today I choose . . .

words from my favorite football movie are running through my mind today – words the coach said to his players, “we praise God when we win, we praise God when we lose.” (Facing the Giants)

today I choose – today I choose? – today I choose! that’s the revelation and the realization – the choices are mine alone to make . . .

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, 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)

today I choose to see God’s hand in every circumstance surrounding me, I choose to be grateful and to give thanks to Him for His undeserved kindnesses to me in the moments of my day –

“He does not treat me as my sins deserve or repay me according to my iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10)

today I choose to rejoice in the rain as well as to celebrate the sun – knowing both are necessary for life and growth –

“He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17)

“Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.” (Zechariah 10:1)

today I choose to look for the good in people around me, believing I will find it if I look long enough, if I look with eyes of compassion and understanding, if I look at others like my Heavenly Father looks at them

“Since you are precious and honored in My sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:4)

today I choose to climb the mountain before me that God hasn’t moved, knowing the climb will make me stronger, accepting that there are lessons I need to learn along the way –

today I choose praise over protest, confession over complaining, repentance over refusal to face my flaws, today I choose to trust my Creator’s ways rather than my ways, I choose delight in Him over despair in my present sufferings –

today I choose to bend my knee and bow my head and raise my hands to the God of all creation –

“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” (Psalm 145:1-2)

today I choose to run the race God is asking me to run – I choose to run for His glory, not mine –

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

today I choose to be still

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

today I choose God’s eternal truth over satan’s divisive lies – Jesus has prayed this for me –

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17)

today I choose hope despite how hopeless things might appear to be –

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

today I choose to dance, to sing, to praise, to give thanks to God –

“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)

today -today I choose joy!

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

sincerely, Grace Day

an unlikely ancestor – BUT GOD

God promised His people, the Israelites, a deliverer, a Messiah. This Messiah would be a Jew from the lineage of King David. So how does a Moabite widow end up in the family tree of the Son of the Living God? A good question since the Moabites were long standing enemies of the Jews. Given this fact, a Moabite for an ancestor seems highly unlikely, impossible really. BUT GOD!

So how did this even happen? Well, it all started with a famine in Israel. This led to Elimelech taking his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to live for a while in the land of Moab. Now Elimelech died, leaving Naomi, her two sons and their Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth. That’s right. Both Naomi’s boys had married women from the pagan culture in which they were living. Next we learn that both of Naomi’s sons die. This leaves all three women widowed and childless. They are alone in the world, with no one to take care of them. Then we read,

“When she (Naomi) heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. . . . they set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.” (Ruth 1:6-7)

But remember, Judah was only home for Naomi. As far as Orpah and Ruth were concerned, they were heading to a foreign land, a place where they would be the outsiders, the foreigners. Perhaps they would even be perceived as the enemy because they were Moabites who didn’t worship Yahweh. Orpah and Ruth weren’t heading home. They were actually leaving home. Which must be why Naomi had a change of heart and said this to her daughters-in-law,

“Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. . . . At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. . . . So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. . . . So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” (Ruth 1:11-14,19 & 22)

The future looks pretty bleak for the two women at this point – with no husbands and no children to care for them, what were they to do? Well, Ruth had a plan. We read –

“And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’ Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter.’ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” (Ruth 2:2-3)

Elimelech? Remember him? He is Naomi’s deceased husband, the one who moved his family to Moab during the famine. And now Ruth finds herself working in a field belonging to a relative of her deceased father-in-law. Coincidence? I think not. But our story continues. Ruth is a hard worker. She catches Boaz’s attention and finds favor with him. So much so that we read in Ruth 2:8-9 what Boaz does for Ruth,

“So Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.’ ”

Boaz offered Ruth both provision and protection. Ruth was able to work the harvest in safety and bring food home to Naomi every night. Naomi’s reaction to this good news?

” ‘The Lord bless him!’ Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing His kindness to the living and the dead.’ She added, ‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.’ . . . Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ ” (Ruth 2:20-22)

So this would be a good end to the story, right? The two women are safe and Ruth is able to feed them by working in the fields during the barley harvest. Boaz has even extended her kindness and protection. BUT GOD – God had so much more in mind than simply providing food for Naomi and Ruth – so much more.

Boaz falls in love with Ruth and being an honorable man of God, he goes through the proper channels to make her his wife. This involves a public hearing at the town gate where business is conducted in the presence of many witnesses. We read what happened in Ruth 4:9-10 –

“Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!’ ”

This is a great ending to the story. Boaz has married the foreigner, giving her standing and belonging in this foreign land where she was the outsider. Ruth and by extension, Naomi are now both provided for and protected, because Boaz is a God honoring man of standing. Owning many fields, he is rich as well as influential in the community. Ruth has married her prince charming. She is no longer a widow. She and Naomi are no longer alone.

BUT GOD – but God had still another blessing to bestow on Ruth and Naomi. Ruth and Boaz had a son whom they named Obed.

“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’ ” (Ruth 4:14-15)

Obed was a blessing, a gift from God. As the story of Ruth draws to a close, we read this about Obed –

“And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.” (Ruth 4:17)

That’s right. Obed was the grandfather of King David, Israel’s greatest King, of whom it was said, “he is a man after God’s own heart.” Which means, Boaz and Ruth are the great grandparents of King David. It also means they are a part of the earthly lineage of Jesus. We see both Ruth’s and Boaz’s names listed in the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:5. This is remarkable, since most of the genealogy lists only the father’s name and because Ruth was a foreigner, not an Israelite.

BUT GOD – God is no respecter of persons and welcomes all who come to Him. Ruth made her decision to do just that clear when she said to Naomi –

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ ” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth made a choice when she said, “and your God my God.” And that’s how a widowed Moabitess became the wife of Boaz, the mother of Obed and a part of the earthly lineage of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world! BUT GOD!

BUT GOD – “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20)

sincerely, Grace Day

the end of Israel – “BUT GOD”

“Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.” (Judges 2:11-12) Then –

” . . . the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.” (Judges 2:14)

Sound familiar? Is history repeating itself in our own country today? What happened at this point in Israel’s story was a – BUT GOD intervention for sure.

“Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. . . . Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, He was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. . . . But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:16-19)

BUT GOD – had compassion on His people. He raised up judges for them. God saved them out of the hands of their enemies. The Israelites response? When the judge died, they returned to “their evil practices and stubborn ways.” We read –

“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” At this point they were sold into slavery for eight years to the king of Aram Naharaim. We read what happened next –

“But when they cried out to the Lord, He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, . . . The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. . . . So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.” (Judges 3:9-11)

What happened after Othniel’s death? You guessed it. “Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, . . . The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and He gave them a deliverer – Ehud, . . . That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.” (Judges 3:12-15 & 30)

By now I’m guessing you’re seeing the cycle of the nation of Old Testament Israel – rebellion against God and His ways, repentance, return to God, crying out to Him, a rescue from God for their nation, followed by peace and prosperity until they again stop following God’s ways and laws and again began doing their own thing. In fact, the book of Judges ends with these words –

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

Other translations say, “each person did whatever seemed right in his own opinion.” (ISV) or “Everyone did whatever they pleased.” (Good News Translation) or “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (ESV) Sounds like a recipe for chaos and disaster, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what it was for Israel and what it still is today for any society that is without the benefit of laws and leadership, leaving everyone to decide for themselves what is right and to make their own rules.

Our country seems to be suffering daily from chaos and lawlessness. We see criminals go free while the victims of their crimes are the ones vilified. As a nation we have cast God out of our public life, we no longer acknowledge Him from whom all blessings flow, as our founders freely did. And this is to our detriment. We, like Israel, are in need of a “BUT GOD” intervention for our country. I find much hope in these words from 2 Chronicles 7:14-15,

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

I can feel much despair as I look around at the events that are causing so much suffering today. Despair paralyzes. But hope galvanizes. Hope believes that there is a “BUT GOD” coming. Hope compels me to humble myself, to pray, to seek God’s face, to turn from my ways (which are wicked) to God’s ways (which are always good) knowing that then I will hear from heaven – knowing that if we do this individually and corporately, God has said He will forgive our sin and heal our land.

The story of our country is not over yet, just as Joseph’s or Noah’s or Jonah’s stories were not over even when they appeared to be at an end. “BUT GOD” always has the final say because He is sovereign, it is His story and He has control of the script. That is a great comfort and source of hope to me and may it be for you also, dear readers. Hang on – there is a “BUT GOD” on the way.

” ‘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. . . . You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” (Psalm 33:11-12)

sincerely, Grace Day

no way out – “BUT GOD”

Ever feel like that? Ever been there? All options exhausted. All exits blocked. Out of ideas and out of time. Daniel found himself in just such a situation centuries ago. He found himself in a den of hungry lions with no way out. And no, this is not a metaphor for his life at that time. Daniel was in an actual den full of real, not virtual, hungry lions. We read in Daniel 6:16-17,

“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’ A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.”

Ok, that sounds pretty final to me. A stone blocking the exit – “so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” This sounds like the end of the story to me. BUT GOD – Imagine the king’s surprise when –

“At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’ Daniel answered, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.’ ” (Daniel 6:19-22)

It looked to everyone, including the king, like Daniel’s story was over. BUT GOD! But God intervened, sending His angel and shutting the mouths of the lions. It wasn’t the end of Daniel’s story at all. It was simply a plot twist, one quite unexpected to those who had orchestrated the events that put Daniel in the lions’ den in the first place. Daniel’s enemies did not foresee this surprise ending. They did not factor “BUT GOD” into their equation of events and possible outcomes. (they had been plotting Daniel’s demise for some time)

I’m sure they were very surprised in the morning to learn that Daniel was still alive and even more surprised at what happened next. It was quite the turn of events, to be sure.

“The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. . . . Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: . . . ‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’ So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:23-28)

What appeared to be Daniel’s downfall and destruction, became instead his stepping stone to a high position of service not only to the current king but also to the king who would succeed him. And what’s more, Daniel’s night with the lions brought honor and glory to God, as Daniel gave God thanks and praise for saving his life, telling the king that it was God who sent the angel and shut the lions’ mouths, not anything he, Daniel, was able to do.

Daniel’s story gives me hope when I am in my own den of lions. When the exit is blocked, all appeals exhausted, I am out of ideas and options – it is then I discover that it is just me and a bunch of hungry lions locked in with me, leaving me to wonder if I will survive the night. Peter warned about this in 1 Peter 5:8 when he said,

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Then I remember that it is not just me and the lions in this place of no escape. God is right there with me, just as He was with Daniel. He is still an Omnipresent God. When I find myself alone with the lions, King David’s words come to mind –

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

Today it is easy to feel hemmed in by circumstances that elude our control. Evil, deception and division seem to be devouring innocent lives. There seems to be no way of escape. BUT GOD! He is my hope today and every day. There may be no way out of the lions’ den – BUT GOD! He is –

“able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20)

“But God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself.” (Psalm 49:15)

sincerely, Grace Day

just another fish story – “but God”

Each of our stories have “but God” moments in them, and Jonah, an Old Testament prophet of God, is no exception. This particular part of Jonah’s life story starts when he receives a very important assignment from his boss, God.

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:1-3)

So Jonah is not only refusing the assignment he’s been given, he also decides to run away and hide from God. I guess that seemed like a good plan to Jonah at the time but he obviously hadn’t read Psalm 139:7-12 or he wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble to try and run from God. After all, the words King David wrote are pretty clear –

“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.”

Jonah was on a ship sailing to “the far side of the sea” but he was not escaping God’s presence. God was pursuing Jonah as we see in what happens next.

“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.” (Jonah 1:4-5)

Eventually the sailors determined that Jonah was responsible for their plight, so they began to question him, demanding to know who he was and who he worked for.

“He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)” Meanwhile, we are told that, “The sea was getting rougher and rougher.” (Jonah 1:9-11)

Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard in order to save the ship and themselves. They didn’t want to do this, but eventually they did throw Jonah into the sea even as they cried out to God, begging Him not to hold them responsible for taking Jonah’s life.

“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.” (Jonah 1:15)

So the sailors and their ship were saved and Jonah was cast into the sea and left to drown. Seems like a fitting and just ending for someone who defied God, someone who refused to obey God’s explicit instructions, someone who instead, ran away in the opposite direction. That someone was Jonah and now Jonah was drowning in the sea, the same sea that he had hoped would be his means of escape from God and from God’s plans for him. Now, however, Jonah’s escape route had become his death trap, his path to freedom was now his watery grave.

Jonah’s story appears to have reached its predictable ending, given Jonah’s outright rebellion against God. Except that his story is not over at this point, even though it would seem to be at its inevitable conclusion. What happens next, is the unforeseen plot twist, the unanticipated “but God” moment. Jonah is drowning –

“But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

Probably not the most comfy place to be for someone needing to do some soul searching and repenting – but it was just the right place for Jonah to do both – and he did just that. Our story continues –

“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry. . . . The engulfing waters threatened me, . . . But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” (Jonah 2:1-9)

God could have let Jonah drown, but He is a merciful, forgiving God – a God of second chances – infinite second chances. How glad I am for that truth! What happened next?

“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” (Jonah 2:10 & 3:1-3)

Jonah let that large city know they were going to be destroyed in forty days. This was the message God had sent Jonah to deliver – a warning to the city. In response to Jonah’s warning, the people of the city fasted and prayed and turned from their evil ways. Next we read –

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10)

Like Jonah, the Ninevites also got a second chance. Their city was not destroyed. They called upon God and God showed them mercy, just as He had with Jonah in providing the great fish. A happy, hopeful ending all round.

Our story ends with Jonah being miffed at God for not destroying the formerly wicked city of Nineveh. Which is odd, because Jonah received a second chance. Why would Jonah begrudge the Ninevites the same mercy he himself had so recently received? (note to self – don’t be like Jonah!)

I have to ask myself – how many times has my Heavenly Father sent a proverbial great fish to rescue me when I am drowning due to my own disobedience? or drowning simply due to the unavoidable storms in this life? Being swallowed by a fish isn’t pleasant, but sometimes it’s the only way to the second chance that I so desire.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Jonah received some training during his days in the belly of the great fish, no doubt. He was drowning and the great city of Nineveh was doomed to imminent destruction. “But God” – “But the Lord provided a great fish” – Jonah was saved and Nineveh was spared. “But God” – those “but God” moments always change the outcome of the story by providing a second chance. Jonah summed it up when he said this to God –

“I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2)

The circumstances surrounding you and I, dear readers, in the world today, may suggest that the endings to the stories that you and I are living out have already been decided, written in permanent ink, as it were. But this is not true. There is always hope because there is always a “but God” moment in each and every one of our stories – usually more than one of those moments along the way.

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for all the great fish You have sent to rescue me each and every time I have been drowning.

“But God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself.” (Psalm 49:15)

sincerely, Grace Day

the wrong king – “but God”

Samuel worked for God and he was on assignment. Israel needed a new king and Samuel was on his way to Jesse of Bethlehem because God had chosen one of Jesse’s eight sons to be Israel’s next king. God hadn’t told Samuel which son was the chosen one, but had simply said to Samuel “. . . I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for Me the one I indicate.” (1 Samuel 16:3)

Now a little back story here. Samuel was an Old Testament prophet, a man of God who spoke God’s word to Israel. Israel’s current king, Saul, had fallen out of favor with God because he had disobeyed God’s instructions to him, given through Samuel. It was time for a new king and Samuel’s assignment at the moment was to identify and anoint Saul’s successor. But Samuel almost picked the wrong guy. In 1 Samuel 16:6-7, we read what happened,

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ”

And that makes all the difference in the world – “but the Lord” – He alone has the unique ability to look at people’s hearts (because He made them) rather than rely on their physical appearance in order to make any sort of a judgement. This could explain why God is the only one “who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) He sees our hearts. In Hebrews 4:12-13 we read this about God’s word –

” . . . 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.”

My eyesight is limited to the physical realm and isn’t all that clear a lot of the time, except maybe in hindsight. But my Heavenly Father has perfect vision in every aspect, both physical and spiritual, and His past, present and future vision are all perfect too.

Samuel saw Eliab’s height and made an assumption that he was destined to become Israel’s next king. Samuel would have made a big mistake – “But the Lord” spoke to Samuel and instructed him saying “but the Lord looks at the heart.” Samuel listened to God. Jesse introduced each of his sons to Samuel until finally –

“Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1 Samuel 16:12-13)

Samuel would have gotten it wrong – “but God.” That’s the story of my life. I have a plan – “but God” – God has a better plan. How many times does He save me from myself? (that’s a rhetorical question) I am grateful for God’s intervention in my life each and every day. Where would I be except “but God”?

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

sincerely, Grace Day

more “but God”

Every day I am grateful for the “but God” moments in my life. Those are the moments when God shows up to rescue me from the certain destruction that is the obvious ending to my story, save God’s miraculous intervention on my behalf, providing me with a last minute plot twist leading to a happy ending instead. It is God’s intervention that makes all the difference in the outcome of my story and in the outcomes of other’s stories as well.

Some “but God” stories are more widely known than others. Such is the case with the story of a man named Noah. His is quite the iconic story. Had God not intervened however, I doubt we would even know Noah’s name today. But God did have a plan, which we read about in Genesis chapter six, and that plan included Noah.

“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, . . . So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth’ . . . But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8)

Yes, there is a “but Noah” moment in this story. That’s because Noah found favor with God. So God told Noah of His plan to destroy the earth. He instructed Noah to build an ark, a really big ark that could hold his family and of course animals, lots of animals.

“So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. . . . So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; . . . I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, . . . Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female . . . ” (Genesis 6:13-19)

Noah obeyed God and built this boat in spite of the fact that he had never experienced rain on the earth in all of his six-hundred years. Nevertheless, “Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:5)

“In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. . . . as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. . . . They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. . . . Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.” (Genesis 7:11, 17-24)

I wonder if Noah and his family felt hopeless at this point in their story? They were stuck in a boat and there was no dry land anywhere. Then we read these words in Genesis 8:1,

“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

“But God” – such welcome words, which changed the course of the story. The rains stopped, the winds came and the flood waters eventually dried up. Noah, his family and all the animals eventually were able to exit the ark and once again inhabit the earth. It was a new beginning, marked by a covenant God established with Noah. We read about it in Genesis chapter eight –

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – . . . Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. . . . Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ ” (Genesis 9:8-16)

To this day, we still see rainbows in the sky after a storm. Rainbows are reminders of God’s covenant, made so long ago with Noah – a covenant that continues still to this day. Rainbows remind me that God is faithful to all His promises, even when I am not. Storms often leave destruction in their wake. The rainbow after the storm reminds me that God is still present and will restore what the storm has taken in His timing. God Himself said that He will see the rainbow and remember His promise.

The rainbow is God’s tangible gift to us, signifying His eternal, abiding presence with us. When we come through a storm, His rainbow reminds us that He has not forgotten us nor His covenant with us. The rainbow is hope on display for all to see and know that He alone is God. The rainbow reminds me that my next “but God” moment is much closer than I know because the rainbow literally says – “The earth was destroyed – BUT GOD!”

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

sincerely, Grace Day

but God

Don’t you just love the surprise ending you didn’t see coming, the last-minute plot twist that turns everything upside down and leaves you speechless? I know I do. Some of my favorite books, movies and stories are those with the unexpected ending that I didn’t see coming. (which is why it was unexpected in the first place) I like a mystery that surprises me at the end, when the villain is revealed and it is not the person I had thought it was all along. This forces me to look back and reevaluate all the “clues” I missed, now that I am viewing the story from a completely different perspective – the perfect perspective of hindsight.

The Bible is filled with stories that turn out very differently than what I would predict when just hearing the story for the first time. (must be why I love reading it so much) The stories in the Bible are full of unexpected, unlikely, stunningly surprising twists, turns and endings in the lives of most of the individuals whose stories are told as part of the larger narrative that is God’s story. Here I see God’s presence and participation in the lives of those He has created, working through them to write His story, accomplishing His good and eternal purposes.

Because we have free will, there is always lots of drama in the story and it often looks as if evil has won. But appearances can be deceiving and if I have learned anything it is this – never give up hope. God is in the redemption business. No matter how events are unfolding in any particular person’s story, I hang on to these words from Psalm 33:11,

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”

There’s that all important – “but God” – or in this case “but God’s plans” – His plans are the ones that will prevail. And that is the case in today’s “but God” story – the story of Joseph. This is such a familiar and popular story that it has even been told as a musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Yes, Joseph did receive a very special coat from his father, Jacob. That’s probably when all the trouble started and where our story starts in earnest. Joseph was number eleven of twelve brothers and being shown this kind of favoritism by his father did not sit well with his brothers.

To say they were jealous is kind of an understatement. They wanted Joseph dead and plotted to kill him. Turns out instead of killing Joseph, they simply sold him to a slave caravan heading to Egypt. They told their father a wild animal had killed Joseph and they thought their problem was solved – they were rid of the brother of whom they were so jealous. Good riddance – right?

Meanwhile Joseph’s story continues with him living as a slave in Egypt. He finds favor and eventually attains a position as manager, in charge of his master’s entire household – that is, until he is put in jail due to false allegations of seducing his master’s wife. You would think his story ends here because he’s in jail with no hope for his release. But no, there’s a second act and Joseph gets a second chance. While in jail, Joseph correctly interprets dreams for two fellow prisoners, who just happen to be Pharaoh’s former cupbearer and baker. This eventually leads to his being called to do the same for Pharaoh. Next thing we know, Joseph is out of prison and is put in charge of all of Egypt. He is now second only to Pharaoh. This would be a good ending to Joseph’s story, it seems to me.

But it’s not up to me and there is more – a final plot twist as it were. There is a widespread famine in the land and many people come to Egypt to purchase food because under Joseph’s wise leadership, Egypt has stored up an abundance of food in preparation for the coming famine. And who should journey to Egypt in hopes of finding food but Joseph’s brothers. That’s right. The very same brothers that sold Joseph into slavery all those years ago.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking at this point in the story? Joseph finally has the opportunity to get back at his brothers for the evil they did to him. He could refuse to sell them food and let them starve. They would get what they deserved, right? But that’s not what happened. Not even close. Our story takes an unexpected turn, ending this way –

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21)

Now that’s a surprise ending! – totally unexpected. Who could have seen that coming? Forgiveness, kindness, provision for the brothers who had betrayed him in the worst way. Why? Notice that Joseph’s words to his brothers contain the words “but God” – they intended him harm “but God intended it for good . . . the saving of many lives.”

so there it is, today’s plot twist brought to us by the words “but God” – two of my favorite words for sure.

“But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)

sincerely, Grace Day

running low

There are lots of things which I don’t want to run low – gas in my car for instance or ice cream in my freezer or of course Lipton Green Tea Citrus or toilet paper or duct tape (the solution to all things broken). Also, furnace filters, water softener salt and toothpaste, shampoo etc. – these are things I dread to discover I have run out of at the very moment I have need of them. Imagine realizing that you are missing a critical ingredient to what you are baking when you are already in the middle of the process and all the stores are closed, or that seeking solace, you fling open the freezer door only to find it empty of ice cream!

This is why I don’t like to run low on anything critical, because the next step after running low is always running out and then it is too late. Why is this on my mind now? Because for the past week or more I have been battling with my cell phone battery. It was happening so slowly at first, I hardly noticed. But then it became impossible not to notice – the battery was not holding a charge like it used to do. It was taking longer and longer to charge the battery fully and my phone is feeling very warm to the touch while charging. Now it will no longer charge to 100%, no matter how long I leave it plugged in and if I need to unplug my phone to take it with me, the charge is not lasting long at all. At this point it dawns on me, if I can’t unplug my cell phone from the wall, it has essentially become a land line.

I have ordered a replacement battery and am anxiously awaiting its arrival, wondering if it will get here in time, before this battery completely gives out (or burns up – whichever occurs first). In the meantime, I am dependent on a phone that is not dependable because its power source is always running low, never fully charged and has even run out several times, leaving me with no phone service, wondering how we all survived before the advent of cell phones.

Admit it, some of us can remember a time before cell phones if we think back far enough. How did we ever manage our lives without being in constant communication? I wonder if things would have gone differently for Deborah Kerr and Carey Grant in “An Affair to Remember” if they could have communicated via cell phone and he wouldn’t have mistakenly thought she was a “no show” and didn’t love him? Cell phones are no doubt changing the course of history one relationship at a time, perhaps – but not if their power source (battery) is running low.

Now that my cell phone is constantly losing power and dying, I am experiencing that feeling of being cut off, stranded, isolated – until I can get somewhere where I can plug it into a power source and attempt to revive it. I gotta say, lately I have been feeling a little like my cell phone battery – as if I, too, am running low. And like my battery, I can’t seem to fully recharge. I get a little lift, but it doesn’t last long. Soon my running low has become running out and then it is too late.

For my cell phone battery, the answer is to plug it into an electrical outlet and let it receive the energy it needs to power my phone. For me, I am reminded the answer is similar. I need to find a source of power to attach myself to if I am to be revived, before my running low completely runs out. I find the answer in John 15 where Jesus says to His disciples,

“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; . . . If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:4-7)

Some translations say, “abide in Me” or “live in Me and I in you”, making it really clear to me that Jesus, as the living Vine, is my source of life and He will supply me with everything I need to live this life. I just have to stay connected to Him so as not to run low or run out. His supply is infinite, so I won’t ever run low, but instead I will overflow, “bearing much fruit” as He promised. I will be fully charged at all times, not lacking anything, as long as I am a branch connected to the source of power, the source of life, the Vine, which is Jesus.

Unlike my phone’s battery, I never have to run low because I can abide in my power source continuously, since He is omnipresent. I don’t have to unplug and wait until I can find another power source with which to connect. Jesus says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” I have the joy of this constant connection, empowering me to meet each day’s challenges fully charged. Actually, Paul describes this power in Ephesians 1:19 in these words,

“and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

That is unimaginable power – resurrection power! I never need to live depleted and drained of power. When I find my battery is running low, that’s a warning to me that I am becoming separated from the Vine and beginning to wither. But when I am connected to the Vine, I never run low, only overflow with God’s good gifts of forgiveness, love, compassion, hope, kindness and more, which He pours out continuously through all His fruit-bearing branches. Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite supply. I need never run low as long as I remain in You.

“but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

sincerely, Grace Day

happy birthday!

On this particular hot summer afternoon, I found her backyard full of tables, tents and toys, along with balloons, decorations, food, meat on the grill, presents and cake – a large birthday cake – because this was a birthday party. The guest of honor? Her son, who was today now one year old. Something to celebrate. One whole year of life and growth. And many there were of us who showed up to rejoice in this little one’s life being now a year on this earth with us.

We mark our years with birthday celebrations, while hopefully remembering that each day of the past year has been a gift from God, even though some of those days may have contained sickness or sorrow or some other setbacks that life here on earth cannot help but contain for each of us at times. On this day, memories came to my mind of birthday parties past for my own children, now grown, memories of similar celebrations marking their passages from year to year with the pomp and circumstance befitting their advancing ages.

Locations, themes and decorations changed throughout the years (from ninja turtles and princesses to more sophisticated themes) but some things remain constant no matter what the age – the cake, the candles, the singing of the birthday song – these are the indispensables of any birthday celebration. As I pondered birthdays, my grandpa’s one-hundredth birthday party came to mind. That was a big event. There were many years to remember and to give thanks for at that time. And so we did.

Birthdays are basically at their core, celebrations of life. Whether one or one-hundred years old, the miracle of life is a gift that is worthy of our gratitude and the giving of our thanks for the one whose life we are celebrating. There may have been tough times over the past year, illnesses, accidents, etc. which may have called into question if there would even be another birthday to celebrate, making the milestone of another birthday all the more precious and remarkable and worthy of throwing a party in order to remember and rejoice over the precious person’s life whose birthday it is.

My grandpa overcame way too much to tell in this short space, in order to reach his one-hundred years of age. Likewise, many one-year-olds, maybe because of premature birth or other health hazards, have also overcome enormous odds just to reach that one-year milestone in their lives. Every birthday is a milestone. Every birthday is a miracle. Every birthday represents three-hundred and sixty-five days of God’s goodness, provision and protection in the life of the one whose birthday it is.

Birthdays mean we have survived, even overcome what lies behind us. Birthdays are filled with promise and possibility for the one who makes a wish and blows out the candles, hoping for a brighter future as they continue to grow and change. Birthdays become even more meaningful with age it seems. We can look back and see what impossible things God has brought us through and so gain courage to face what will surely lie ahead. Having learned from our mistakes, sustained by the courage of our convictions, we continue to grow, as all living things do.

I thought my grandpa’s birthday party had the oldest guest of honor of any party I had ever attended. But today, I realize that has never been true. Today, decorations are out, grills are heated, food, family and friends are gathered in backyards and parks across the country, while fireworks light up skies from the Atlantic to the Pacific, proclaiming freedom for one and for all. Why? Because today is a birthday. It is the birthday of our nation. The cake needed is a big one because today we celebrate the two-hundred forty-sixth birthday of our country.

With fireworks for candles, and Overture of 1812 or “My Country tis of Thee” or “God Bless America” for a birthday song, cherry pie for cake and flags flying everywhere for decorations, we celebrate another year of freedom with parades and outdoor concerts and cookouts. Today may we look back and acknowledge all that God has brought us through and all that He has blessed us with as a nation. May we know that all we have received has been from His gracious and merciful hand.

“The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. . . . The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:13-16)

“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)

From this self-reflection as a nation, may we gain the courage to face the challenges of today and those that lie ahead. I pray that those who have given their lives over the years will not have died in vain – those that died in the Revolutionary War so that we could be a free and sovereign nation, no longer a colony of a crown, subject to a royal ruler – nor those who died in the Civil War so that everyone would be free in this country, not just some, they believed this so deeply they died to make men free, – nor those who died in either world war, in the second dying so that those in the death camps could be freed – we did not allow Freedom’s ring to be silenced then – nor can we remain silent now, allowing Freedom to die while we are busy doing other things. What could be more important than acknowledging the God from whom all our blessings flow and all our freedoms?

When we celebrate the birthdays of our children, friends and family members, we celebrate the good in their lives while helping them to overcome whatever needs to change in their lives so that they can reach their full potential. As we celebrate our country’s birthday today, let us do the same for her. Honor and hold fast to the good in her, passed down to us over the past two-hundred forty-six years, even as we continue to grow more fully into that city on a hill, that beacon of light for the rest of the world, as we rest and rely on our faith in Almighty God and on the constitution, together they are our nation’s firm foundation. Our constitution guarantees us our God-given rights. It has stood the test of time and will continue to do so as long as we continue to honor it and do not ignore it.

I pray today, on this birthday of my beloved country, that, “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address)

Happy Birthday U.S.A.!

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

sincerely, Grace Day