one wrong turn

It wasn’t so much a wrong turn, as that was my tried and true route to travel crosstown to my church on any given day, as it was a bad decision on this particular day. The reason being, this wasn’t just any day, this was race day. I knew the closer I got to the track, the worse traffic would become. But I didn’t have to get that close, I just needed to get to the exit that would allow me to head crosstown in the opposite direction of all the race traffic. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble once headed away from the Speedway, because all of the traffic would be going toward the Speedway. I just needed access to the exit that would put me on the path I needed to travel.

My moment of decision would come early in my journey, at the very first stoplight actually. I could either turn right and take my usual route or go straight and take a longer, less direct route, with more stoplights (no interstate) and a slower travel speed, giving me a later arrival time. The second option, however, would not be affected by any race traffic at all, because I would be heading away from the track at all times. With the first option, I would be heading toward the Speedway until I reached my exit. I decided I would make my decision at the first stoplight, when I could see for myself what traffic looked like.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

Well, at the light I saw that I could turn right, the road was clear as far down as I could see. There was no stopped or backed up traffic. So I turned and headed down the road towards my usual exit. Smooth sailing it was at first. There are no stoplights on this residential road until the intersection that contains the exit I needed. Actually, at that point there are two stoplights – one before the bridge and one on the other side of the overpass, which is where my exit lies. I did not encounter stopped traffic until I approached the first light and the backup wasn’t that long, so I wasn’t worried. I thought they were just waiting for the light to turn green.

But when the light turned green and we didn’t move I began to feel uneasy. After sitting through several cycles of the traffic light, I realized I was not much closer to it than when I first became stopped in this line of traffic. I began to panic, I began to regret my earlier decision to take this route and I began to search my mind for a solution to this problem. I was ready to consider other options. I had plenty of time to do all these things – panicking, regretting and searching for alternate routes, as I wasn’t going anywhere at the moment. Plenty of time for soul searching.

One big decision was “Do I bail at the first opportunity? or do I stay in this line, trusting that eventually I will get through the light, across the bridge and be able to exit to the right while everyone else continues inching forward in this line toward the Speedway?” Eventually I got close enough to exit to the right before the bridge, so I was headed in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go, away from where my stated destination was. I got off at the first exit, thinking I could circle back around and finally be headed in the right direction. But traffic was backed up here also. These lines of cars did not appear to be moving anytime soon. Again I headed away from where I wanted to go. I headed north (away from the Speedway) so I had a clear shot back up to 56th street, which is where I had started in the first place. Except that I was further west, further away from where I had started.

All this time, all this travel, and now I found myself further from my desired destination than ever before, not closer. I had arrived at another intersection of decision. Do I continue trying to reach my destination or do I give up? I continued on, being thankful that I still had enough gas to get me where I needed to go. This was turning out to be quite the expensive journey, with gas prices being what they are at the moment. I thought of King David saying he would not give to God an offering that cost him nothing and I drove on toward the intersection I had come to first, when this journey began.

This time, though the road appeared clear, I resisted the urge to turn right and continued on through the light. I took this road all the way cross town, till I at last headed south toward my church. It would still be aways to go, as I was much further north than I would have been had I been able to take my regular route. Still, had I taken this route today in the first place, I would have been at my destination on time, despite it being the longer, slower route.

What have I learned about wrong turns? I went toward what I knew could be a problem, could entangle me, could hold me captive and keep me from getting to where I wanted to go. I thought I would not get caught up in it, others yes, but my exit would come before any real problem would occur – only problem is, it didn’t and I was caught and captured along with everyone else. I thought I could come close to race traffic without getting caught up in it. I couldn’t – anymore than I can draw close to any sin, evil or harmful practices and not get caught up in them. Must be why Paul warned in his letter to the Thessalonians –

“Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) – or why Paul wrote to Timothy these words,

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:22-23)

I made a wrong turn. I turned towards something I knew was a problem, thinking I somehow would not come face to face with that problem. I should have turned away from race traffic, even though at that moment, from my vantage point, I saw no problem, I saw no backed up, stopped traffic. That appeared later, when I was already too far down the road to avoid it.

It occurs to me that just as important as not making a wrong turn, is choosing which direction I will turn. What I am turning towards is even more important than what I am turning away from. Paul gave this good advice to Timothy, which I think I will take to heart for myself, as it seems all too relevant for today.

“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. . . . But you, man (woman) of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, . . . I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time” (1 Timothy 6:9-15)

Sometimes my life seems to be one wrong turn after another, turns that lead me to places that I don’t want to go, turns that lead to dead ends, turns that leave me lost and searching, turns that take me far from where I wanted to end up. So today, I will turn my eyes and my heart and my mind to the One who can direct my paths and Who holds me fast, even through all my wrong turns.

“Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:35-37)

sincerely, Grace Day

three days in the dark

We are living in uncertain times. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are shortages and there are rumors of more shortages to come. There are diseases and death and there are rumors of more diseases and more death to come. There are uprisings and unrest and there are rumors of more uprisings and more unrest to come. It is times like these that strike fear into the hearts of men and women around the globe. Although, if we look back through history, we see that every era in human history has been an “uncertain time” for those living in it and through it at the time. Life is uncertain because the outcome is unknown to us, we don’t know what the future will bring.

Of course, if we’ve read the end of the Book, (the book being the Bible and the last chapter being Revelation), then we do know how things turn out. But does this make what we are living through at present any easier to bear or to navigate? any less painful or less terrifying? I don’t think so. We are still witnesses to the eternal struggle between good and evil being played out every day on the human stage. We are the proverbial captive audience, with a front row seat. Actually though, we are more than witnesses. We are also participants. Whether we like it or not, we are engaged for better or for worse, in our era of history, in this human drama we call life.

So does knowing how it ends make a difference to me and to you in our daily lives? Does knowing how it ends give me hope? Does it give me a reason not to give up when it looks to me as though evil is winning and will prevail? John 16:33 gives us a spoiler alert when Jesus says this to His disciples,

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Well, I have and continue to experience that “trouble” Jesus talked about, every day, some days more than others. I’m still waiting for the “overcoming” part to take place. I guess we all are. My heart is particularly heavy today as I write this, heavy with grief for people, for parents, for families that I have never met and do not know. I am sad and angry for a community not my own, but it could just as easily be my own community, and it was, not all that long ago. Nothing separates us but distance. However, evil knows no boundaries – evil is everywhere with us, hidden in the human heart, waiting to reveal itself.

Already grieving, as I was, for other families in a different community, this new assault coming so soon, seems way too much for already frayed and frazzled human hearts to bear. Where is the hope in this overwhelming despair? Where is the light in this darkness? The Israelites wondered the same thing centuries before Jesus was born and Isaiah had these words of hope for them –

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. . . . Instead of their shame My people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; . . . and everlasting joy will be theirs. For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In My faithfulness I will reward them . . . so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” (Isaiah 61:1-11)

That all sounds good, I am ready for everlasting joy and for righteousness and praise to spring up. I am ready for what it says in Isaiah 11:4-5,

“He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.”

I am ready for the wicked to be wiped out. Romans 12:21 tells me – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I want to believe that good is overcoming evil, but right now it doesn’t seem like that is happening. It looks like evil is winning or at least succeeding in gaining the upper hand at the moment. You and I are living in that moment, and it is hard and it feels hopeless. I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt after Jesus’s crucifixion? They had left everything to follow Jesus and now He was lying in a dark tomb. It was over for them. They had put their hope in Jesus and now He was dead and buried.

It must have seemed to Jesus’s followers that evil had won. The kingdom He had promised them, was not going to come after all. That’s what they thought. They didn’t know those three dark days were not the end. They didn’t know a new beginning was on the way, so close, if they could just hang on. They didn’t know. How could they? Could they be expected to hope based not on what they saw but on what they couldn’t see but had been promised? Or did they even remember any of Jesus’s promises and predictions during those three dark days following His crucifixion? Did they recall Jesus saying to them –

“Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19)

You and I have the advantage of knowing how that part of the story turns out because we live on this side of the empty tomb. But the disciples didn’t have our historical perspective. During those days, which must have seemed so long, as time stood still while they mourned, they couldn’t know that those dark days would end abruptly with an empty tomb and a risen Savior. They couldn’t imagine that hope and joy would replace their despair and grief. To them, their situation appeared hopeless during the three dark days Jesus laid in the tomb.

Then Jesus’s resurrection changed everything. When the disciples saw their risen Savior, their mourning turned into rejoicing and they had hope once again. They would need that hope to sustain them in the days to come. Jesus ascended into heaven with a promise to return one day and a charge to them to share the Gospel and make disciples of all men. Today, like the disciples, we are living in those days between Jesus’s resurrection and His return.

We have every reason to hope because we know how the story ends. We didn’t have to endure those three darkest days with the disciples, but our own days can seem pretty dark when all around us evil seems to be prevailing and there seems to be no end to the suffering evil deeds cause. However, we have the hope of Jesus’s return to sustain us during our darkest days. We can look forward to the time described in Revelation 21 in these words,

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

This is the hope that holds me fast during dark days when it looks like evil has the upper hand, when it looks like evil has won, which is how it looked to the disciples during those three darkest days in human history. They were without hope. But you and I are not without hope, we know how the story ends. We know that God is still in the mountain moving, miracle making business and one day He will set all things right. We have His promise on that. We have this hope as an anchor for our souls when darkness surrounds and we are tempted to believe the lie that it is over and evil has won. But hope does not believe the lie! The three darkest days are over – ended with a resurrection bringing eternal life. Hope in my living Lord will carry me through all the dark days while the battle rages. The battle is the Lord’s and so is the victory.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” (Isaiah 45:2)

“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13)

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

sincerely, Grace Day


Ever feel like you are living in a war zone? or maybe on the battlefield? maybe you are on the front lines of your fight? and maybe no one even knows, even suspects, what mountains need moving in your life. I am reminded of a favorite line from a favorite movie, Wonder, spoken by the hero of the story who says, “Be kind always, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.” Isn’t that the truth!

I am so busy fighting my own battles that I am often unaware of the battles those around me are engaged in. Even as I am firmly focused on my own struggle, entrenched in my fox hole as it were, all around me people are perishing as the enemy takes them out one by one. Why should I be concerned? Why should I care? I am busy with my own battle, carrying my own burdens, fighting a hard fight they know nothing about. Or do they?

As I remain entrenched in my own fight, it dawns on me. Although our battles may look different, we are all fighting a common enemy. And this is a battle to the death. How could I not have seen that we are all fighting the same ruthless killer? Perhaps because the fight looks so different in every life? Or maybe I know nothing about another’s battle because we are like icebergs, with so much of our lives hidden beneath the surface. (post “islands & icebergs – Nov. 2017 archives)

Nevertheless, the war rages on all around me, around us and my enemy, our enemy is real. He is clearly identified in 1 Peter 5:8 –

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Ephesians 6:12 helps me further understand who my enemy is, saying –

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

So, it is not my imagination. I am engaged in a great war, a war that has been raging ever since Adam and Eve were put out of the garden, a war that continues still to this day. It is the struggle between good and evil, truth and lies, light and darkness, love and hate, being played out daily in my life and in the lives of everyone living on this earth. When the hero in Wonder said we were all fighting hard battles, he spoke truth!

There is encouragement for you and for me, however. John 16:33 reminds me of Jesus’s words,

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Still, in the meantime, while waiting for that happy ending, I am growing weary with the daily fight. I am surrounded on all sides it often seems with loss, pain, disappointment, hardship, unexpected assaults and challenges, – and then I turn on the news and am confronted with death, disaster and dire predictions of every kind outside my door and around the world. I am entrenched – awaiting a rescue. I call to mind these words from 1 John 4:4 –

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, (the spirit of the antichrist) because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Yes, I am entrenched in this eternal battle for my soul and for the souls of others whom I love and for that matter, for the souls of those I don’t even know and have never met. But still I do battle – while entrenched. I can only imagine that you too, dear readers, are fighting many battles daily of your own against our common enemy, and you, too, find yourselves entrenched. It is in these times of entrenchment, dear readers, that you and I find ourselves saying along with the apostle Paul,

“I am hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. I always carry around in my body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in my body. . . . Therefore I do not lose heart. Though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 & 16)

We are living in a war zone. The battle is inescapable. But I can prepare for it and so can you. Our instructions are clear –

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:13-18)

This then I must do every day – put on my armor, take my stand and pray. I am to stand firm, to stand entrenched in the Gospel of peace, the gospel of salvation, the gospel of redemption – the Gospel that is good news for everyone who hears it. And so I will remain entrenched as long as the battle rages, relying on God’s protection and provision daily. The battle is the Lord’s. He will not abandon me.

sincerely, Grace Day

courageous surrender

Now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. There is nothing courageous in giving up, nothing noteworthy in surrendering to the enemy. So there is no such a thing as a courageous surrender. Surrender is for cowards. Or am I missing something here? Maybe it depends on to whom I am surrendering, whether surrender is an act of cowardice or an act of courage? In my Bible lesson today, I read that obedience is defined as “courageous dependence” moving into action. This got me to thinking.

If I am going to obey someone, I first have to trust them. If I find them reliable, I may come to trust them, and to rely on them – hence the dependence. I have been betrayed more often than I would have predicted in this life. But then, when is betrayal ever expected? It has blindsided me every time. That’s what betrayal is – harm at the hands of a friend. Harm at the hands of an enemy is expected – that’s what enemies do – they harm you. Therefore, no betrayal is involved. Only when someone I trust harms me is it a betrayal.

So my question becomes “Who can I trust?” If I don’t depend on anyone, don’t trust anyone, perhaps I am better off. I can rely solely on myself. Maybe that is the definition of courage? I have been let down enough in this life. I am not brave enough to trust just anyone with my daily life or my eternal life, either for that matter. Still, I recall these words from Jeremiah 29:11,

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

So can I trust my Creator with my life? Ironic if I don’t, since He’s the One who gave me my life in the first place. But He gave me something else along with life. He gave me free will. I have choices to make every day. We all do. The choices have always been ours to make. Centuries ago Joshua made this clear to the Israelites when he said these words,

“. . . then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Joshua made a choice. He chose to serve and to obey God. This decision required courage on his part because Joshua and his family were living surrounded by people like the Amorites, who worshiped other gods instead of the Lord God, Creator of the Universe. By making this public choice, Joshua was courageously depending on God to protect him and his family from his hostile neighbors.

Abraham was another person who chose courageous dependence or courageous surrender as I call it. And he did this more than once. When God called Abraham to pack up, leave his homeland and set out on a journey with an unknown destination, Abraham obeyed. We read about this in Genesis 12:1 where –

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ . . . So Abram left, as the Lord had told him;”

And thus began an historic journey of faith which God used to bless all nations, as He told Abraham that He would do. But Abraham had to walk by faith. God didn’t give him a map, an itinerary or other pertinent details of what was to come. God simply said of the destination, “the land I will show you.” Ok, not real descriptive. If Abraham trusted God, he would have to show it by his obedience to what God asked him to do. If he obeyed, packed up and left his home, he would be totally dependent on God for what was to happen next. Abraham didn’t know the way, he didn’t even know where they were going, so how could he know the way? Only God knew.

Abraham chose courageous dependence. He courageously chose to trust God, putting that trust into action by obeying God, making himself totally dependent on God for his future. Abraham surrendered his plans for himself and his life to God’s plan for him. That’s what I call courageous surrender. Surrender that gives up control voluntarily and puts me at the mercy of whoever it is that I am surrendering to, takes courage every time.

To surrender I have to have the courage to trust, the courage to believe, the courage to act by obeying, the courage to give up control, the courage to become dependent on the one to whom I am surrendering. This then, is courageous surrender.

Abraham faced this choice again on a mountain one day when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. This instruction from God made no sense because God had told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the grains of sand on the shore. So killing Isaac before Isaac even had any offspring of his own, made no earthly sense

Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed God. He went up the mountain taking along the wood for the burnt offering and his son, Isaac. As they walked up the mountain, Isaac realized something was missing and asked his father, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Good question, don’t you think? Again Abraham chose courageous dependence and he answered his son,

“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8)

Abraham chose to trust God and to obey Him, thereby making himself dependent on God to provide what he needed for the sacrifice that God required of him. What courage it must have taken for Abraham to climb up that mountain and do everything that God asked of him, surrendering even his own son to God’s will. That’s courageous surrender! And God, who required the sacrifice of Abraham, also provided that very sacrifice Himself.

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Genesis 22:13)

Which brings us to the greatest act of courageous surrender ever. Jesus prayed before His crucifixion these words, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus, being fully God and fully man, chose to surrender to His Father’s will for Him, which was death on a cross. This certainly was the ultimate act of courageous surrender. Jesus’s own words in John 10:17-18 make clear that He chose to submit to the Father’s will, He was not coerced. (likewise, we each have a choice)

“The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.”

God, who imposes my penalty, also pays my price. God provided the ram for Abraham and He provided Jesus for me. Jesus modeled courageous surrender – He requires nothing less of me, if I choose to follow Him. Like Abraham, I have to walk by faith each day because only God knows the end from the beginning. Jesus’s call is clear –

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

I will take action – obedience is courageous dependence in action – deny myself, take up my cross, follow Christ – to the land He will show me – like a branch on the Vine, totally dependent on Him – I will courageously surrender to my Savior and Lord again and again – trusting Him to bring me safely through the desert to the land He will show me. I do not need a map. God is my guide. I have His Word on that –

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

sincerely, Grace Day

the meeting place

my thoughts turn toward the meeting place – that quiet, peaceful, restful space

where my feelings need not fear, to fall upon a callous ear

there in the silence where thoughts are heard, shared easily without a word –

for the meeting place has no need of words, just Someone who hears what my words can’t say, giving me strength for another day –

how I long to go to the meeting place, where my cares will be erased

or made less hurtful for awhile, in the presence of my Father’s smile.

my heart yearns for the meeting place, that soothing, silent, sacred space

where my Father’s voice is heard, whispered wisdom with every word –

in the meeting place there are no walls, to block the Holy Spirit’s calls,

for the meeting place is all around, everywhere that God is found.

“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.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

“Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:4)

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

“I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

my thoughts turn toward the place of prayer, that sacred space, to meet God there,

I find He’s been there all along, in the meeting place – where I belong

the meeting place is everywhere, because wherever I am – God is there.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” (Hebrews 13:5)

sincerely, Grace Day

message of the mug

They handed it to me as I walked through the doors, a box which I opened after I found my seat in the pew. It was a Mother’s Day gift, one given to every woman in church today. Whether we were alone or our children were with us, each of us received this gift. Inside the box was a mug, which was a perfect gift for me because whether it’s hot chocolate or hot tea, I can put a mug to good use every day. What immediately stood out to me though, was the one word on the mug.

Not a clever or a pithy saying, just one word – and that word was “hope.” Now I have never before chosen a word for the year, as many of my friends do each January. But this year I had chosen one, well two words actually, but I’ll tell you about the other word at another time. At present it is enough to know that one of my chosen words for this year is “hope.” So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I saw that my new mug had my chosen word for the year on it! And I didn’t have to special order it or anything.

A gift from God on Mother’s Day, reminding me not to give up hope – that’s what my new mug was to me in that Sunday morning moment. Hope is what makes life livable and perseverance possible. Hope is what sustains in the dark while waiting for the light to break through. Hope says, “hang on, the dawn is coming, better days are ahead.” Hope sees beyond what is, to what will be. Hope is God’s good gift to the world wrapped up in the person of His Son, Jesus. When Jesus was born, He brought hope to a hurting world, a world that had waited long for God’s promises to His people to be fulfilled.

When John the Baptist was in prison, he asked if Jesus was the “One” sent by God, in whom they should put their hope. This was the answer he received,

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)

How long must those blind, lame, deaf or leprous individuals have been waiting for something to happen or for someone to come along and change their lives for the better by setting them free from their afflictions? And then it happened. Raising the dead and preaching the Gospel to the poor were added bonuses, miracles full of hope for a world that had lost hope after four hundred years of God’s silence. (the Good News is literally a message of hope for all mankind – God has come in the flesh to forgive sins, to save the lost, to make a way to God where there was no way – to deliver in person God’s message of hope for every person in every age) – enter Jesus.

Jesus was born to be our bridge back to our Creator God. Jesus is my hope for reconciliation with my Heavenly Father, my hope for forgiveness and my hope for eternal life. Hope sustains me – it grounds me even as it gives me wings. Hebrews 6:18-19 says this about hope,

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

My soul needs an anchor in this turbulent world and “this hope”, which is hope in God, is what sustains me. The words of Isaiah 49:23 reassure me,

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.”

As I drink my favorite beverage from my mug of hope, I am encouraged with these words from Psalm 31:24 and Psalm 130:7 –

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.”

unfailing love and full redemption – what a wonderful hope! I belong to a God whose presence brings hope to any situation, any circumstance – He gives hope to the hopeless. My Heavenly Father fills me with His hope. He is the God of hope as Romans 15:13 says,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

like my new hope mug, Lord, I want to overflow with hope, so that I can share it with others who so desperately need the hope found only in You –

sincerely, Grace Day

remembering Mom on Mother’s Day

It’s only natural that I find myself reminiscing and missing Mom today, since I can’t spend the day with her like I did when she was still here. I have plenty of good memories to keep me company today but I also have lots of questions. There are things I never thought to ask Mom about before but now I’m really curious to learn the stories she would have told, had I asked.

If I look at a history book, I learn that the Great Depression began in August of 1929 and lasted for ten years. Mom was born in August of 1929. So she was born into a time in U.S. history synonymous with uncertainty, scarcity and hardship. I wonder what those years were like for a child growing up at that time in history? I never thought to ask. Mom never talked about it, nor did my grandparents, uncle or aunt.

Then I realize World War II began in 1939 and didn’t end until September of 1945. The U.S. entered this war in December of 1941 right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This directly impacted every American citizen’s life in myriad ways. For my Mom and her siblings it meant that their dad was gone for the next four years. He was a naval medical officer and spent those years on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. Letters were the only contact they had with him. There was no face time, zoom time, phone time, anything at that time in history. (I know that is hard to imagine now) TVs were not in homes until the 1950’s, so not until five years after World War II ended. Radios and letters carried the news.

I’m trying to imagine what that would have been like. From ages twelve to sixteen, my Mom and her brother and sister (and countless other families as well) did not see their dad, relying solely on letters to connect them during this time. I have one of those letters, written from a dad to his daughter during this time apart – we found them when we went through Mom’s stuff after her death. No wonder she saved them. How rare and precious the words on that piece of paper! I find myself wondering how long it must have taken their letters to go back and forth. Being on a ship in the middle of the ocean during a global war, mail couldn’t have been a high priority or very reliable. But we found some letters that survived the war and time. Much more satisfying than an email or a text, I felt a connection to my Mom’s past as I held the letter in my hand.

How I wish I could talk with Mom now and gain her perspective on what we have watched take place in these last two years. Labeled “the global pandemic” – would it have filled with fear and paralyzed my Mom, who had spent all of her first sixteen years of life surviving the Great Depression and World War II? My Mom would face more trials and hardships throughout her life, most of which I only realized as an adult looking back, seeing then what a child could not see unless a parent burdened them with realities they did not need to carry as a child.

These were both personal trials and the trials specific to the historical period in which we live. Every era has its own challenges to overcome. The Korean and the Vietnam Wars would follow as would women’s rights and Civil Rights movements. Probably more daunting are the challenges of personal life that we all face in many forms as we strive to make marriages work, care for our families, whether that be children or aging parents or both, and contribute productively to our larger community. My Mom did all of these things. She did them well and she did them faithfully, with quiet dedication and perseverance. She did not give up on her family or her friends or her church or meals on wheels or on anything or anyone else that mattered to her.

She knew adversity and it did not scare her. Or if it did, I did not know it because it did not deter her from living her life daily in the service of those she loved. I, as one of her daughters, am fortunate to be a recipient of her love and of her legacy of facing fear and living life in the presence of adversity. I wrote these words to my Mom some time ago, but don’t think I ever sent the letter. Wish I’d asked more questions. Wish I’d spent more time. But Mom, here’s what I want to say to you,

“You gave me, you gave us, joy in spite of your pain. I look at you, Mom, and I know what courage is. Courage is loving in the face of hurt. I know disappointment and pain, and because of this, I am forced to make a choice every day – choose courage or give up. Like you I will not give up. Like you I will choose courage all over again every day. Thank you for leaving me this legacy. Forgive me for not recognizing this gift of yours sooner.”

I honor my Mom today with these words and reflections, even as I would give anything to be spending this day with her again, going to church with her, eating afterwards at her favorite restaurant. Today memories of her are keeping me company instead.

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

love you, Mom –

sincerely, Grace Day

whose story is it anyway?

I’m supposed to tell my story soon, to a group of people, most of whom don’t know me. Now while I love to hear and am often astonished by other people’s stories, I never consider that I have much of a story to tell. My story is like everyone else’s story who has ever lived and my story is totally unique to me. Both are true at the same time.

My life doesn’t seem all that exciting or dramatic to me, in fact I don’t find it all that interesting (but maybe that’s because I’m living it so there’s no mystery to me). Other people’s stories, on the other hand, always fascinate me and more often than not, also surprise me. I definitely should never judge a book by its cover or make assumptions about people without hearing their stories. And the longer we live, the more there is to our stories.

I want a story like Rahab or Ruth or even Wilma Rudolf or Harriet Tubman or Katherine Johnson – women who overcame adversity through courage and perseverance and accomplished something significant in spite of many obstacles. Maybe without significant hardship to overcome, our character is not developed and strengthened to the point of achieving greatness. Kind of like increasing the amount of weight in physical workouts produces better results than not using any weights. Weights provide the resistance or the burden which makes us stronger. Yes, bearing burdens, walking through adversity, forms my character in essential ways, making it much stronger than it would otherwise be. Guess that’s why James says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

But I digress. Rahab and Ruth each have a story to be sure. But their individual stories derive their significance from and are best understood in the context of the one central, ongoing, larger story in which we all play a part, albeit small. Along with Rahab and Ruth, I am, you are, we all are a part of this much larger, longer, ongoing story. We are each a part of God’s eternal story – history – His (God’s) story. Our stories should not be told in isolation because they do not take place in isolation. My story, your story, each and every story is part of the bigger story which belongs to God. Actually, God is the author of the story. He is writing my story and your story into His eternal story. He is writing and orchestrating His whole story from beginning to end. God alone is sovereign over the script and over the outcome of the story – precisely because it is His story, not mine. I am just a bit player, with a part to play if I will trust God to write my story, just as Rahab and Ruth did.

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

So, when I am asked to tell my story, it is really God’s story that I am telling – because that is the only way my story has any meaning, significance, purpose or place – when it is told in the context of the longer, larger story which God has been writing since time began. My story is unique to me, as is yours to you, dear reader. Only an infinite God could write a distinct and different story for each and every person He creates. And yet, as different as our stories are, there is a common thread that runs through each of them, uniting us all as participants in God’s story.

Every story, including mine, involves a dramatic rescue as part of the plot, plus a total transformation of character, which takes place over time. Each of our stories contains pain and adversity, trials and triumphs. Every story is one of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation, including healing and hope restored. These are the inescapable elements God writes into every story of those who call His Son Savior and Lord. These are the themes of humanity, played out again and again in each generation.

We are each searching for meaning, identity, purpose, acceptance, connection – we are searching for eternity in a temporal world. Our stories play out differently, but their themes remain constant. When Jesus invited me to “take up my cross and follow Him,” I accepted that invitation and that has made all the difference in my story. Life is still tough, hard, painful, challenging, disappointing, downright devastating at times. Jesus said it would be. He said,

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

When I accepted Jesus’s invitation, I had to decide, am I going to write my own story or am I going to let God write my story? or rather write me into His story? I am choosing the latter day by day. Every day it is a conscious, new decision to let the pen that writes my story remain in God’s capable hands and not to attempt to wrest it from Him and write the script the way I think it should go. With God doing the writing, I am forced to walk by faith, trusting Him, because I don’t know what I will read when I turn the page. But –

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

With God writing my story I know that it will end well. When He is the author, every day is an adventure, every day a gift full of possibility and promise, to be lived with purpose, on purpose for His glory and for His story – where every moment matters, every choice counts for eternity. It is not safe, it is not predictable, this journey of trust and following, this race I run, as my story is being written, but it is worth the prize that awaits.

” so I throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and I run with perseverance the race marked out for me with my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I have been long on the Potter’s wheel, and I expect to be there longer still. It is a painful place to be, but necessary for this process of transformation to take place. I am a work in progress and will be as long as I walk this earth. The Potter will never abandon me nor give up on me until His work in me is complete. If you are reading this, then you are a work in progress too, because you are still here and your story is still being written as is mine. Perhaps our stories will intersect at some point in time and be woven together as parts of God’s eternal story.

So, whose story is it? It is God’s story – one great story from beginning to end. I am but a bit player, lucky enough to have been offered a part. And it is a brief appearance in the story at that. Consider what James says,

“Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

My part or my story may not be big like Moses or Abraham, but better a small role in God’s eternal story, than the lead in the world’s or in my own story.

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Because, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)

whose story is it? It is His story and I will stick to the script He provides –

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“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 23:6)

sincerely, Grace Day

prayer walk partners

She was slow of step and slower still of speech, not exactly a limp but unsteady on her feet and speech slurred, the words blurred together so that I had to listen hard to understand her. That must be why they told me her name was something other than it really was. They hadn’t understood her. But as we walked together down the street, I listened well and learned her name. I also learned it was a stroke that had left her as I now found her. I had not known her before today.

But today, as we all set out in pairs to walk the neighborhood to pray for and with any people we would encounter along the way, she and I were paired together. I took her arm on her weak side, thinking to steady her, realizing I would not be able to walk at my usual brisk pace, I would not be able to cover as much ground. (as if that mattered to God)

Her granddaughter walked with us in a silence I thought unusual until her grandmother explained to me that she was autistic. She stayed close to us, stopping only to pick dandelions which had gone to seed, blowing on each one in turn, sending the white fluff flying into the air, reminding me of all the times I had done this very same thing as a child. There is a particular delight in watching the white dandelion dissolve into a thousand wisps of white which float away right before your eyes. I have spent my fair share of time making wishes on dandelion fluff, while blowing on it, not unlike making a wish and blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

I thought I would be her guide, but she was mine. Said she had grown up in this neighborhood. She directed our path. With the slower pace, I noticed more – more flowers, more trees blooming, more people out in this spring morning’s peaceful, sunlit quiet – quite the contrast from the chaos that so often fills this same neighborhood’s nights with the noises of danger and discord.

And so we walked as she talked of her experiences here, while I struggled to understand her words, wondering how this would all turn out. I didn’t have to wait long for the answer to that question. She spotted him before I even knew someone was there – sitting in the shadows of the front porch in the half open doorway. Not waiting for an invitation nor an introduction, she made her way up onto the front porch to engage the man in conversation. She did all the talking (she didn’t need my help to minister to a stranger with God’s love and compassion) and she did all the praying. The man began to weep, he had no trouble understanding the words that she was lifting up to God on his behalf – neither did I. I understood it all.

We continued on our way, stopping to pray for a woman in her car and later a man wearing an ankle monitor, signaling his probable recent release from prison. There were others, all seemed surprised and grateful that someone would care enough to take the time to pray for them. We did not know their individual stories, but God knew each one, each name, each story, each need intimately and completely. We didn’t have to know. Ours was to pray. God does the heavy lifting. And so we prayed. Well, mostly she prayed.

I listened and I learned. I learned from her boldness. I learned from her abundance of compassion which made her bold on behalf of these people whom God loves and desires that we should show them His love. I learned that what I perceived as disabilities and therefore liabilities that would prevent us from doing the walking and the talking which is what a prayer walk consists of (walking and talking) – that these were not obstacles to be overcome – it was that they simply made no difference at all to the success or failure of the mission with which we had been entrusted.

I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” which he begged God to take away. The reply?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

True, my new friend was slow of step and slow of speech. But neither “thorn” had the slightest impact on the power of her prayers spoken for the people we met that day. It’s not that her speech suddenly became clear, rather that God’s presence was felt and His message of His love and care for each person was received loud and clear by each precious person. I am witness to that miracle.

God can use anyone who will answer His call in obedience. What I consider insurmountable obstacles are not obstacles at all to God. My new friend showed me this truth. How glad I am she didn’t stay home, thinking she could not walk or talk well enough to prayer walk the neighborhood for God. That would be a lie of our enemy, the devil.

After my sacred time with my prayer walk partner, I am encouraged, inspired, renewed and reminded not to let anything hold me back from answering God’s call on my life. I watched God’s power and love flow through her to the people, unobstructed, because she was not in the way. God’s power was made perfect in what we would call her weaknesses, which turned out to be her strengths.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. . . . Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’ ” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)

thanking God for my prayer walk partner,

sincerely, Grace Day