today’s ponder

Today I am pondering (among other things) the words, the pen is mightier than the sword. I am thinking this era of rampant, unchecked censorship does not bode well for the word, written (which would be the pen) or otherwise. With the pen thus silenced, the sword wins every time. We are witnesses to this outcome as we watch buildings burn and people attempting to defend their property, like David Dorn, lose their lives. My own city has just set a record for homicides due to gun violence and the year is not over yet. With the pen currently banned from the battlefield, put in its place and held captive there by censorship, the sword is having a heyday being virtually unopposed.

The sword is often used to silence the pen, or sometimes just the threat of the sword is enough to eliminate the pen from the playing field of the current society. Books are banned from libraries, schools, stores, even Amazon. Newspapers will not print certain points of view and social media accounts are cancelled based on their penned content. Apparently, physical violence is preferable to the untold dangers of free speech and uncensored ideas. If it is not the approved narrative, it is forbidden.

Today, many wonder if the penned words of our Declaration of Independence and of our Constitution will stand the test of time. Will these words of hope and law, which have provided a sure foundation upon which to build a free country, prove mightier than the swords that would slay them, bringing an end to freedom and democracy? Time will tell.

At this point in my ponder, it occurs to me that there are words penned that have stood the test of time and will continue to stand, long after time itself ceases to exist. I read Jesus’s words in Matthew 24:35,

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

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

God’s written word, the Bible, is mightier than the sword. But in an ironic twist, I am told that God’s word is a sword. In fact, it is the ultimate sword as I learn in Ephesians 6:17,

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

God’s word is both the pen and the sword! It protects me from the lies and deceits of the enemy because it is truth. It is described this way in Hebrews 4:12-13,

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

So God’s pen is a mighty sharp, double-edged sword! It has stood the test of time and being a living word, will survive man’s attempts at censorship, though many have tried in the past and continue to this day to silence God’s word. The bible is banned in countries such as China, North Korea, Iran and other communist countries where free speech and thought are not tolerated. However, God’s message of love and salvation for all of mankind is not silenced by mere men. In Luke 19:40 I read what Jesus said to the Pharisees when they ordered Him to silence His disciples,

” ‘I tell you,’ He (Jesus) replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ ” Indeed,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. . . . Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

God’s truth will not be censored, silenced, bound nor hidden from those on this earth for whom His living words were penned. We can know the truth and the truth will set us free.

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth, and it endures.” (Psalm 119:89-90)

His word is mightier than the sword – His word is our sword. In Isaiah 55:11, the Lord declares,

“so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

guess the power of the pen resides with the author, and in this case the author is the Creator, Sustainer of the entire universe – needless to say, He wields a mighty pen –

sincerely, Grace Day

a time to transition

It is time. I know it is. There are more leaves on the ground now than there are leaves on the trees. My favorite (although forgotten) holiday of family, food, football, fun and being grateful has come and gone. It is time. I am not ready, but then I am rarely ready for change. I have grown accustomed to my fall decorations, including the “give thanks” artwork hanging in my entryway, the wooden maple leaf and the ceramic tea light holder – both bearing the word “thankful” on them. With these decorations packed away, out of sight, will I forget to be thankful each and every day for all the good gifts God gives? Seeing them each day, reminds me to truly be thankful.

Fall is naturally a season of gratitude, maybe because it is traditionally a time of harvest and of bounty. I would hate to think this season of giving thanks ends with Thanksgiving Day, just as we are entering into the season of Advent. Thankfulness is a key component of the Advent season. Could be that the Thanksgiving holiday is just a warm up, immersing my heart in gratitude, preparing my heart to receive the greatest gift ever given with humility and gratitude. And wonder. The miracle of the Christ child’s birth will always be beyond my human comprehension. I can only wonder at the inscrutable ways of God and give Him thanks.

Which brings me back to where I started – it is time for me to transition. Actually, I have two days left in my month of thanksgiving. I will enjoy my autumn decor and the beautiful colors of what leaves are still on the trees to the fullest before I turn my attention to the coming month and all that is ushered in with the advent of Advent. But one thing I will not lose during my time of transition. Rather I will hold it close, protect it and carry it with me into the coming Advent season. This is the spirit of thanksgiving, which is gratitude, the thank offerings of a grateful heart – these I will bring with me into Advent. I will not pack gratitude away with the autumn decorations. After all, thankfulness is an attitude and an action for all seasons.

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

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

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

sincerely, Grace Day

a Habakkuk Thanksgiving

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

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

“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)

Seems like one day out of three-hundred and sixty-five isn’t nearly enough to set aside for being thankful and for acknowledging the One from whom all these gifts, including life itself, come. Nevertheless, that is what we have designated, one day. That day has come and gone and perhaps we have already turned our attention away from gratitude and set our sights on acquiring all that we feel we currently lack. Ironic isn’t it? The day after the day dedicated to being thankful for all we have, (Thanksgiving), is dedicated to shopping for more stuff! It would seem thankfulness has a short shelf life.

We would not want every day to be Christmas day – that would not be sustainable. But if every day were a day to be intentionally thankful, that wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. I am told to “sacrifice thank offerings to God” since He is the giver of “every good and perfect gift.” And I am told to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Maybe this was an especially difficult Thanksgiving for some of you? Changes in circumstances, job losses, personal losses etc. – these have been more than challenging times. I think Habakkuk understood what it was to experience circumstances that did not lead one toward thankfulness. And yet he intentionally declared his intentions with these beautiful words,

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Habakkuk, this Old Testament prophet, was definitely following the New Testament direction to give thanks to God in all circumstances. Maybe some of us feel like Habakkuk this Thanksgiving – our outlook is pretty bleak at the moment. Habakkuk’s present and future looked grim, yet he continued to rejoice in and be joyful in God his Savior.

When times are tough, I think of Habakkuk and attempt to follow his example of trusting God and being thankful in all circumstances. I will make every day a day of Thanksgiving by following the words of an old hymn which says,

“count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done, count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

sincerely, Grace Day

livin’ the dream

As a child, I secretly thought being a missionary would be the ultimate adventure, the ultimate dream job. What could be better than travel to far away, exotic, unknown places? Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures would be a dream come true. The thought of primitive conditions didn’t deter my thinking at the time. After all, I loved going to Girl Scout Camp every summer, where we slept in tents, cooked over an open fire, had a pump for water, flashlights for light (there was no electricity) and latrines for bathrooms. (unless we were away from the main camp on an excursion, like a canoe trip, in which case we made camp every night at a different site, carried in all our food and supplies with us and made our own latrines in the woods)

At any rate, this secret dream of mine never materialized for me – although it did for my best friend from high school. She and her husband spent many years on the mission field on the continent of Africa and unlike my childhood camp experiences, their challenges were many and the dangers they faced were real, as political climates continually changed from year to year. In the face of daily difficulties, they served faithfully for many years and then continued to serve overseas missions from a stateside position after that. A life of meaning and purpose on the front lines, making a difference in this world. That’s my dream job.

So this morning I find myself wondering – what am I doing in obedience to Jesus’s last words spoken to His disciples, which are –

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18)

Disciplemaking, witnessing, proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, – this is what Jesus said to His disciples in Acts 1:8 –

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That’s where I wanted to go, to the ends of the earth. That’s the dream. Reality? I’ve never even lived outside of the state in which I was born. I have not been a foreigner in a foreign land, living in a foreign culture that I do not understand and in which I do not feel at home. Or have I? Turns out, I have been a foreigner in a foreign culture all my life. This has not always been as clear to me as it is now in these present days, but I am beginning to understand that in reality I have been livin’ my dream all these years. I just didn’t know it and appreciate it, along with the call set before me as a foreigner in this place. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Philippians when he said,

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Peter echoed this same sentiment in his letter saying,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

Peter also cautioned believers to “live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17)

No wonder I so often feel like a stranger in a stranger still land. I am a foreigner here, after all.

“For this world is not our (my) permanent home; we are (I am) looking forward to our (my) home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

If this is not my home, if my citizenship is not here but in heaven, then I am already and have always been, a missionary on foreign soil, wherever I am. The ends of the earth are wherever I am and wherever my brothers and sisters are at present. To me, the end of the earth, is the farthest place from where I live. But to the people who live far from me, I live at the end of the earth. I am already there. My dream has already come true! I am living it! So what should I be doing? Colossians 4:5-6 gives me some guidance –

“Make the most of my chances to tell others the Good News. Be wise in all my contacts with them.” or another translation says, “make the most of every opportunity.” And there’s more – “Let my conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how to answer everyone.”

This is a full time endeavor. And Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has more direction for me in how to live my dream of being an end of the earth missionary. I read in Ephesians 5:15-17, these words –

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

I know I am living in a foreign culture because their ways are so different from the ways in which I am told to do things. Consider these instructions,

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44) And there’s more –

“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.” (Luke 6:29-31)

There are ideas such as losing my life to save it, the first being last and the last first, not accumulating riches here in this foreign kingdom but rather in the kingdom where my citizenship is, that when I am weak – then I am strong in Christ . . . just about everything is different in the kingdom I call home, where I’m headed, than it is in this place where I currently reside. But most days, I look more like a citizen of my current culture than I do a citizen of my true and future homeland. I am not supposed to be fitting in with the world’s ways. As a citizen of God’s kingdom I have to keep in mind that God said,

” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Every place on this earth is an end of the earth kind of place, because it is full of people spending their lives in various pursuits that will never fully satisfy, while their deepest need goes unmet – their longing to know who they are, whose they are, their value and their purpose – all a part of their need to know their Creator.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

That “eternity in my heart” is what lets me know my citizenship is not in this temporal world. However, I am a missionary to this world, whether I applied for the job or not. I am a foreigner on assignment here, following the command given in Mark 16:15,

“Go ye into all the world and preach the Good News to every creature.”

Ok Lord, if I’m livin’ the dream of living for You in a foreign culture, then Lord please help me to –

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. . . . Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. . . . Bless those who persecute me; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with others. . . . as far as it depends on me, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

sincerely, Grace Day

in pursuit of . . .

what? What is worth pursuing in this world? or maybe the more relevant question is – what relationship is worth pursuing? who is worth pursuing? The psalmist answered this age old question in this way –

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

I’m surprised he didn’t also ask, “Where can I go and meet with God?” When and where can a person meet with God? Inquiring minds want to know. Moses met God in a burning bush and later had to climb up a mountain to meet with God. (talk about your mountaintop experience) But with God’s gift of His Holy Spirit to every believer, the “when” is twenty-four/seven and the “where” is wherever I am at the moment.

“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)

These words make it pretty clear to me that the “where” is anywhere and everywhere. The “when”? God is always with me. Jesus even said,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

So I don’t have to make an appointment. I can talk to my Heavenly Father anytime. Such access! Why don’t I take advantage of it more often than I do? Especially since Jeremiah 33:2-3 tells me –

“This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is His name: Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

A standing invitation from God! How great is that? Calling out to God – my first choice, not my last resort. My Heavenly Father – my first thought, not an afterthought. Seeking out my Creator – not hiding from Him. Like the psalmist said, this is the relationship that will satisfy, this is the relationship for which I was created. The psalmist was longing for this when he said that his soul “thirsted for the living God.” Jesus understood our human thirst, He understood our desire for relationship with our Creator. He told the woman at the well,

“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 4:14)

Today I am not physically hungry or thirsty, but I feel like the psalmist who said his soul was so dry that he was longing for God’s living, life giving water. And God does not disappoint. Jesus said,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

may Your Presence, Heavenly Father, fill me, fill all my empty spaces, Jesus – You, “who fill everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

sincerely, Grace Day

in training to be ?

Career changes are common over time. Many of us have several different jobs in our lifetimes. Often, our current occupation is preparation for what will come next. So lately, I have been asking myself this question, “What skills am I acquiring at my current job?” and “What kind of a job will these new skills equip me to do and do well?” One possibility was really a surprise to me. I had never desired nor contemplated this particular line of work, but upon reflection, I realize that every day as a substitute teacher I utilize the skills necessary for this new career choice available to me. This other job probably pays better and would be no more dangerous than what I encounter on a daily basis now. It might even involve less conflict and intrigue than I currently experience everyday as a sub.

Let me explain. I work in a high school so the students attend at least five different classes during the school day. Each student has a schedule telling them which class they are to attend in which room, and the period of the day that they are to be in that class. I, as the substitute for the day, receive a roster for each class that will be meeting in my room that day. This class list includes students’ full names and their grade level. Part of my job is to take accurate attendance. This is important because state law says students must be present a certain number of days in the school year in order to pass their classes. Attendance would seem to be the easiest, rote, routine, most mundane of all my responsibilities as a sub. However, as it turns out, it is anything but – it turns out to be quite the challenging task.

Here’s why. When students realize there is a sub in a particular class, they see this as a golden opportunity to skip their own class and instead attend the sub’s class with a friend where they can kick back, enjoy a little food, a little fun, a little music and some rather loud conversation. They feel they can get away with this because the sub doesn’t know their true identity. All the students need do is give the sub a fake name. And so the game begins!

I call names and when finished with the roster I often have more people in the room than those I just marked present. Upon inquiring of those “extra” students who they might be, I get various responses. Some students refuse to give me their name (that’s always a red flag) or they say I’ve already called their name and they won’t repeat it. (another dead giveaway) Some say they are new today, and I should add their name to the attendance roster. Or if not new to the school, they tell me they just had a schedule change and this is their new class. (of course they don’t have a paper copy of that “new” schedule with them for verification – printer broken, system down etc.) Some say they want to look at the roster so they can “show” me their name on the list. This is the most popular ploy by far and also the one I find most alarming. I mean, seriously – they want me to believe they don’t know their own name? I personally find it quite concerning that they don’t know their name until they look at a list of names. (obviously the intent is to choose a name from the roster of a student who is currently absent) This works well until the absent student shows up for class.

You see, often, a student will know of a friend who is absent and belongs in the class they wish to crash, so they will respond to that student’s name when attendance is called. But just as often, later in the class period the “real” student whose name they have usurped, who belongs in the class, will walk in, giving me their name, of course, for attendance and it is then that I see I have already marked them present and the imposter is exposed! Then the games take an interesting turn. Either the imposter runs from the room or the late arrival, realizing they have exposed the deception of their classmate, backtracks, saying they were just playing around by giving me the first name and that they are really – and they come up with yet another name. When asked for their student ID, it is always conveniently left at home. And so the intrigue continues until someone “cracks” and admits they are not who they claimed to be and the classroom is emptied of all who do not belong there because their names are not on the approved list – aka – the class roster.

Are you now thinking what I’m thinking about my next career move? Do you see it too? I am doing the job of a bouncer, aren’t I? I mean the similarities are numerous. I let “approved” individuals in and keep out anyone not on the list. The list in one case is those legitimately enrolled in the class, or in the latter case, those invited to a special place or event – the beautiful people. Either way, the job description is the same – let some people in and keep other people out. You work from a list and the list is law. The list determines who gets in and who is denied entrance and turned away. It’s all about getting your name on that list if you want to be allowed in.

Now granted, all I know about bouncers I have learned from what I’ve seen in movies or on TV. I have no real life experience going to places that are so exclusive that bouncers bearing lists are necessary because everyone wants to go there but not everyone is on the “approved” list for admission to such a place. Also, the bouncers I see on the screen all look like they are former NFL players or ex Marines or MMA fighters and such. So physically, I don’t quite fit the profile of a bouncer. Still, I like to think I have keen powers of discernment, allowing me to spot those imposters, pretending to be someone on the list, when in reality they are not that person whose identity they are stealing. However, I don’t know if my skill as an imposter spotter will make up for what I lack in physical intimidation?

So not sure whether I will be making that career move from substitute teacher to professional bouncer anytime soon but subbing is definitely giving me lots of practice at honing my bouncer skills. I work from a list and I stick to the list. No one gets to stay in the classroom if their name is not on my list. As I said earlier, it’s all about getting your name on the list if you want to be allowed in. Which makes me think of a place most people say they want to go one day but they wonder whether their name will be on the list when their time comes. The place is heaven and the list is found in “the Lamb’s book of life.”

This list differs from the lists used by bouncers at exclusive clubs, in that everyone is extended an invitation to this heavenly destination. Anyone can get their name added to the list by RSVPing to God’s invitation. No one is excluded. The invitation is extended to all. Yet how many times have I received an invitation to an event and neglected to respond until after it was too late? If I haven’t responded by the deadline, my name is not put on that list. If I show up, I will be turned away because my name is not on the list and the bouncer doesn’t know me or know that I was once invited to be on the “approved” list. The bouncer cannot be bribed and I am not admitted in to join the others and celebrate with them.

So who gets to enter Heaven? Revelation 21:27 gives us some guidance on this saying,

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Revelation 20:12-15 gives an account of how this plays out –

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. . . . If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Jesus told His followers, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

Indeed our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life from the very beginning because we have always been invited, included and put on His list. King David acknowledged this when he said,

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

The only way my name gets taken off the list is if I don’t respond to the invitation, if I don’t RSVP saying “yes, count me in! I will start preparing now for this great event to come.” – or if I turn my back on the One who issued the invitation and pursue other things, my name will be deleted from the list, from the Lamb’s book of life. God does not wish that anyone should refuse His gracious, eternal invitation.

“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.” (2 Peter:3:9)

My Heavenly Father keeps the RSVP option open for me and for you till our very last breath, dear readers. Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus? He had a last breath conversation with Jesus which went like this –

“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.’ ” (Luke 23:42-43)

The thief’s last minute RSVP was accepted. He responded to the invitation and his name remained on the list kept in the book of life. And of all the lists for all the parties, this is the list that matters most in the end. Actually, it is the only list that matters. When I face heaven’s bouncers (aka list keepers) what assurance do I have that they will find my name in the book of life? 2 Timothy 1:12 says it best –

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

Jesus is keeping my RSVP secure in His book of life, no bouncer will turn me away. I can rest secure in the knowledge I will be let into God’s kingdom when the time comes.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ ” (Matthew 25:34)

sincerely, Grace Day

how I became a hoarder and other unintended COVID consequences

Perhaps there is a fine line between hoarders, savers and collectors. It could be a matter of quantity and also of quality if one wants to qualify as a collector rather than just someone who accumulates a lot of stuff over time. Collector implies taste and discernment and value in whatever items one is purposefully accumulating. It assumes a connection among said items which makes them a collection of something which the collector hopes will be rare, important and therefore valuable.

Saving random, unrelated items however, can quickly turn into hoarding. And hoarders are not held in particularly high esteem. How did COVID turn me toward the hoarding lifestyle? I think it all started with the toilet paper debacle – there were shelves full of toilet paper and then there were only empty shelves where once toilet paper had been. No one saw that coming. No one was prepared. I was not prepared. This also became true for various other items such as disinfectant wipes, liquid soap and other cleaning supplies.

Now I am hearing rumors of supply chain issues and predictions of shortages to come. These seem also to be consequences related to COVID issues such as workforce and vaccine mandates. This comes on the heals of my recent foray into the world of stockpiling, as I attempted to locate and purchase Lipton Green Tea Citrus, which seemed to have vanished from the shelves. (posts “how far would you go?” and “jackpot!”) Now hoarding, (or I actually prefer the term stockpiling because it seems more businesslike, more savvy, than merely hoarding stuff, with its connotations of eccentricity and lack of discernment about just what exactly is hoarded) depends on at least two things to be successful – having space in which to store the desired items and having knowledge of which items need to be hoarded or stockpiled.

Last time it was toilet paper, but what should I be hoarding/stockpiling now? I am not a fortune teller nor a prophet. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. So how can I prepare adequately? I am reminded of the story of a rich man with an abundant crop and no space in which to store said crop. He figured out a solution to his storage problem. Unfortunately, he left a bigger problem unsolved. Luke 12:16-21 tells the whole story –

“And He (Jesus) told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

“Rich toward God.” Hmmm? So maybe I should be stockpiling or storing up something, somewhere – but that begs the question, what should I be storing up and where should I be putting it? Jesus talks about this very thing in Matthew 6:19-21 saying,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Ok – so I don’t need to be hoarding earthly things, like the rich man with the full, bigger barns. But what about these predicted shortages due to supply chain problems? I find myself becoming anxious just thinking about the possibility of empty shelves, not knowing if there will be enough. But Jesus has something to say about this concern of mine, which perhaps you share too, dear readers? Jesus told His disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

I’m remembering how God provided manna each morning for the Israelites while they wandered in the desert. They could not store up the manna. There was no need to save, stockpile or hoard this morning manna. A fresh supply arrived new every morning, without fail for forty years. In fact, they were explicitly told not to save any of the manna. There was no benefit in doing so, but there was quite a downside to hoarding manna.

“and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. . . . The Israelites did as they were told; . . . Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:13-20)

Their need for food was met each morning. Not with just a little something to tide them over, either. We read “Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.” (Exodus 16:21) They had a daily abundance – enough for that day. They weren’t able to hoard more than their daily bread, (remember, it would go bad, real bad, real fast, overnight) but they had no need to stockpile the manna – it was new every morning just like God’s mercy.

Do I have that kind of faith today? Of course, the Israelites didn’t have a choice. They were in the desert with no food sources in sight. Out of their lack, they experienced God’s abundance and learned to trust Him. Will I not learn to trust my Heavenly Father until every store shelf is empty and my cupboard is too? There’s some comfort in stockpiling, a kind of false assurance to be sure, but still hoarders hoard in hopes it will pay off. Although it didn’t work out too well for the rich man who built bigger barns to hold his bumper crop or for those Israelites who hoarded manna in their tents overnight and woke up to being overrun by maggots. I love the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17, which begins with this conversation between the two of them,

Elijah asks the widow for water and then says, ” ‘and bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:11-16)

The widow had no stockpile. The jar and the jug were almost empty. And yet, each day, from them she poured out just enough flour and just enough oil to make bread for herself, her son and Elijah. Each morning when she went to the nearly empty jar and the equally empty jug, she must have been surprised to find enough flour and oil to make bread for yet another day. Not enough to make bread for many days to come or even bread for the week, just enough to make bread for today. Kinda reminds you of the manna, doesn’t it?

I don’t think we were meant to be hoarders but givers-awayers instead. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety will do that though – turn givers into hoarders, myself included. But then I read these words in 2 Corinthians 9:8-11,

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. . . . Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

No need to build bigger barns. No need to hoard anything. (even toilet paper?) I think today my prayer will be the one I find in Proverbs 30:7-9,

“Two things I ask of You, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

“Give me this day my daily bread,” I need no more – I ask no less – (Matthew 6:11)

sincerely, Grace Day

finding my forever family

I identify as an orphan. That hasn’t always been the case, but with both my parents gone I now feel orphaned. Could be that’s why finding one’s family through genealogy searches has become so popular in recent years. We all want to know where we came from, where we fit in, where we belong and to whom we belong. Maybe exploring our genealogies is a part of our ongoing search for family. Families have been around from the very beginning. When God created mankind upon this earth, He created families.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ ” (Genesis 1:27-28)

“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-24)

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3)

We were created for connection – for community. We enjoyed perfect connection with our Creator and perfect connection with each other until sin entered in, severing that perfect connection, separating us from God and subsequently separating us from each other.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ ” (Genesis 3:8-10)

Sin severed Adam and Eve’s perfect connection with God. Instead of walking with God in the garden, they hid themselves from Him. They ran away from their Creator instead of running to Him. God desires personal connection with those He’s created. Consequently, He created us wired for that very connection. Sin brought us alienation and isolation, the opposite of what we were created to enjoy. Our loss of connection with God causes us to become disconnected from each other as well. It didn’t take long for sibling rivalry to rear its ugly head, fracturing the first family, when Cain murdered his brother Abel.

“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’ Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (Genesis 4:2-8)

Sin, disconnection, jealousy ending in murder – families have been fractured ever since, the saga of Cain and Abel playing out over and over again throughout the years. And yet we are created to live our lives as part of a family, not in isolation. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to address God as,

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,” (Matthew 6:9)

This realization that I am invited to call the Creator of the universe Father, is something truly too wonderful for words. In Romans chapter eight I am assured that this is indeed true –

“those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you (I) did not receive a spirit that makes you (me) a slave again to fear, but you (I) received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we (I) cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our (my) spirit that we are (I am) God’s children (child). Now if we are (I am) children (a child), then we are (I am) heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we (I) share in His sufferings in order that we (I) may also share in His glory.” (Romans 8:14-17)

Hard to believe I am chosen, adopted, made a child and therefore an heir of the living God. I am no longer an orphan! In 2 Corinthians 6:18 I read,

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Then I read,

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! . . . Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Not only am I not an orphan, I have been adopted into a really big family. Psalm 68:5-6 tells me,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

My favorite part of that promise is that God sets the lonely in families. He has invited me into His really big, eternal family and I already have a place there and I, as His child, will dwell in His house forever. (Psalm 23:6)

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)

This journey from unknown orphan to child of a Heavenly Father who knows my name and invites me into His family through adoption, is a joyous journey with a happy ending. Our earthly families were meant to be a foreshadowing of things to come, but they fall far short of showing us how purposefully, perfectly connected to others we were meant to live. (and one day we will) Our earthly fathers will fail us, (they are human) but our Heavenly Father does not disappoint, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Today many are searching for a forever family. I am connected to my Creator in a personal, eternal way – so much so that He says I can call Him “Abba” which means “Daddy.” Because of my adoption into my Heavenly Father’s family, I am also connected to other people personally and eternally. We are brothers and sisters now. We are brothers and sisters for eternity. We are family for life! Talk about your forever family – I have found mine!

Just imagine – so many siblings and yet no sibling rivalry. All those perfect connections that God intended for each one of us will be restored. I will be perfectly connected to my Creator and perfectly connected to all those who are adopted into this really big family just as I am. So many family members to get to know, most I will never meet on earth but only in heaven, because they lived far from me or lived in a different time altogether. It will take an eternity to get to know all the people in my new forever family. But that’s the gift of God – eternity with Him.

I am looking forward to homecoming, when I join my new forever family for good. It will happen like this –

“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

I have found my forever family and you, too, dear readers are invited into this eternal family. I hope to see you there. Home with family – face to face and fully known.

“Now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

sincerely, Grace Day

how did we get here?

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire said that in the 1700’s. But his words seem to aptly describe events that are taking place today as well. History witnessed this play out in Germany under Hitler, when he got people to commit the atrocity of mass murder against Jewish people. Hitler used the propaganda of lies, which then caused division and fear among people that had previously lived together as neighbors peacefully for years. How could ordinary people all of a sudden be filled with such fear and hate that they turned on neighbors and friends they had known for so long?

Believing the lie, however absurd, will lead eventually to atrocious behavior fueled by fear and hatred. There is really just one race, the human race. But Nazi propaganda so dehumanized people who shared a faith and an ethnic identity, that killing them was no longer considered wrong. Murdering other human beings – not wrong? In what world would that be the case? However the road paved with absurdities leads to the land of atrocities very quickly. This is a place where up is down, right is wrong, good is called evil and evil called good. We quickly lose all sense of direction in such a place without a constant to help us find our footing and show us the way. (see post “finding the constant”)

Then we find ourselves somewhere we never intended to go, doing things we never intended to do and asking ourselves, “how did we get here?” Amanda Makki was wondering that very thing when she asked, “Just eighteen months ago, could you even imagine that hard working men and women would be losing their jobs for refusing an experimental vaccine?” (this vaccine has not been tested on animals and is FDA “approved” for experimental use only on an emergency basis – because this COVID event is labeled “an emergency”)

We have ended up in a place we have never been before as a society. Why? Is it because we believed a lie and lost our way? Is it because social media is more believable to us than our own real-life experience and God given common sense allowing us to make decisions for ourselves and our families based on what we actually experience in the real world? We are all bombarded with so much information daily, how do we sort out fact from fiction? If I follow the wrong advice, I will end up in a place I never intended to be, looking for a way out of the circumstances now causing me so much confusion, uncertainty and fear. Today as I ponder this problem of “how did I get here?”, I purpose to put into practice the words of Proverbs 3:5-8, I will –

“Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways I will acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths. I will not be wise in my own eyes; I will fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to my body and nourishment to my bones.”

This is the promise of God to me if I look to Him rather than to myself or to others for wisdom and direction. My Heavenly Father wants to “direct my paths” so that I don’t end up somewhere I never meant to go asking, “how did I get here?” It always works out better when I follow God’s ways as opposed to my own ways, reminding me that what Proverbs 14:12 says is true –

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

I may not understand God’s ways but I know I can trust Him.

” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Today I will trust and I will follow the One who came here to make a way home for me through the wilderness of this world. Today I will say along with King 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)

now that’s a good place to end up, in God’s house –

sincerely, Grace Day

disastrous divisions

Ever feel alone and alienated? Not sure how you fit in or where you belong? You and I were created for community, and it seems we spend our lives searching for that community – a place where we feel welcomed and at home. But while we are desiring unity, we are being constantly pulled apart by many forms of division. And as if there isn’t enough separating us from each other already, we are constantly creating new categories with which to further separate ourselves from one another. It seems we are encouraged to focus more on our differences than on our similarities.

Some divisions have been around for centuries. Rich versus poor, or economic/class divisions have plagued many countries and societies over time. India has a caste system, which keeps people immobile, with no possibility of moving beyond the status conferred on them by birth. Royal monarchies in many countries create and perpetuate class divisions in those countries. Today we see divisions between employers and employees, (unions) between male and female, between parents and children, between gay and straight, – we form divisions based on skin color, based on religion, based on politics and we continue to create new divisions. Two of the most recently formed divisions are masks versus no masks and vaccinated versus unvaccinated. These are brand new divisions between people which did not exist pre-pandemic. In our current culture, social media has been used to divide people into groups and pit them against one another (telling each that the other is the problem) with alarming speed and success.

After all, when times are tough, we want someone to blame for our troubles, someone we can see as an enemy who must be defeated. So we separate ourselves into groups and go to war, so to speak. The trouble is, each of us may actually “belong” to several different groups, so we end up at war with ourselves. And we end up at odds with family and friends. In the movie, “Remember the Titans,” Gary said it best when he said to Julius, his teammate, “I was afraid of you, Julius. I only saw what I was afraid of, and now I know I was only hating my brother.”

Indeed, fear is a main factor used to create division among people. Fear and false information feed the fires of hatred and mistrust, causing divisions where previously none had existed. With our differences being put before us twenty-four/seven, it’s no wonder we feel alienated from other people, thinking we have nothing in common with them. (how about our humanity?) Fear prevents us from reaching out and discovering as Gary did in “Remember the Titans” that we are more alike than different at our cores.

Why? Because we are all created in the image of our Creator God. The account of this event is recorded in Genesis 1:26-27,

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

From this shared beginning, come all the diversity and uniqueness that we are witness to in people all over this world. Our Creator is a God of diversity in all of His creation. There is diversity, beauty and uniqueness throughout the entire universe. Every snowflake is distinct and unique, and yet all are snow. United, they blanket the earth in dazzling white. God knows every hair on every head and He calls every star by name.

“He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

God calls you and me by name as well, dear readers. We each have a fingerprint that is ours alone and God recognizes each and every one of them! (of course He does, He’s the One who gave us our unique fingerprints and our unique identities to go with them) And yet we share 99.9% of our DNA with all other human beings! So much alike and yet so different. Only God could accomplish both realities in the same creature!

Today we find ourselves separated from our Creator and from each other. But there is One who is a Reconciler. He is able to reconcile us to Himself and to each other. Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconciled to God and subsequently to each other. Paul explained it in his letter to the Ephesians in this way,

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13-18)

We all have access to God equally through one spirit, the same spirit, God’s Holy Spirit. And how fortunate we are that God is no respecter of persons. He loves each of us equally and treats us all the same, applying the same standard to all.

“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34)

Indeed, through Jesus Christ we have unity with each other, not division. Galatians 3:26-28 and Colossians 3:11 explain this saying,

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

Our Creator is a God of infinite diversity, but not of division. Diversity is our strength, as it is a gift from God. But division will be our downfall, demise and death. That’s why Jesus told His followers,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

Jesus was referring to love – the action rather than love, the feeling. Love reconciles us to each other. It does not divide us against one another. In this world of division and dissension, Christ’s love will bridge the chasms currently dividing us, reconciling and reconnecting us to those we have lost due to disastrous divisions created in our current culture.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

sincerely, Grace Day