the passing of the baton

Life is often referred to as a race. In this culture I often hear it called the “rat race.” I assume that refers to the fast pace of living and working and trying to “get ahead” by outworking and outrunning the competition. (the competition being the other rats/people) I recently wrote about this “life race” in a post entitled, “the last leg”, in which I contemplated finishing this earthly race. At any rate, this race is filled with transitions, not the least of which is the handing off of the baton – the most vital transition in this race we run.

Today I realize that I need to add something to my “the last leg” post. Why? Because even though I am on the last leg of my race and will soon cross the finish line – that is the end of my race but it is not the end of the race. Why not? Because this race of the human race is a relay race and when I finish my leg of the race, the race continues on with new runners bearing the batons they received from the hands of previous runners. Each generation runs its leg of the race and then passes the baton on to the next generation. Some generations get better batons than others, I think. Which is to say, some generations are left a better legacy perhaps.

The runners must coexist for a time together in the same space in order to transfer the baton from the finishing runner to the one who will carry it forward into the future. In a track meet, this space is called the exchange zone or changeover box, and it is twenty meters long. In the grand scheme of things, this is only a short, shared space in which to complete the transfer or the handing off of the baton.

I wish my exchange zone could have been longer with those who passed the baton on to me. I did share this space for a good amount of time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and parents. But as it turns out, it wasn’t nearly long enough. I would have liked a longer lasting exchange zone. I wasn’t ready to be left alone with the baton, but here I am anyway. There are still many things I would like to ask my mom, many things I would like to talk over with her before she would fully leave the baton in my charge.

But time marches on and the exchange zone comes to an end. As a receiving runner, I leave the exchange zone and run on, baton in hand. When next I enter the exchange zone, I am no longer the receiving runner – I am now the runner handing off the baton to those sharing this brief space with me before I fully release my baton into their charge. Perhaps they will be more ready than I was to fully receive it and to run on alone. I can only hope they will guard it with all diligence as they run their race as receiving runners – runners who will all too soon transition into giving runners, passing on what was entrusted to them during their first brief time in the exchange zone.

When they enter the exchange zone again, it will be to put the baton into the hands of the next generation – a baton they have inherited, carried through trial and trouble, guarded zealously, nurtured, and grown – a baton now ready to be handed off to the next generation.

At this point, I should clarify something. I don’t run alone in the sense that there are others running this race of life simultaneously with me – a whole generation to be exact. But we each carry our own baton, and we are each responsible for transporting it safely through the race we are running, and for carrying it confidently into the exchange zone, where the receiving runners of the next generation are anxiously awaiting our arrival.

The baton is precious and as all runners know, must not be dropped or left behind. It must be transferred securely from one runner’s hand into the hand of the new runner, who will carry it forward, taking care to hand it off safely to the next runner when the time comes, who will also continue to carry the baton forward. We each have a part in this relay race that is life. Luke summed it up well when he said this –

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)

“things handed down to us” – the baton entrusted to us to carry for a short while and then to hand down to the next generation.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

The baton of faith is being carried and handed off from one generation to the next generation – each one running their part in the relay race – preserving the baton, presenting it unchanged to the waiting runners who will continue to carry it forward. This has been going on for thousands of years. I read in Isaiah –

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ ” (Isaiah 52:7)

Can you picture it? – the feet of faithful runners, carrying the baton containing the Good News with them wherever they go, until their race is run and they hand the baton of faith over to the next generation. In the race of life, the passing of the baton is even more crucial than in a relay race at a track meet. In a relay race, if the baton is dropped, the team is disqualified and they lose the race. In the race of life, if the baton is dropped, the message of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus, is not carried forward into the next generation, resulting in disqualification and death. We dare not drop the baton. Paul talks about this in his letter to the church at Corinth, saying –

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; . . . No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

The baton we carry is the Good News, the message of God’s love, forgiveness and salvation unto eternal life. It is a message of peace, of joy, of healing and of hope. The world has always been and it is today, in desperate need of all these things. We dare not fail to pass the baton on to the waiting generation. When my race is finished, I want to be able to say along with the apostle Paul –

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

the running of this race, the keeping of the faith, the passing of the baton – we are each one charged with this sacred calling, therefore – “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

sincerely, Grace Day

transitions and transformations

I could say life is full of transitions and it is, but perhaps it is more accurate to say that life is transition. By definition living things are perpetually growing and changing. As human beings, we participate in this continuous cycle of change and growth, whether we like it or not. Sometimes I am eager to move on, to transition to something new. At other times I would like to hold on to where and who I am at the moment, if it is particularly pleasant or pleasing or peaceful or purposeful. But I don’t get to choose. None of us do.

Time continues to push forward, forcing me to face each transition she brings to me. I find that I am transformed in the process of transitioning – which is that growth and change that all living things experience. The natural world that surrounds us is full of transitions and transformations. The seasons are continually cycling one after the other, so reassuring as I face the changes life brings.

Every time a season changes, the earth is transformed right before my eyes. Of course it is gradual, but the contrast is stunning nonetheless. When the humid, lush green of summer turns into the vibrant colors and cool air of fall, the transformation is complete. For a moment. Then fall’s full of color branches give way to winter’s barren beauty amid a frozen, still, silence. Everything sleeps under a blanket of white, until spring sun should summon flowers and foliage from the ground, covering everything in delicate hues that will later deepen into summer’s deepest greenery.

Every season is beautiful in its own way and time. And yet the seasons are never still, never satisfied I guess, with the perfection they have already achieved. Instead, they continue gradually transitioning, transforming imperceptibly until they yield a result that is nothing short of stunning.

At this point, the caterpillar comes to mind when considering dramatic transitions and transformations. Who would ever suspect what the caterpillar is up to when it creates a cocoon for itself and disappears into its darkness? Something so miraculous takes place during that time in the dark, that the next time we see the caterpillar, it is now a colorful, winged creature gracing our garden with the beauty of its flight. That is one total transformation!

Tadpoles transform into frogs. Frogs transform into handsome princes if kissed by the right fair maiden. Ok, that last one is a myth of fairy tale variety, but the real transformations we see in nature are no less dramatic. Seeds planted in the ground turn into food bearing plants, beautiful flowers, trees etc. From an acorn buried beneath the soil, springs a tall, imposing oak tree. I’d say that acorn was totally transformed.

I want to be totally transformed, too. In our culture we call that a “makeover.” What woman doesn’t want at times that magical makeover that changes hair, makeup, clothes and so forth to achieve a new look? But do I really believe that the right new pair of fabulous shoes will totally change my life? Judging by all the shoes in my closet, I must have believed the allure of this promise numerous times, only to discover each time that it is a myth. Which is another way of saying, I believed the lie. I should have known better. After all, Romans 12:2 tells me clearly,

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

My wish is not to conform but to be transformed – not to conform to some arbitrary external standard, (which is why the “makeover” has no power to transform – it is external only) but to be transformed from the inside out. This is necessary because for true transformation to take place, it must originate on the inside and work its way out. What has taken place in secret, out of sight, eventually reveals itself as the transformation continues to completion, like the butterfly emerging at long last from its cocoon. But there’s something else.

I can conform myself. I can imitate, adapt, take on the look of and the customs of the culture in which I find myself, much like a chameleon changes color as it moves from place to place in order to blend in with its surroundings. But I can’t transform myself – I have to be transformed by something or someone greater than myself. This must be why King David said in Psalm 51:10,

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

David knew he couldn’t clean up his own heart. He was powerless to do so. He needed God, the Maker of his heart, to do that for him. Likewise, I can’t transform myself. I need my Heavenly Father to do that transforming work in me. Philippians 2:13 assures me that this is exactly what God is doing in me –

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

God is at work in me, transforming me on the inside, working in secret, as He does with the seeds under the soil until their transformation is complete and they spring up ready to blossom and bear fruit in their season. I don’t have to worry when the transformation process seems to be taking longer than I would like. God is still working on me. In fact, the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians this –

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

I’m reassured that my transformation is still going on, because God is the one doing the work and He is going to complete it! I read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

This inner transformation has some outward results. One of those I read about in 2 Corinthians 5:15 –

“that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”

This process of transition and transformation seems to me to happen slowly, so slow that at times it is almost imperceptible. I remember when I first began serving as a person people could pray with after the church service. I was so nervous that I found myself relieved when no one came requesting prayer those first few Sundays I was on duty. Several Sundays later, when no one came requesting prayer, I realized to my own surprise, that I was quite disappointed at not having the opportunity to pray for and with someone else. Transformation had occurred. God had taken away my fear and replaced it with joy at being given the opportunity and the privilege to pray for and with other people. God had done this work of transformation in me in spite of my fear and anxiety. All I had to do, was to be obedient, to keep showing up week after week.

God is doing this secret, silent work of inner transformation in you and in me, slowly, steadily until – well until this happens –

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Yes, dear readers, you and I are going to emerge as beautiful butterflies when our Heavenly Father finishes His transforming work inside of us. We may have to spend time in a dark cocoon or walk through some fiery trials, (like pottery in the kiln) but God is faithful to finish His transforming work in each one of us. Job believed this, despite his overwhelming trials and suffering, Job had this to say –

“But He (God) knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Job knew God’s transforming work in him, would leave him like gold, a very valuable, precious metal both then and now. This is what our transformations are achieving for us – that new life in Christ.

“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

new life – that’s total transformation!

sincerely, Grace Day

ghosts of games past

It is an unlikely sight – surprising, surreal and incongruous, that is to say, out of place in this setting, which is an inner city public high school. I have worked in this high school almost every school day for the past three years, but I had never seen this before. That’s because I have never subbed in P.E. before today, but today I did and today we were not in the classroom. Instead, we were outside on the school football field. Now there is a uniformity to most high school football fields, which is to say they all look alike.

But that is not the case for the field on which I found myself in the still of the early morning with a class of high school students who were anything but still. (they were not supposed to be still, they were supposed to be walking the track and getting some exercise) The field and the track around it looked like any other high school stadium currently in use. It was the bleachers or stands where the spectators would sit that caught my attention and held it. So much so that I am still thinking about the out of place, decaying and yet strangely beautiful sight the bleachers presented.

It is at this point that I wish I was technically competent enough to take a picture of what I am describing to you and include said picture with this post. Sadly, I’m not, therefore I can’t. But they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So if I could show you a picture, there would be no need for me to write this post. But back to the bleachers. Now as far as I know, bleachers aren’t typically known for their beauty. I’ve never paid any attention to bleachers before, beyond their utilitarian use of providing me a seat from which I can watch whatever event it is that I have come to watch.

So you can imagine my surprise when the sight of these bleachers across the stadium from me kind of took my breath away – probably because I didn’t expect to encounter something extraordinary on this very ordinary day. Maybe it was because these bleachers seemed so out of place in this current day high school football stadium. I felt as though I’d stepped into the past or that I was visiting an historical site of ancient ruins in some European country. The contrast of the past displayed in this present day setting caught my attention, then kept me captive, inviting me to ponder the past and to imagine what went on here in this stadium long before today. I guess that’s what it means to be captivated.

Well, I was definitely captivated when I encountered the sight of these “ancient ruins” sitting in the midst of a modern day inner city public high school. I learned that this school was built in 1927 and the gym added in 1938. I haven’t found anything that tells me when the stadium was built, but I am guessing maybe when they built the gym, they built the stadium. That would make sense. If this is true, then these bleachers are eighty-four years old. That explains a lot.

They are white stone or concrete, solid, no spaces, rising up as bleachers do along one side of the football field. They are crumbling in places but what is most conspicuous is the greenery growing randomly in rows along the cement seats of some of the bleachers – like leafy green spectators waiting expectantly for a game to begin – this lush green growth, life springing up out of the long lifeless concrete, is so out of place that it caught me quite off guard. The scene is more reminiscent of a botanical garden than a sports arena, with green leaves springing up from, filling and spilling over many of the otherwise vacant seats in the stands – all this green growth giving the once functional bleachers the aura of an ancient ruin.

Part of the surprise is that no one planted anything here. No one plants seeds in cement, but in soil. Still, life has grown out of the crevices and cracks in the crumbling concrete of these bleachers. The bleachers no longer support people sitting on them. Now they are providing a place for a lot of random vegetation to take root, allowing various plants and weeds to decorate these formerly barren bleachers in multiple shades of green. (the color of life) The stands are once again filling up, this time not with people but with living, growing plants.

The unexpected beauty of these bleachers is a blessing to me today – a message and a reminder that beauty surrounds me no matter where my day takes me, even to an old, run down, inner city football field. But I will miss it if my eyes are not open to recognize something beautiful when it presents itself. New life coming right out of crumbling concrete. That’s a metaphor I don’t want to miss.

God does the same thing for me and for you. He brings new life to old bodies. Our earthly bodies are slowly deteriorating over time just like those old football bleachers. BUT GOD – (yes, it’s a BUT GOD post too) –

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

My Heavenly Father is continually bringing life out of my crumbling, decaying state. In fact, Paul writes in Romans 8:11 –

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”

Today, these stony, leafy bleachers reminded me that God brings life out of even discarded, forgotten, stony hearts and that God –

“makes everything beautiful in its time.” – even old football bleachers, no longer in use (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

God can do the same for you and me, dear readers – He can make something beautiful of our lives when we allow Him in to do the miraculous work He longs to do in each of us –

sincerely, Grace Day

feeling the fragileness of my frame

“As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

Some translations say “He knows our frame” – which makes perfect sense because He is the One who formed my frame in the first place – He knows full well what I am made of, which apparently is dust.

“the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

So the fact that I’ve been feeling a little dusty lately, shouldn’t really be all that surprising to me. It’s true. I’m feeling a little dusty these days – weak, fragile, crumbling, falling apart – like any puff of wind, or even a gentle breeze might blow me away at any moment – into a million pieces, disintegrated and dispersed by that same wind across the air to a million different places. (this gives new meaning to the phrase “being spread too thin”)

I dare not take the advice of the age old saying, “pick yourself up and dust yourself off.” If I dusted myself off, I would dust myself into invisibility, being wholly made of dust and all. There would be nothing left. Dust is easily dispersed because there is nothing holding it together. Must be why I’ve been feeling particularly parched lately, as well. A little water would do wonders for my dusty self right about now. In fact, water turns dust into soil and soil is something substantial – strong enough to hold roots and grow life.

Well watered soil isn’t blown every which way like dust is. But where can I find enough water to turn the dusty desert that is me into well watered, substantial, life supporting soil and keep it that way? I find the answer contained in a conversation Jesus had one day at a well where He spoke with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water. We pick up their conversation here –

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ” (John 4:13-14)

This sounds like the answer to my dustiness problem. Water would definitely help me hold it together or more aptly, hold myself together, instead of being blown apart and blown away by every breeze and every windy storm in life. I really want to hold it together and stand firm, but these are tough times we live in, capable of turning anyone into dust if they don’t have access to water to refresh and sustain themselves. But Jesus tells me that I do have access – I have access to Him twenty-four/seven and He is the Living Water.

Jesus is the reason I don’t need to worry about falling apart and being blown away like the desert dust that I am. Colossians 1:15-17 tells me this about Jesus –

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

It is that last line I find especially reassuring – “in Him all things hold together.” I’m so glad that “all things” includes me! My Heavenly Father “remembers that I am dust” and because He knows I am dust, He, Himself holds me together. He knows that I can’t hold myself together. I need His living water.

What is really unexpected is that even though I am formed from “the dust of the ground,” something considered so ordinary, I am “wonderfully and fearfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) Only God can make something living and wonderful out of dead dust. But He did and He does. He made human beings and He made us in His image. It’s what God put inside of us that makes all the difference. Genesis 2:7 tells us God “breathed the breath of life into the man and the man became a living being.”

And that’s not all. God puts something else within us humans that brings us to life, just like when God breathed that first breath into Adam. God fills us with His Holy Spirit, if we ask Him to do this. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:7 –

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Our bodies are the jars of clay or earthen vessels, as another translation says, and the treasure is God’s Holy Spirit. This is not what we do. We tend to put our “treasures”, namely anything expensive that we value, in special places. We have ornate china cabinets to display prized dishes and fancy jewelry boxes in which we keep our most precious jewelry. We keep valuable art in museums, behind glass, in climate-controlled rooms. But God allows us to be the containers and carriers of Himself, ensuring His presence with us and in the world.

Imagine it. The eternal carried inside the temporal. The sacred dwelling within the sinful. The infinite taking up residence within the finite. That’s us! That’s you and that’s me. We are jars of clay carrying God’s gift of His Holy Spirit within us. Unfathomable! But He formed us for just such a purpose – that we would become carriers of His divine light into this dark world.

Can you believe it? What was God thinking? – making us out of dust and then expecting us to be suitable carriers of the Divine? Yes, it’s surprising to realize that when God was fashioning you and me out of the earth’s dust, He was forming us to be the receptacles of His presence! That was His intention all along. You would think He would have chosen a better medium than dirt – gold or silver, precious gem stones, something impressive befitting His majesty. But He chose earth as we are from the Earth.

Interesting that clay is a type of soil. So “jars of clay” and “earthen vessels” are the same thing. When the Bible talks about us being the clay and our Creator God being the Potter, it connects each of us with the original creation of the human race, where God forms and fashions us with His own hands, making us lovingly in His image. Our creation was deeply personal. God didn’t just speak us into existence – He labored over us as the potter labors over the clay, until the desired result was achieved.

Perfection! Until sin entered into the picture. Clay can get really dusty when it begins to dry out. It disintegrates and disperses in millions of particles of dust unless water can be found to once again make the clay soft and malleable, all those particles holding together so the Potter can work His will on the clay and bring about something beautiful. If we get separated from the Living Water Jesus offers us, we dry out, turn to dust and the wind blows us wherever it will.

But God remembers that we are dust and He continues to water us so that we will not blow away but hold together in His hands, giving Him the opportunity to continue to form and fashion us in the image of His Son, Jesus. When I’m feeling a little too dusty, as if I’m turning into dust and falling apart, I need to remember that my Heavenly Father will supply me with His living water. This will restore me as He continues to work His good and perfect and pleasing will in my life in spite of all the dust. I’m under constant construction, and as we all know, construction sites are full of dust, as are potters’ studios. But when the dust settles, something beautiful is revealed.

So will it be for those in the Potter’s hands. If my life is a little dusty right now, God will send rain to settle the dust and hold together my soil/clay so that He can continue working on me until I am conformed to the image of Christ. Until the day comes that Ecclesiastes speaks of saying –

“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20) This is also what God told Adam in Genesis 3:19 when He said –

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

However, that is NOT the end of the story. BUT GOD! (and you thought this wasn’t even a BUT GOD post) God has other plans for you and for me.

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

quick confession – I added the words in parenthesis above.

So I will no longer have a dust problem, no longer have to worry about crumbling away, drying up or drying out – God will sustain my physical body until I no longer need it and then I get to, we all get to, trade up for a better model!

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42–44)

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ ” (Revelation 21:5)

Thank You, Lord, for my dusty earthly body, perfectly formed and fashioned by You and perfectly made for life on this earth. Thank You, too, for the promise of that new and imperishable body You have purposed for me when the time comes that I shall need it. In the meantime, please water my dust and continue the good work You began in me, because only You can bring this work to completion. Yours alone is the vision and the power to bring it to pass.

sincerely, Grace Day

Enough and more

to see the moon in morning sky

my heart hopes

my soul sings

it is enough – and more this gift

to hear a bird call, clear in the morning quiet – to feel soft air upon my face

my heart gives thanks

my soul rejoices

it is enough – and more than I deserve

to feel sun’s warmth, its comfort and renewing power

my heart thaws, filling full of sunbeams’ light

my soul opens wide

it is enough – and more than I can ever contain

to view sky at end of day, glorious colors changing, rearranging – a living art show to inspire, a reward for the day’s labor

my heart thrills at such unexpected beauty

my soul dances in praise

it is enough – and more, infinitely more than I can ever convey

to lie beneath the night sky, watching stars turn on their lights one by one till all the starry host arrive, in concert and in constellation presiding over earth till sun’s awakening sends them to slumber elsewhere

my heart stills – quieted by the timeless presence of each and every light God calls by name

my soul sighs, longing for what lies on the other side of eternity

it is enough – and more, much more than I can comprehend

glimpses of eternity – it is enough – and more, more than I could ever imagine

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

“The day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and moon. It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:16-17)

sincerely, Grace Day

headed home hungry – BUT GOD!

It had been a long day for everyone and now it was time to go home. “Everyone” was five thousand men and who knows how many women and children were there also? Neither Mark’s nor Luke’s nor John’s account of this BUT GOD incident, tell us how many were present in addition to the five thousand men. We are simply told it was a large crowd.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14) Luke’s account of the event says,

“but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He (Jesus) welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” (Luke 9:11)

What would warrant such a large gathering? Curiosity, perhaps? Rumors were rampant about this miracle working rabbi or teacher whose name was Jesus. People were following Jesus, maybe because they wanted to hear His teachings for themselves, probably because they were curious after hearing so many stories about things He had said and done, and most likely because they were hoping to witness a miracle or two. If truth be told, some of them may have harbored hope that if they showed up where Jesus was, they might even be the recipient of one of those miracles. After all, rumor had it that people with all kinds of infirmities were being healed. So they showed up hoping for a miracle. Well, this crowd was not disappointed. As we just read, Jesus had compassion on them, and He healed the sick among them.

Now, the crowd was large, the time was late in the day, and the location was a remote place far from any villages or towns. Our story continues –

“As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ ” (Matthew 14:15)

Seems a like a good reason to disperse a large crowd of people – it’s late and you aren’t prepared to provide dinner for even a few, let alone the many. BUT GOD! Turns out, Jesus had a different idea of how things should play out. Jesus told His disciples that they should feed the hungry crowd before sending them on their way. The disciples couldn’t believe Jesus was asking them to do this. They had no food and the crowd was large. Jesus was asking them to do the impossible. They tried pointing out the obvious to Jesus –

“They said to Him, ‘That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’ ” (Mark 6:37)

“Philip answered Him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ ” (John 6:7)

I, like the disciples, see the impossibility of the situation. Many people, no food and not enough money to buy food for so many. And even if there was money, eight months’ wages would provide each person only a bite of food, not a meal or even a snack. Our story continues,

“Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’ ” (John 6:8)

I have to admit if I’m honest, at this point in the story, I’m thinking the same thing – “it’s not enough, not even close!” But I, like the disciples, would do well to recall these words of Jesus, spoken in a different situation but applicable here, nonetheless –

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ” (Matthew 19:26)

Such a small supply of food and such a large crowd. BUT GOD! Read what happens next –

“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ . . . Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6:12) Mark’s account tells us,

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.” (Mark 6:42-43) Matthew’s account adds to this saying –

“The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:21)

Jesus wasn’t going to send anyone home hungry. And indeed, He didn’t. The people there that day didn’t receive just “a bite” to eat, to help stave off hunger till they could get to the nearest village or their homes. The accounts of this story tell us “they had all had enough to eat,” and “they all ate and were satisfied.” This was not simply subsistence or merely adequate – no this was a feast, a banquet of abundance with twelve baskets full of food to spare! Not one person left there hungry that day! The authors giving us this account each made a point to tell us that all had enough to eat, that all ate that day and all were full or satisfied.

Our God is not a God of barely surviving, but of “life to the full.” The people were satisfied, like it says in Psalm 145:15-16 –

“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.”

Jesus took a little and turned it into a lot. The boy, in obedience, gave all he had to give, five small loaves and two small fish. Not nearly enough. BUT GOD! And then there were twelve baskets full of food after each person there had eaten until they were satisfied. Jesus had healed their physical infirmities that day and He had fed their souls with His Living Word. But because Jesus had taken on a physical body Himself, He knew these people also needed physical food in addition to spiritual food. (which is every word that comes from the mouth of God – Matthew 4:4) So Jesus fed their bodies as well as their souls that day.

No one encounters Jesus and comes away unchanged. We read in Luke 9:11 what happened that day before Jesus fed them –

“He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

Do you ever feel like sick, weary, hungry, dissatisfied, longing for something that will fill you full to overflowing is your constant, unchangeable condition in this life? Such were the people that came out to see and to hear Jesus that day. The people arrived ill, empty, and searching. They went away healed, filled with hope having found and heard the Living Word Jesus had spoken to them, and filled with the physical food Jesus provided for them on that day as well. Everyone went away satisfied, we are told. Jesus didn’t send anyone home hungry or unhealed. He had compassion on each and every person there. Jesus is able to do the same for you and for me, too. Philippians 4:19 tells me,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Like those in the crowd that day who came to Him, Jesus will not send me away hungry when I come to Him. All I have to offer Him is faith as small as a mustard seed. But if I give it to Jesus, small as it is, like the boy’s lunch of bread and fish, Jesus will transform it into the abundance only He can give, just like He did the day He fed the five thousand plus crowd of people.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

Thank You, Jesus, that You will never send me home hungry when I come to You, but You will instead continue the miracle of growing my mustard seed of faith in You till it overflows with the abundance You alone provide.

sincerely, Grace Day

just when you think it’s over – BUT GOD

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: . . . Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

With these dire yet decisive words, Charles Dickens begins his beloved book, “The Christmas Carol.” At first glance it might appear that the author has mistakenly started his story with the ending. After all, death is pretty final. Is it wise to kill off your main character or even one of your lesser characters before the story even starts? Or could it be that this story wasn’t over but just beginning?

This reminds me of another story from another time and another place. The people there were also mourning a death and they too, were very sure he was dead. There was no doubt whatever among the many mourners about that fact. His name was Lazarus and he was dead. We read in John, chapter eleven, confirmation of that very fact.

“So then He (Jesus) told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ ” (John 11:14-15) Next we read,

“On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” When Jesus asked that the stone laid across the entrance to the tomb be moved aside, He got this response –

” ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ ” (John 11:39)

So, as with Marley, there is no doubt whatever that Lazarus is dead. Martha is even referred to as “the sister of the dead man.” The mourners have mourned, Lazarus has been wrapped in burial cloths and laid in a tomb. Such is the scene when Jesus arrives at the home of the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Mary wasn’t too happy with Jesus and she let Him know as much.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ ” (John 11:32)

Although Mary had complete faith in Jesus, she nevertheless believed this was the end of this particular story – Lazarus was dead. Dead people don’t do encores. Dead people don’t get second chances. Mary was correct – Martha was correct when she said of Lazarus “there is a bad odor” – still neither woman took into account – BUT GOD! This was not the end of the story. What happened next?

“Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. . . . Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man (that would be Lazarus) came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ ” (John 11:40-44)

So Lazarus got his life restored to him, Mary and Martha got their brother back and what had appeared to be a hopeless situation, an ending, was changed in an instant to a new beginning full of hope. Their mourning had turned into rejoicing. Lazarus was freed from death literally, which was so beautifully symbolized by Jesus instructing the people nearby to take the grave clothes off of Lazarus and to “let him go.” Lazarus was freed from the grave that had just moments earlier held him captive, freed from the grave clothes that had bound him so tightly, freed from death’s darkness into life’s light.

Yes, Lazarus was dead – BUT GOD! I can relate. We all can. God has done the same thing He did for Lazarus, for each and every one of us, myself included and I am eternally grateful that He did.

“When I was dead in my sins and in the uncircumcision of my sinful nature, God made me alive with Christ. He forgave me all my sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against me and that stood opposed to me; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

God did the same thing for you, too, dear readers. It’s like Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians –

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, . . . But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Like Lazarus, (and Marley) I was dead. I was dead in my sins, they bound me like Lazarus’s grave clothes and held me captive. BUT GOD! But God called me out of my tomb, peeled away the shroud of the enemy’s lies, accusations, shame, guilt, sin, pride, unbelief, unforgiveness, fear, strife, envy, rebellion – strip by linen strip – until I am now free, alive and free to follow my Savior. The same Jesus that called Lazarus from death to life, has called me and He’s calling you too, dear readers. Oh, that many would hear and answer the call of the Savior of our souls! He’s calling to you right now – “come out!” – just as He did to Lazarus so long ago.

Mary and Martha had given up all hope. Their brother was dead. Our earthly situations and circumstances more often than not also appear hopeless to us. We are sure it is the end of the story. BUT GOD! That’s right – 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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Today, when my mountains show no sign of moving, when the walls are closing in rather than tumbling down, when the damage seems permanent and the finale to my story irrevocably final – I will remember – BUT GOD! Nothing is too hard for Him who spoke the universe into existence. He is the God of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. He is –

“- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17)

This is the God in whom I hope. I was beyond all hope – BUT GOD!

“But God demonstrates His own love for me in this: While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” (Romans 5:8)

I was under a death sentence – BUT GOD! But God sent Jesus to die in my place and now I live.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

sincerely, Grace Day