to follow – pretty much every aspect of life for the Israelites is covered in this book called Leviticus.

Interestingly, the very last verse of the very last chapter of Leviticus, would make a great first verse and introduction to the whole book. This is because this verse would give me, the reader, a heads up as to what is coming in the following pages. But I don’t read these words until the conclusion of the book, which are as follows –

“These are the commands the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites.” (Leviticus 27:34)

A little more than mid-way through this book of seemingly endless laws, rules, regulations and directions for how to live, I come across some words that put into perspective the reason for and the importance of this book, Leviticus, to the Israelites. I read in Leviticus 19:1-4,

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.’ ”

With these words, I start to get an idea of what Leviticus is all about. God is holy and He was trying to help His chosen people, the Israelites, become a holy people, set apart for Him, by giving them these guidelines for life. In chapter 10 of Leviticus I read about the death of two of Aaron’s sons, who were priests. They had not followed God’s instructions to them, but instead

“they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when He said: ‘Among those who approach Me I will show Myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ ” (they had dishonored God with their disobedient actions) (Leviticus 10:1-3)

As the conversation continues in Leviticus 10, I learn again why Leviticus matters.

“Then the Lord said to Aaron, ‘You and your sons . . . must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.’ ” (Leviticus 10:8-11)

Why did the people need to learn all these decrees, all these laws, commands, rules, regulations and directions? The answer is there, found among all the laws of Leviticus. I read it in Leviticus 11:44-45 and in Leviticus 20:7, where I find these words,

“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.”

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep My decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”

Centuries later, Peter would write much the same instruction saying,

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

As I read this book of rules and regulations called Leviticus, – a book of laws – I discover that it is a book of love as well. Leviticus is the expression of a Holy Creator God’s love for an unholy and rebellious people – the people He created, called and cared for with an everlasting love that would later be more fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. But at the time of Leviticus, this is the promise those people had from God –

“Observe My Sabbaths and have reverence for My sanctuary. I am the Lord. If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. . . . I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep My covenant with you. . . . I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” (Leviticus 26:2-13)

This is such a beautiful picture of what God intends for us, for me and for you, dear readers. It is no coincidence that in the second to the last chapter of the very last book of the Bible, God is still talking about these very same things. Revelation 21:1-4 tells me,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ”

From the garden in Genesis (where God walked with Adam and Eve), to the desert in Exodus (where God went with the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night), to His pledge in Leviticus that it was His intention to dwell among them and to make them His people, to His promise in Revelation that He intends to live with us and make us His own – our Heavenly Father’s intentions towards us have never wavered. He was pursuing His people through the laws of Leviticus then and He is pursuing us still to this day, even now. God will not give up His pursuit of me and of you, until Revelation becomes reality and all our tears are wiped away in His presence. No wonder King David said in Psalm 119:72,

“The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” David also said,

“Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. Praise be to You, O Lord; teach me Your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from Your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways. I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word.” (Psalm 119:97-98 and 12-16)

Just think, David was describing Leviticus in this Psalm about how he loved God’s laws. (I mean, what book is more full of God’s laws than Leviticus?) David didn’t seem to look upon God’s commands and directions, precepts and statutes as boring or unimportant. Guess I could take a lesson from David and learn to love Leviticus like he did. Then I will be able to say along with David,

“for I delight in Your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to Your commands, which I love, and I meditate on Your decrees.” (Psalm 119:47-48)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. more voices from the past #193

Ok, I confess – I’m hearing voices again. But these are not voices of imaginary people or beings. These are the very real voices of very real people who are no longer living. But their voices can still be heard if one cares to take the time to listen and learn. Today, I sit in a classroom surrounded by voices from the past. Their names and their words (commonly called quotes) cover the walls of the classroom. These voices from the past are calling out to me and I am listening. Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens, Marian Anderson and Harriet Tubman are some of the people who are speaking to me this morning. I have previously written about Harriet Tubman (post – C.C. voices from the past #172) so I will share some words of wisdom from some others today.

Thurgood Marshall said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Jesse Owens words also instruct and inspire, “Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.” Where or on what we choose to fix our gaze and our thoughts really does matter. It really does make all the difference. That must be why Hebrews 12:2 tells me to, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.” That must be why Philippians 4:8 instructs me in this way, “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.”

That’s what Jesse was saying, look for the good, the good in people, the good in our circumstances, the good and many blessings of life that each day brings to us. Look for those miracles amid the mundane, as I would say. I can choose to count my blessings and give God thanks. What can I learn today as I sit surrounded by these voices from the past? Will I listen or will I ignore the lessons they have left to me and to you? Will I allow their voices to be silenced forever with the rewriting of history to fit today’s “truth”, a place where their voices are no longer welcome?

I would miss Marian Anderson’s voice and her words of wisdom when she said, “As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.” How true! Oppression holds in bondage both the oppressed and the oppressors. It may look different from the outside, but nobody in such a society is truly free. That’s why I must defend my neighbor’s rights as my own. If some are not free in this country, then none of us are free.

Voices from the past continue to instruct and to inspire me. As I sit with them this morning, Ronald Reagan’s words ring in my ears – ” . . . America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection. . . . (it’s) why the Pilgrims came here, . . . If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.” Reagan spoke those words in 1989. I wonder if his voice was heard then? I wonder if anyone besides me is hearing and heeding his voice today?

Voices from a much more distant past also speak wisdom into today. Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas both had something to say about this idea of rewriting human history. Their thoughts arise from “the law of contradiction” which Aristotle says is the basis of all reasoning, the means by which we make sense of the world. This law states that both X and Y cannot be true at the same time if they are mutually exclusive. (my friend cannot be both taller than I am and shorter than I am at the same time. Only one of those possibilities can be true)

In this current time of COVID, the law of contradiction would mean that our elected officials cannot tell us that it is too dangerous for church services to take place while simultaneously saying that massive protest marches are safe and therefore permissible. (or that it’s safe to shop at Walmart but not at a smaller mom and pop shop? – seems like that would be the opposite, less people equals less exposure, therefore less danger from the virus? -seems like the small places should have stayed open, not the big box stores full of people from all over, instead of people from a specific neighborhood)

“So the law of contradiction means we can’t change the past. Truth resides in the past because the present is fleeting and confusing and tomorrow isn’t here yet. The past, on the other hand, is complete. Aristotle and Aquinas go so far as to say that changing the past – making what has been not to have been – is denied even to God. Because if something both happened and didn’t happen, no human understanding is possible. And God created us with the capacity for understanding. That’s the law of contradiction, which the art of doublethink denies and violates. . . . If the past can be changed, anything can be changed – man can surpass even the power of God.” (from Larry P. Arnn’s speech on Nov. 17th, 2020 in Rogers, Ar.)

Wonder what Aristotle would think about events transpiring today? So much doublethink, I think would make even Aristotle rethink his beliefs. Words are being redefined today at a rate so fast that no dictionary could possibly keep current. Thomas Sowell made this interesting observation –

“If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical fifty years ago, a liberal twenty-five years ago and a racist today.” Same belief or opinion but a different label is put on the person holding that opinion depending on what the popular thought of the day is. So yesterday’s radical is today’s racist. Is there a truth that doesn’t change? Hebrews 13:8 tells me,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Finally, a person who doesn’t change with every whim of culture and wind of popular opinion or personal preference, but remains constant throughout every era of human history and beyond – the person of Jesus Christ. What connection does the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ have with my search for truth that does not change over time or with the times? John 14:6 answers my question this way,

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ”

Jesus is the Truth and Hebrews tells me that Jesus hasn’t changed, doesn’t change and won’t change. I can count on His constancy. Because Jesus doesn’t change and He is Truth, I can know Truth that will not change when I know Jesus. Psalm 119:160 tells me something else about what is true,

“All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal.” In John 17:17 Jesus says as He prays to God for His disciples,

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” So God’s word is Truth and it is an enduring, lasting Truth. I read in Matthew 24:35,

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

So I have found Truth that not only will not change over time, but will also stand the test of time. It will remain over time, despite the fact that everything else falls away. In these days of doublethink and deception I do long to know what is true. Decisions based on false facts are never good decisions. Lies can limit my understanding and hold me hostage. Truth is necessary for freedom to exist. That must be why Jesus said in John 8:31-32,

” . . . 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.’ ”

Freedom – the desire for freedom is what drove those who left their own countries to set sail and cross an ocean in search of a new land where they could live free. This desire for freedom is still the driving force today behind the journeys of those willing to risk everything for the opportunity to live in freedom. Remember the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. God eventually delivered them from slavery into freedom. He sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and God Himself went with them on their journey in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. God was with them and they were set free. It is interesting what 2 Corinthians 3:17 says,

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

There is freedom in God’s presence. Must be why Psalm 33:12 says,

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.”

Another voice from America’s past said these prophetic words,

“America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Spoken over a century ago, this voice from the past seems to know what is happening in our country today. If only we might listen to and learn from these voices from the past, what sorrow we might yet be spared! This is a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Gettysburg Address) Too many have laid down their lives defending our freedoms for us to so easily give those freedoms up now without a word of protest. Did they sacrifice their very lives only to see the light of freedom extinguished here and therefore in the world?

One powerful voice from the past proclaimed these words when he delivered the greatest speech of all time (in my opinion). Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Lincoln memorial on August 28th, 1963. Much of what he spoke about has been realized in the years following his speech, entitled “I have a dream”, until recent forces have attempted to undo the positive progress that has been achieved. Freedom – the desire of every human heart and the birthright of every American citizen. Dr. King ended his speech with these words,

” . . . when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring . . . And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

I want to add my voice to those voices from the past fighting for freedom. I want to join with them in crying out, “let Freedom ring!”

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. mother’s day without Mom #192

The appearance of the large manila envelope in my mailbox came as if on cue – perfectly timed to arrive just before Mother’s Day. It was full of old photos of our family. Grandparents, parents, siblings, children and grandchildren are represented in various photos. This becomes another trip down memory lane – one I’m not so sure I want to take so close to Mother’s Day, but I am already on memories’ road headed back in time as I look at the pictures my sister has sent. How young we all were! Had our parents ever been that young? (I confess -when we were young, they seemed old – but of course, in retrospect, they were young, especially when viewed from eyes now older than they were in some of the pictures – age is relative and perspective is everything, isn’t it?)

So my journey begins with the old photos and ends with me missing Mom on Mother’s Day. (not that I don’t miss her every other day of the year also) Memories can be good company, especially when they are good memories and I have plenty of those. Still, as we have all learned during this past year, there really is no substitute for the real thing or in this case, the real person, in person. Of course, there does come a time when the in-person experience with the real person is no longer possible. No plane, train or automobile can cross the chasm death creates between us and those we love.

I look at a picture of my first Mother’s Day as a new mom with my Mom and Grandma and my newborn daughter, four generations of women together for a time, until time separated us by her passing. I think back to in-person Mother’s Days of the past and wish for just one more to celebrate with Mom and Grandma. I can still see, with memory’s eyes, Grandma’s garden with the orange poppies blooming and Mom’s backyard with the iris and the peonies coming into full bloom as if for no other reason than to celebrate them on Mother’s Day.

Those flowers continue to come up year after year at the appointed time. And I continue to celebrate my Mom and my Grandma, year after year, and to give thanks for their presence in my life for the years that I had them with me. They left me quite a legacy, these two ladies, one that I hold in my heart and hope to live up to. These words from Proverbs 31:30-31 are apt on this Mother’s Day,

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Although my Mom and my Grandma were both charming and beautiful, they were also both full of those intangible, enduring qualities that outlast the years, becoming stronger as time passes. Each of them lived through tough times and faced challenging circumstances in their lives. But both women persevered through the ups and downs and finished well. Kindness, compassion, empathy, perseverance, steadfastness, courage and faith are the legacy they leave me. But these things are not an inheritance. Attributes such as courage and faith are not passed down, they are no one’s to give away. They are acquired in the process of living – of fighting the good fight, of striving to live an honorable life. They are forged in the life long labor of pursuing God.

They finished well, my Mom and my Grandma. That is the gift of their legacy. Their enduring faith, which grew steadily stronger until the end, when it was at its strongest. That is finishing well. This is what I remember and celebrate this Mother’s Day and everyday.

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

Thank You, Lord, for the gifts of my Mom and my Grandma,

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. for such a time as this #191

Technology has been giving me an especially hard time lately. Computer problems, phone problems – these only serve to remind me how dependent I have become on the services technology provides me. When technology refuses to render her services to me, I find myself lost and unable to accomplish what I need to get done. This causes me to remember pre-computer, pre-internet times with more than just nostalgia, with something more like longing. Have you ever thought you were born in the wrong historical time period or wished you lived in a different era of human history? The past is often romanticized and we talk about “the good old days.” But each century has had its own challenges. (kind of like “each day has enough trouble of its own”)

Still, in one of my favorite movies, the heroine does exchange her 21rst century, modern day life in New York City for life in the late 1800″s with an English Duke. (if only time travel were actually possible) I’m sure she experienced some culture shock but she choose to live in a different time in history because she fell in love with the Duke who was mistakenly in her world momentarily, but had to return to his own time in history. It was all very romantic, and it got me to thinking – if I could live in any age in history, what would I choose? What would you choose, dear readers?

Would I want to live pre-automobile, when travel by horse or horse-drawn carriage was common? – when farm to table was what people ate three times a day and communication was hand written and delivered by Pony Express? I do remember having pen pals from far away places and loving to get letters in the mail. (although that was snail mail, not Pony Express) I sometimes wonder about experiencing life in centuries past, but I do have to confess – I am quite attached to indoor plumbing and would not easily give that up. (even for a handsome English Duke)

But that choice has never been mine to make anyway. My Heavenly Father, Creator of all the universe, chose the time and the place into which I was born. Those decisions are His alone to make. I can question, but in the end, it is God alone who knows all things. It is God alone who knows the end from the beginning and He has put me here in this place and in this time in history “for such a time as this.” That’s why these words spoken to Esther by her uncle Mordecai are so powerful –

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

By royal position, Mordecai was referring to the fact that Esther had been made queen by King Xerxes, who ruled over one-hundred and twenty-seven provinces, including Persia and Media. By for such a time as this, Mordecai was referring to the fact that an edict had just been issued by King Xerxes stating that all the Jews who were currently living scattered throughout the many provinces of Xerxes’s kingdom were to be killed.

“Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and little children – on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13)

In an interesting plot twist, Queen Esther, herself, is a Jew, something Xerxes does not yet know. “But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.” (Esther 2:20)

So Esther, a Jewish orphan girl, was now in a position to be able to help her people at the very time when her people needed someone to save them from what was coming – imminent and certain death. However, there was a risk to Esther if she came before the king and revealed her true identity. Esther could be put to death herself. Mordecai’s counsel to her was this,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

Esther listened to her uncle. She did not remain silent. She revealed herself to King Xerxes and asked him to intervene on behalf of her people to save them from this decree of death. Xerxes did so and the lives of the Jewish people living in his kingdom were spared. The two day celebration of Purim commemorates this time in their history – a time when God intervened by using Queen Esther to spare their lives. God put Esther in that unique place precisely for such a time in history as she found herself. Esther obeyed God, fulfilling His divine purpose for her.

No greater joy than that – to fulfill God’s good purposes for her. Like Esther, I want to know that I have a divine purpose also. Don’t you? I think we all want our lives to have meaning and purpose. It is no coincidence that this was the topic of conversation this week in my ladies’ Bible study. One woman said, “I want to know, what is my purpose here?” It is the same question we all ask of ourselves at some point. Ephesians 2:10 tells us this,

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

So God does have a plan and a purpose for you and for me, dear readers. God chose such a time as this for me to live upon the earth and He chose this time in history for you as well. (because if you are reading this, you are here now) Perhaps what He has for you or for me to do is not as dramatic as what He called Esther to do. God placed her in a high position so that she could save many lives. Esther could easily have lost her own life in coming before the king, revealing her identity and making her request that he intervene on behalf of her people. But Esther showed great courage when she did not remain silent, but spoke up and took action.

This may seem like a difficult time in which to be alive. 2020 was a year no one would choose, if indeed such choices were ours to make, and the challenges from that year are continuing with us into our current year. However, we were put here for such a time as this. May you and I, like Esther, not shrink back from the challenges of our calling in Christ. For such a time as this, God has us here, now. And He tells us,

“This is what God the Lord says – He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’ ” (Isaiah 42:5-7)

God has called you, God has called me – for such a time as this!

sincerely, Grace Day