which holiday is it?

Yesterday I thought I should pick up some Halloween candy in preparation for the annual onslaught of costumed kids who will be ringing my door bell just two days from now. Stores have been full of both costumes and candy for weeks if not months now and my neighborhood has many homes adorned with all kinds of spooky Halloween decor, some so elaborate as to rival even Christmas decorations.

However, imagine my surprise when as I shopped for Halloween candy, there next to it I found Christmas Oreos! Yes, already on the shelf, Christmas Oreos, with the red cream filling replacing the original white filling and the words “JOY” on the package. Well, I have to admit, Oreos are always a joy, any time of year and it was a joy to find them there and know that at the moment Oreos are not being impacted by supply chain shortages. Perhaps having Oreos in stock softens the blow of not having cars available for purchase due to computer chip supply issues?

Nevertheless, seeing Christmas cookies already on the store shelf shook me up a little. I mean I feel like I am always a bit behind and therefore playing catch up all the time (after all I am just now getting Halloween candy) but there are still two holidays to go before Christmas and seeing these seasonal Oreos made me feel undue pressure to prepare for a holiday that is still two months away.

This also made me think, what about Thanksgiving? I call it “the forgotten holiday.” Even so, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine. Sure, there are no gifts to buy, no cards to send, no decorations necessary to speak of, so not a lot of marketing/money making potential compared to more commercial holidays – but still – Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, it deserves better. I mean, what’s not to like? Food, family, football, faith – these things sum up the day that is Thanksgiving. This holiday started as a day to be grateful to God for all our blessings – a day to actually count all the ways in which we are recipients of God’s grace and give Him thanks.

Consider George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1879. In it he stated, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and whereas both houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

And so it began – Thanksgiving – officially (on paper) a day of public thanks and prayer to God for His provision and protection. Today do we have the outward form of what was, without the inward filling of the true acknowledgement of God as the source of all things good, thus leaving an empty shell where once a rich reality existed? When did we give that up? When did we become so easily satisfied with empty observances, separated from their true origins and so robbed of their power to remind us, to reconnect us and to reinspire us – to a resolve that the God upon whom this nation was founded shall not now be cast aside but rather shall be again acknowledge as the One “from whom all blessings flow.”

Thanksgiving – a holiday to remember and to give thanks to God. May it not become the forgotten holiday. We desperately need to remember.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. . . . Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. . . . He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. . . . He sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:1-22)

let us not forget this holiday, falling between Halloween and Christmas – Thanksgiving Day reminds us to be thankful and to give thanks to our Creator, Sustainer –

sincerely, Grace Day

the eyes have it

They used to say “you are what you eat.” (I don’t know who “they” are and I don’t know if “they” still proclaim that particular piece of advice?) But it seems to me that there is another piece of advice easily overlooked and maybe not fully embraced nor fully understood. It is this. Where I look determines where I end up. My feet follow where my eyes lead me. Who or what I look to for guidance and direction determines the course my life will take and subsequently, where I will end up. In Psalm 121:1-2, King David says,

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

David looked up, he looked to God for the help and direction he desired. He could have looked to himself or to other rulers or to men considered wise in his current culture, but he looked to the God he knew was sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient. In fact, he said in Psalm 119:15,

“I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my eyes on Your ways.” (ESV) another translation says, ” . . . and keep my eyes on Your ways.” (CJB)

We say in sports vernacular that it is imperative to “keep your eye on the ball.” In other words, we are to look at what matters most if we want to succeed at whatever it is we are doing. Keeping my eye on the prize is important because it affects the outcome. Peter found this out firsthand when he was walking on the water toward Jesus. He got distracted, took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink into the sea.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ ” (Matthew 14:29-30)

Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and “saw the wind.” He then focused on his dangerous, difficult circumstance, instead of focusing on the One who had called him just moments before to come to Him.

“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to You on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He (Jesus) said.” (Matthew 14:27-29)

Peter got distracted. He turned his gaze to look upon something other than the One who was making it possible for him to walk on the water in the first place. When Peter lost his focus, he lost his footing, he lost his ability to stay the course set before him. Fortunately for him, Jesus answered his plea for help. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!” and

“Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him (Peter).” (Matthew 14:31)

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but my daily life is filled with distractions. Now not many of these distractions put me in any immediate danger (like say, texting while driving) but most of them do lead me to lesser places than what my Heavenly Father is calling me to and preparing for me. When I get distracted, I shift my gaze and I end up shifting my direction. Then I find myself somewhere other than where I was originally headed. I want to ask God, along with the psalmist,

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:37)

No wonder the author of Hebrews tells me to “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith,” (Hebrews 12:2)

If I don’t keep my eyes on my Savior, like Peter, I will began sinking in the sea of volatile, everchanging circumstances that surround me every day. I will be engulfed by the realities of this broken world in which we all live and destroyed by the personal hardships that come to each one of us precisely because we are human creatures, separated from our Creator at birth, and desperately trying to find our way back. To find that way home, I have to keep my eyes fixed on the One who came to lead me and to lead you, home. The way is narrow and I will not find it if I take my eyes off of Jesus.

Psalm 105:4 tells me,

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” This I must do – so I can say along with the psalmist,

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

sincerely, Grace Day

buried alive

this can be literal, as when a skier is caught unaware in an avalanche and ends up buried alive by snow. This can also be metaphorical, which I believe is much more common. I can end up feeling buried alive beneath the cares and concerns of the coming day before the sun has even risen. The anticipated dread of what the day will bring often overtakes and buries me before I have a chance to get to higher ground. (a good reason to seek safe ground via prayer before the onslaught of avalanches comes my way) The difficulties, pain, losses, failures, conflicts, and uncertainties the day brings continue to pile on, eventually leaving me buried beneath the weight of the world’s accumulated problems.

The skier needs to dig his way out from under all that snow if he is to find fresh air to breathe and live. Likewise, I need to find my way out from under all that has buried me and threatens to take my life if I can’t find the way up and out from where I am. Trouble is, once buried, it is dark and I often lose my sense of direction in the dark. I become disoriented. I no longer know which way is up and which is down. This loss of direction will prove fatal in the end. If I am headed in the wrong direction, I will not end up in the light and fresh air but will end up even farther from light and air than I was when I started.

This can happen to scuba divers who become disoriented while diving deep under the ocean’s surface. If they no longer know which way is up and which is down, they don’t know which way to swim to return to the ocean’s surface and fresh air. This loss of direction proves fatal in the end. Whether I am buried beneath water, snow, earth or the cares of the world, a sense of direction is essential if I am to survive – if I am to find my way back to fresh air, light, hope and home.

Avalanches are unexpected. They take us by surprise. There are days I suddenly find myself buried alive beneath – well, beneath so many things – both personal challenges and those needs, heartaches and dire straights of those I know and care about – which add up, threatening to engulf me – and as I gasp for air, the problems of the world, the whole world, dark and dangerous, pile on, eliminating any last light that was visible from my position at the bottom of what quickly becomes a pit, my pit.

Now, in the darkness, I quickly become disoriented. I forget which way is up. I am without air, without light, without markers to give me direction, without hope – buried alive – who can rescue me? Who can show me which way to go? Who can show me the way out? I need to know the truth – which way is up? When I am buried alive, I need to know the way to fresh air, light and life. Fortunately for me, there exists a person who is the answer to these urgent questions of mine. In John 14:6 I read,

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

I am looking for the way – the way up, the way out, the way forward, the way that leads to life – and as it turns out, Jesus is The Way! When I find myself buried alive, I can look to Him to receive the direction that I so desperately need. Actually, I will call to Him because when I am buried beneath my burdens, I am in a dark place. The darkness hides His face. I am not able to see Him, so I have to call out in my darkness. He always answers. Jesus is the way which will lead me out of this live burial place into the light – His light – His love – His life.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:1-2)

The apostle Paul knew what it was to be buried alive. In Romans 7:24 he cried out,

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul felt the hardships and the heartaches of this world pressing down on him, probably most keenly during the times he spent in prison. Paul dealt with the sickness and the sin that threatened to bury him and others alive under the sheer weight of it all by turning to Jesus, who is The Way, to show him the way. Today, we are still subject to being buried alive under the multitude of things we encounter every day. When difficulties pile too high, our way is blocked, our vision is cut off. Eventually, we end up in total darkness, lost and disoriented. We can’t see or find our way out when we don’t know which way is up and which is down.

We need the One who is The Way, to show us the way. We need light to come into our darkness. In John 8:12 I read,

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”

Jesus very presence is light. His presence with me brings the light I need in order to see clearly which way is up, which direction I need to go to be saved from this avalanche which has buried me alive. Looking to my Heavenly Father gives me the direction I need in those times when I don’t know which way to go because I don’t know which way is up. I have His promise in Psalm 32:8 –

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Being buried alive is very scary – there seems to be no way out – no way of escape. But my cries in the darkness are heard and answered. My Heavenly Father says,

“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 43:19)

thank You, Lord for rescuing me when I am buried alive by the cares of this world, thank You for making a way out when there was no way, thank You for digging me out time after time –

sincerely, Grace Day

harmers in healer’s clothes

Recently, I warned you, dear readers, that there are a lot of wolves out there dressing up as sheep and living among us. Remember? (the post was “more wolves are wearing wool these days”) Consequently, it is very hard for me to know which people I can trust and which people I should fear. They all look the same to me. I think the wolves are fellow sheep because they are wearing so much wool. They appear to be harmless because they are the epitome of cute and cuddly. And so these wool-wearing wolves live side by side with us, day after day, and no one seems to be the wiser.

Still it seems the flock is thinner than it used to be. Sheep are dying all around us and we are told to do certain things or we will die too. We are full of grief and fear and uncertainty. We want someone to make it all better – someone to make it stop – someone to tell us what to do. We are desperate for solutions to this terror that has come upon us. Although as sheep, we are most comfortable as a flock, (that’s how we roll, how we are healthiest and happiest) we are told the first thing we must do is separate ourselves from each other. No more flock. Go off on your own and wait for further instructions. You will get news of how the other sheep are doing in due time.

Those sheep that take charge seem so genuine, so concerned about the other members of the flock, so determined to keep us safe that we gladly listen to them and follow where they lead us. The flock continues to get thinner, which is why they come up with even more things we must do to keep ourselves safe while dealing with this ever present danger. Some things don’t make sense but we are told it is for our own good, for our own protection. As cute and cuddly sheep, it is in our nature to follow the flock, trusting that those in charge have our best interests at heart. And so even as the flock continues to thin, we continue to follow and obey. We are nothing if not law abiding. (even when the laws change every day – or is that the science that changes every day?)

After all, we are all wearing wool, aren’t we? However, some are wearing a very special kind of wool, which is highly valued and sets them apart as those having knowledge, training and expertise beyond anything the average sheep could aspire to or possess. We trust these sheep, the ones wearing this special wool, because these are the ones who have dedicated their lives to the care and healing of everyone in the flock and of flocks everywhere. These are the ones we have turned to when we have been injured or fallen ill and they have treated us with care and compassion, bringing us back to health time after time. Why would now be any different?

My grandfather was one of those that wore the special wool. He dedicated his life to helping and to healing the hurting and the sick. The white lab coat he wore in his day is still worn by those today who also similarly dedicate their lives to healing the sick among us and to keeping us healthy. Scientists dedicating their lives to finding cures for cancer and other ailments also wear the “special wool” of the white lab coat. However, consider what an utter disaster it would be for flocks of sheep everywhere, if wolves were also wearing white lab coats. The sheep have been trained to trust anyone wearing a white lab coat. After all, white lab coat wearers are the ones that know things, special and difficult things. Those that wear white lab coats should be listened to at all times – even if the flock continues to thin as everyone follows their directives.

Worse yet, what if the white lab coat wearing sheep follow the guidance (some call them mandates) of the white lab coat wearing wolves? The purposes of the former are just the opposite of the purposes of the latter. Consider what John 10:10 says about this situation in which the sheep find themselves –

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;” – wolves are predators – they prey on the very sheep they have taken such great pains to blend in with and get close to – that’s why we describe these people as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” When we find that we have been deceived by them, we say they “pulled the wool over our eyes.” Often though, we don’t find out the true identity of the wolf until it’s too late – when there is no way of escape – the table is set – dinner is served and we are the dinner!

How dare the harmer wear the coat of the healer! This is the ultimate betrayal of trust! But then the role model for that very behavior is the enemy of our souls, who has been deceiving us from the beginning. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 I read,

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

What’s a sheep to do? There are those among us wearing white lab coats, telling us what to do, while members of our flock continue to be lost due to isolation, starvation, depression, vaccination, suicide, drug overdose, untreated illnesses – the “cure” the leader of the lab coats called for has resulted in so much loss and death – but we are told not to question those that wear the white lab coats. How to tell the wolves from the sheep? They are all wearing wool and white lab coats. Matthew 12:33 and Matthew 7:15-20 explain it to me in this way,

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

So I won’t know them by how they look (of course not, they are wearing wool!) and I won’t know them by what they say,

“A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” (Proverbs 26:24-26)

however, I can know them by what they do, by the outcomes of their actions, by what their actions produce – in other words, I can know them by the fruit of their actions. Their actions will give them away eventually. The wool-wearing, white lab coat bearing wolves will one day be exposed for who they really are. We can only hope this revelation happens soon, before more sheep are murdered in the name of protecting the flock. But what can I do as a member of the flock, watching so much heartache, loss and deception taking place all around me? Jesus gave this instruction to His disciples when He sent them out into the world –

“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

Do no harm to anyone. I think that’s the sacred oath of those who wear the white lab coats, isn’t it? Intend no harm, do no harm. I don’t want to end up following the wrong leader – the leader who says “we do no harm, this is for your own good,” but then proceeds to do vast and incredible harm to unsuspecting innocents, or the leader who says we are going “here” but then takes us “there.” To that end I will choose the Lord to be my shepherd. He is the One I can trust completely. He leads me “beside still waters and makes me lie down in green pastures.” But more than that, He did something else really spectacular for me. He protected me, He saved me, by sacrificing His own life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Matthew 10:11)

And that’s just what Jesus did for me and for you, dear readers. He laid His life down on a cross more than two-thousand years ago and now sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for me and for you, while He waits for us to arrive safely home at last. Today I cry out to Him, asking Him to protect me, to protect us all, from the wolf wearing wool and a white lab coat, and from all who follow after this wolf instead of following the true Shepherd.

“Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight Your way before me.” (Psalm 5:8)

sincerely, Grace Day

what’s so special about today?

It’s not a national holiday. It’s not one of my children’s birthdays, nor is it my birthday. (although it is somebody’s birthday out there) It’s not the anniversary of some major historical event. (like D-day or Pearl Harbor Day) No, today is just an ordinary day – that is if you accept the premise that there can be ordinary days. I think everyday is extraordinary in its own right – it’s my perception of a day as ordinary that prevents me from seeing and experiencing all the unique potential the day holds. I feel as if my life is made up of ordinary days and yet . . .

did you know that this so called ordinary day is actually “National New Friends Day”? How cool is that? Friends are one of life’s best gifts. The possibility of meeting and making a new friend adds excitement to my supposedly ordinary day. I know where I started this day, but I don’t yet know where I will end up because I don’t know what the day holds in store for me or where it will take me. Such is the mystery of the ordinary days which make up our lives.

The weather where I live is often an apt metaphor for an ordinary day. Rarely is one all sun or all rain. Most days have some of both, a stormy morning and afternoon can give way to a clear evening with a beautiful sunset or vice versa. The promise of a perfect day made by a morning filled with warm sunshine can give way in an instant to thunder and lightning bringing torrents of rain. Drastic temperature changes are also common here in the span of a day.

So too, are my ordinary days – into each enters some good news, some bad news, some unexpected joy and some unwelcome sadness. Ordinary days are full of all the things that make up a life – success and failure, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, hope and discouragement, belonging and loneliness, kind words and cruel words, hard work and rest, faith and doubt – all these and more coexist simultaneously together in the space of one ordinary day. Of course not in equal amounts on any given day. One day may have much more rain than sun, every day will have its challenges and its rewards.

so now, I am back to my original question – what is so special about today? Well, aside from the fun fact that it is Mother Theresa Day in Albania, I think Psalm 118:24 answers this question best –

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Today is special because God made it, ordained it, and is present in it. And there’s more. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says this –

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Today is a day of salvation! That’s pretty special. Hebrews 3:15 tells me,

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” I am also told,

“. . . choose for yourself this day whom you will serve, . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Today is a day of choice, what or whom will I pursue? Every choice I make today matters. Today is special because it is a gift of time and opportunity from God to me.

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

“Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

every day is special in some way, every day is a gift from God, every day is filled with gifts from God, if I would but open my eyes to see them and my heart to receive them –

today is special in some way, (actually in many ways) today is a gift from God, today is filled with gifts from God, if I would but open my eyes to see them and my heart to receive them – yes, today is a very special day.

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

sincerely, Grace Day

more wolves are wearing wool these days

yes, wool seems to be the most popular fashion choice for today’s active wolf. It is the wolf version of “dress for success” if you will. Why is the well dressed wolf choosing wool over other fashion options? Simple – wearing wool allows wolves to live among those that they prey upon without being noticed and ousted before they have the opportunity to destroy their prey. Everyone is caught off guard when the attack comes because the enemy was dressed in the familiar clothing of kinship. The sheep didn’t recognize the wolf, they saw only another fellow sheep.

Lots of adversaries have taken this fashion advice right out of the wool-wearing wolves playbook. I was attacked just today by a technology wolf pretending to be someone else via email. The email appeared to come from two familiar, well known to me “friends” (for lack of a better word). PayPal was informing me about a purchase I had made from Land’s End. I recognized both names as trusted, familiar entities from my past and present experience. So no reason to look more closely at the email’s content, it was “dressed” correctly – except that I have not made any purchases in quite some time, from Land’s End or from anywhere else. So although the email looked legit, seemed like something that would be true of me, upon further reflection, I realized this must be an imposter! I had made no such purchase!

Why did they send me this email? What did they want from me? And who are “they”? Who sent me the phony email? Well, some wolf disguised as a familiar friend sent me the email. The objective? – to get me to “click here” if the info in the email was not correct (which it wasn’t) so that I could supposedly cancel the order I had never placed in the first place. In order to cancel the erroneous order, I would need to give them all sorts of my personal identifying and financial information (such as my credit card info for the refund). This friendly email acted as if it was trying to protect me and to help me get my money back from an order I did not place. This email came dressed as my friend, who is trying to help me out by righting a wrong done to me.

Ironically however, this email was really my enemy, trying to steal from me my money, my identity, and my personal information. I couldn’t see who they really were because they were wearing someone else’s clothes so they could get close enough to me to steal my information. This enemy in disguise seemed to have my best interests at heart, but their true intention all along was to harm me.

Sometimes I just don’t know who to trust anymore. There are a lot of wool-wearing people out there today. We used to call them posers or imposters or hypocrites. But whatever you call them, they all have one thing in common – they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are wearing wool but they are not warm and cuddly and cute and comforting. They are cold and callous, calculating and cruel. They are up to no good. Jesus even warned about them in Matthew 7:15-20 saying,

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

So I might not recognize my enemy based on his appearance, but if I watch carefully what he does and says, his behavior will give his true identity away. In other words, he may look like a sheep, what with all that warm woolly wool he’s wearing – but is he behaving like a sheep? That is the question. In John 10:10-15, Jesus talks about recognizing the difference between the real thing and an imposter,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Big difference between leaving the sheep to be devoured by the wolf and laying down one’s life to protect those sheep. Hope those sheep figured out who truly had their best interests at heart before it was too late. I would hate to find out I was following the hired hand when I could have been following the Good Shepherd all along. Yes, more wolves are wearing wool these days. Peter warned about this in his letter when he said,

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)

I need to be able to identify the wolves. Otherwise they could devour me. (I wrote about this in a post “identifying the enemy” awhile back) Fortunately John wrote to believers about this very issue. He said,

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4)

Yes, there are a lot of wool-wearing wolves walking around in our world today. They are seeking to destroy and devour anyone who would follow them, anyone who does not see through their woolly disguise into their wily wolves’ hearts. Paul warned us about this danger when he said,

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

I want to follow only Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd and not to be enticed away by false figures, who appear to be as warm and soft as the wool with which they clothe themselves, but in reality prove to be as cold and hard-hearted as is the enemy of our souls. No, I will say with David,

“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. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

sincerely, Grace Day

missing mom today

While sorting through things that normally remain out of sight, out of mind, yet tend to accumulate with time – so that eventually I am forced to figure out what to do with these relics from my past – I came across something I’d written for my mom so many years ago that I didn’t even remember it. Now I’m wondering if I ever gave her this poem? Time has a way of slipping past me, reminding me today not to leave things undone until tomorrow. Mom’s no longer here, so I’ll share this poem, simply titled “Mom”, with you today instead.

If I could paint your portrait, what color would I choose?

How can anyone color love? Perhaps in rainbow’s hues?

A rainbow’s spectrum is complete, the prism shows its glory.

White light holds all earthly hues, perhaps these will paint your story.

Yet who would paint a still life, when your life is never still?

but flows like springs of water, with love our lives to fill.

Who could paint your spirit of silently flowing grace?

No brush could capture with its strokes, the beauty in your face.

And so these love lines are for you – they’re all I have to give.

Such a small reward for one who taught me how to live.

“A wife (woman) of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10) miss you, Mom –

sincerely, Grace Day

you can’t go home again

that’s what “they” say, but today I put this hypothesis to the test and tried anyway. I went back after a year and seven months. I went back wondering what I would find after such a long absence – but I went back nonetheless. I returned to the gym, my gym. COVID had closed my gym in March of 2020, along with all the other gyms and everything else. But while my gym had eventually reopened, I had stayed away. Why had it taken me so long to return?

The longer I stayed away, the larger my fears of what a return would be like, loomed in my mind. This gym had become my “Cheers” over the years – filled with familiar faces and friendly smiles – we knew each others’ names – we knew each others’ stories. Now what would I find? Better just to remember my gym as it had been – right? Also, the longer I stayed away, the more “unfit” I felt I was becoming. Would they recognize me? Would anyone even remember me? Would I be able to keep up with the routines of the aerobics class I had attended for so long?

These were questions I could not answer and so I stayed away. Until today – today I decided to return home, so to speak. I realized that the longer I wait to return to my gym, the more out of shape I will continue to become. Nothing is going to change until I decide to “go home again.” You can bet I felt a little like the prodigal son who returned home after his long absence. He did not know what to expect, but he found his home and his family still there and he was given a warm welcome. So was I!

There were still familiar faces and they still knew my name. The gym is still my “Cheers” after all. Ok, so the routines were all new and the music, too. I was a little lost trying to keep up during class and I will be more than a little sore by tomorrow, I’m sure. But you can go home again, dear readers! I’m so glad I did. I’m glad I didn’t stay away any longer. The reunion with old friends was joyfilled and oh so sweet. There were some faces missing, it is inevitable in an everchanging world. But home is the place that holds their memories intact. Home is where their memories live. I’m so glad I went home again, now that I see all that I would have missed by not daring to return home.

I feel like I do this very same thing with my Heavenly Father. I’m a wanderer, so I do what wanderers do – I wander – I leave home. I leave for that grass that’s always greener somewhere else. I leave in search of some unnamed something that I feel I must be missing and have to find. I leave, lured away by vague promises of riches or success or excitement. I leave – then one day I wake up to find myself far from anything familiar and I’m not sure how to find my way home. In fact, I believe there is no way home. So I stay away. I stay because I believe the lie that I cannot go home again. I believe the lie that I am no longer welcome there. I believe the lie that I would not be forgiven – cannot be forgiven. I believe the lie that I have gone too far to return home. I believe the lie that there is no longer a place for me in my Heavenly Father’s house.

And the truth is – those are all lies – everyone of them is a lie. There is a place for me. It is being prepared for me even now. My Heavenly Father is waiting for me to come home. And He will wait as long as is necessary. Jesus said so. In John 14:2-3 Jesus said,

“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

My Heavenly Father is both preparing for and anxiously awaiting my arrival home. I read in 2 Peter 3:9,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God is like the father in the story of the prodigal son. That father was always on the lookout for, always waiting for, always ready to receive his lost son, who had wandered away, ending up far from home – but the father was still there, whenever he should return home. We read about the son’s coming home again in Luke 15:17-24,

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘ . . . I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

We most certainly can go home again, dear readers. The prodigal son did and he was welcomed with open arms. You and I will be, too. As many times as I wander away, I can always go home to my Heavenly Father again and again. He says in Isaiah 1:18,

” ‘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.’ ”

“Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, Weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power. I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms; In the arms of my dear Savior, O there are ten thousand charms.” (old hymn)

the door is open, the fire lit, the table set, the lights are on to show the way, the Father stands ready, with arms open wide, wide enough to receive all who desire to come home once again,

sincerely, Grace Day

requiem for a country dying young

so young, they said – such a shame, they murmured shaking their heads in disbelief – but bound to happen, they agreed among themselves. They were somewhat sad, but not wholly desolate in their mourning of this death – as if they were attending the funeral of someone they had never really known personally – therefore, their grief was limited by their lack of familiarity with the deceased . . .

oh they had heard the stories of the deceased – well, actually they had not heard the stories, her stories, personal, painful, promising, proud stories of overcoming odds and surviving adversity (a civil war, a dustbowl, a depression, two world wars, a cold war, endless threats from without and within) – probably because there were so few left, if any at all, to tell these stories, her stories. Not many were left who had known her in her prime – those who had cherished her, believed in her, fought for her, served her well in exchange for the privilege of living free, the opportunity to pursue dreams, the peace and safety she provided within her borders, the right to worship as they wished, to own property, to assemble, to speak, to determine their own destinies (because the government had been of the people, for the people, by the people in those days) – all things that passed away with her passing.

But how do you mourn something you don’t remember? How do you long for something you never had or celebrate something you didn’t experience? There are so few at this funeral who know, who remember – some Holocaust survivors, some Tuskegee Airmen, some who know what life is like in other parts of the world and understand how unique she was in all the world, knowing unique does not mean without flaws, her beauty and her strength came from her ability to mend those flaws without destroying herself or all those who depended on her for their daily lives –

why don’t they remember? Is it because one can’t remember what one never knew in the first place? Why don’t they know who she is, who she has been for nearly two and a half centuries? (so young by History’s measure) Could it be they no longer learn about her short life in school, as was customary for previous generations? Are they no longer told the story of her birth? Do they not know how she came to be and what growing pains she survived, emerging each time stronger, ready to face the next challenge? And the challenges have been many.

Without memory we cannot mourn. Maybe that’s what’s missing – the clear memory of all that she was. Her past erased (and then rewritten) – much like China’s Cultural Revolution, which took only a decade (1966-1976) to wipe out centuries of art and artifacts, sacred texts and temples, the history of a people documented in its books, books now banned and subsequently burned, leaving no trace of the people whose stories they once told – when all who have memory of her are no longer here to tell their stories, her stories – voices fallen silent – into the silence enters the discourse of deceit.

Those left to mourn her, never knew her. They never lived in the land created by the Constitution, described by the Declaration of Independence, filled with fearless overcomers, who preferred hard work to a government handout, who fought for freedom, theirs and others – who were not afraid to pray, to sing the national anthem, to fly her flag or to die for her, for their country – there was once such a place.

There was honor in the struggle, no shame in being poor, one vote – one voice, each one had a say in a land of laws – laws that permitted liberty to live and thrive. Much of her story is told in her music (if it has survived her?). These songs give a glimpse into who she was in the eyes of those who wrote the songs and in the eyes of those who have sung them with such pride over the years. ie. “Oh beautiful for patriots’ dream, that sees beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears, America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

The words to this Civil War era song reveal the deepest essence of who she once was. “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.”

There’s that word truth again. That’s something the mourners will not know in the future – the truth that she was born out of a search for a place in which God could be freely and openly worshipped and served. Other countries had kings and dictators and tyrants – she had no king – the people would govern themselves – no ruling class! Unheard of! “An experiment bound to fail,” they said. And yet she thrived even as her citizens prospered. People poured in from around the globe in pursuit of the freedom her Constitution offered to them.

Having little in common, yet bound together in their determination to make better lives for themselves and for their children, these various peoples shared the vision of faith and freedom given by the Declaration of Independence, saying, “endowed by their Creator.” America was a shelter from the storm, a safe harbor, a land of opportunity. Her foundations were built upon faith in Almighty Creator God, truth, freedom, law, equality and justice. All are inextricably entwined. When her faith in God was attacked, ridiculed, restricted and then removed, when the people turned away from God, – the other things, truth, freedom, law, equality, justice, – they were no longer supported and she collapsed from the inside out. They tried to revive her, (or did they?) but it was too late.

Without God, without a foundation of faith, there was nothing left to build upon. The shifting sands of popular culture cannot sustain a free people desiring to exercise their God-given rights to life. liberty and the pursuit of God and happiness. Only a foundation of faith in God is strong enough to support a free country. (is that why most dictatorship/communist countries are atheistic?) When we stopped pursuing God and pursued instead our own pleasure, something shifted in her, our beloved country. That’s when her foundation began to crumble. Now we find ourselves here, mourning her passing, shaking our heads and wondering why there aren’t more people who know enough to truly mourn her loss. (because if you believe she was inherently evil from conception, you are celebrating her death, not mourning it – you have no idea of the light that has been lost, because you have only known the dimness of a fading light on its way to extinction)

You have believed the lie, and there is no one left to tell you the truth. With every “objectionable, dangerous” book burned, every statue toppled, every monument gone, every street, every school, every building, every city, every town, every sports team renamed, with history rewritten, who is to know what she once really was? No pilgrim, no pioneer, no patriot remains to tell her tale. Still, if music remains, then perhaps music will tell those who never knew her, what she once was. I can hear that music now, playing at her funeral (or would that be allowed?) In the words of Lee Greenwood,

“the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away – and I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me – and I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, ’cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the U.S.A.”

God did bless her, in spite of all her flaws and mistakes, His protection and blessing have been upon her for almost two and one-half centuries. We were a people who looked to Him for guidance and also gave Him thanks for what we had. A look at the Thanksgiving proclamations of Washington in 1789 and Lincoln in 1863 confirms this truth. She was born out of a desire to exercise a personal faith in God and the removal of that faith from her, was her cause of death. Only those that have memory of her, that knew her or heard her stories from those that knew her, will mourn her passing, realizing what has been lost. No one else will shed a tear.

But as for me, I will shed tears and mourn her well. And I will be thankful in my heart for memories of her that no new narrative can erase – because I lived those years and I remember what true freedom was. This current counterfeit does not fool me for one minute. I will gladly stand up and defend her. I wonder, will there be any that stand up with me?

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

may we again turn our hearts to God, perhaps He will bring her back to life as He is in the resurrection business – “Let the Amen sound from His people again!”

sincerely, Grace Day

a question of identity

Who is he? This has been the age old question. Asked incessantly, debated continuously throughout the centuries since He made His appearance and walked this earth, the identity of Jesus is a question that continues to confound. For many the verdict is still out. Who is Jesus? Many continue to debate, to doubt, to question, to search, to study, to ponder, to wonder – just exactly who is Jesus? It is a question of true identity.

“Who is Jesus?” – the most important question one can ask because the answer determines the direction of the questioner’s life. Jesus’s disciples struggled with the question of Jesus’s identity even as they followed Him and spent time with Him. In Luke 9:18-20 we read about one such interaction,

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ ”

So you can see that there was much debate as to Jesus’s true identity when He was here on earth – and that debate continues to this day. But Peter answered Jesus’s question that day with these words,

“The Christ (Messiah) of God.” Peter knew the truth of Jesus’s identity.

Peter affirmed his belief in Jesus’s true identity again in John 6:66-69 during this exchange,

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’ ”

There were others who also discovered for themselves Jesus’s true identity. One such person was the centurion who stood before Jesus as He hung on the cross. We read his account in Mark 15:39,

“And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ ”

Jesus Himself said in John 14:9,

“Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus further explains in John 10:30 saying,

“I and the Father are one.”

Even when Jesus revealed His identity with words such as those, there were still many who refused to believe He was who He said He was, which was who their own Scriptures said He was. Instead they preferred to circulate lies about His identity as the following encounter shows. Jesus healed a paralytic, lowered down to Him through the ceiling of the house where He was teaching, surrounded by a large crowd of people. (hence the need for the paralytic to enter from the roof in order to be seen by Jesus)

“When Jesus saw their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ ” (Luke 5:20-21)

They were questioning the identity of Jesus. Something they did often. We see them doing this again when Jesus healed an invalid waiting beside the pool of Bethesda. We read,

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:16-18)

They didn’t believe Jesus was who He told them He was. And because they refused to see His true identity, they crucified Him on a cross. One of the criminals being crucified along with Jesus recognized Jesus’s true identity while the other criminal being crucified that day did not. What a difference this made in outcome for the one who recognized Jesus’s identity. We read his story in Luke 23:39-43 –

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him; (Jesus) ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.’ ”

Yes, it is a question of identity. It was for the woman at the well. She was having a conversation with a stranger who asked her for a drink. She didn’t know who he was. This is how the conversation unfolded,

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give Me a drink?’ The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘ . . . Are you greater than our father Jacob?’ . . . Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ” (John 4:7-14)

If we only knew – like the woman at the well and the thief on the cross, it will make all the difference to me and to you, dear readers – this question of Jesus’s identity. How we answer that question of identity determines our destiny. Who is Jesus? If we only knew . . . The thief on the cross knew, the woman at the well came to know, the centurion knew when he witnessed the crucifixion, Peter knew, even the demons knew –

“In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!’ ” (Luke 4:33-34)

Simeon knew and his is a beautiful testimony to the identity of Jesus. It is given in Luke 2:25-32,

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. . . . When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.’ ”

Simeon knew the answer to the question of Jesus’s identity – and it made all the difference in the world. Isaiah knew Jesus’s true identity long before Jesus was born. Isaiah shared that secret and gave us all a head’s up in Isaiah 9:6-7 as to who Jesus is, saying –

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Who is Jesus?

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)

if we only knew – would we ask Him for life like the woman at the well did when she learned she could ask Jesus for living water?

if we only knew – it is a question of identity

sincerely, Grace Day