be kind because why?

The final bell finally rang (pun intended) ending the school day none too soon. The noisy room turned quiet as I straightened desks and breathed a sigh of relief. It was then I noticed her, one of the students from the last class, still in the room. She said something kind to me, probably because she had witnessed the purposefully rude and disrespectful behavior of some of the students towards me during the class which had just ended. I thanked her and we struck up a casual conversation which quickly became more personal as she shared a little about herself with me. She was dealing with some chronic, long term health problems, that I would never have imagined to be the case, just by looking at her, nor by her behavior. She hadn’t asked for any special treatment or made excuses to exempt her from anything. I was immediately reminded of a favorite quote of mine –

“Be kind – everyone is fighting hard battles you know nothing about.”

Good advice, I think, even though in the moment I often forget to keep this truth in mind when dealing with other people. I am acutely aware of my own battles. But am I mindful of the battles others are facing and fighting every day? Probably not. Most are fighting these battles privately, rather than sharing them with the world. As I interact with other people, I realize I have no idea of the pain they are experiencing, the obstacles they are endeavoring to overcome, the burdens they carry around on a daily basis, the losses they have suffered or of the hardships life has handed them.

Today’s encounter with this sweet high school student, facing her obstacles with such grace and courage, brought me face to face once again with the reality that I need to be kind in all my interactions, because everyone is engaged in a hard battle. This particular student certainly is fighting a hard battle that I knew nothing about. However, our brief interaction was an opportunity for me to show her kindness and pray over her, even as I learned she was also dealing with loss and many other things. What a privilege to pray for her. She had given me the gift of her kindness, first. I was simply returning the favor. Imagine – with all the battles she is busy fighting every day, she noticed the small, temporary battle I was fighting in the classroom that day, which is nothing compared to her larger, life long battles. And yet she took a moment to be kind.

She reminded me that I can be so busy fighting my own battles that I become oblivious to the plight of others as they fight their battles. Too often, I just don’t know what people are going through because our battles are hidden from others, even though they are common to many – such as loss, addiction, loneliness, illness, depression, self-worth – the list is as endless as the battles that we all find ourselves fighting every day.

And yet I am always surprised when I hear someone’s story. This same day, I learned of the battles two coworkers are fighting, though one would never guess they are dealing with such hard, painful circumstances because of the dedicated way in which they work with their students each day. Another reminder to be kind always because there is so much I do not know. In Bible study, last evening, a new woman shared a part of her story. She has suffered great loss and yet she is fighting her battle against, grief, bitterness, depression, and hopelessness so valiantly that she is able to offer hope and encouragement to others. And she does just that. She is still standing.

As I fight my battles daily, I want to have compassion on those I encounter each day, because I can be certain they too are engaged in hard battles. Compassion leads to kindness. And we all need to receive kindness from those we know and even from strangers to get us through the day. As I write this, I am thinking of all the people I know well and the battles I know they are fighting, that others, including the casual observer, will never suspect. We don’t wear warning signs alerting others to our battle weary, fragile state of being, so they have no idea, they never suspect the toll our battle is taking on us.

But there is One who does know what we are up against and what we suffer. Our Heavenly Father is not blind to the battles we must fight each day, even though other people often are. Psalm 103:13-14 tells us,

“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.”

God knows how weak we are, how easily we tire and become discouraged. But He offers His help to each one of us.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

It is so comforting to me to read these words and know that my Heavenly Father is right here with me, bearing my burdens, fighting for me, strengthening me, helping me, upholding me, going before me and never leaving me, even when the battle gets difficult and dangerous. I am told I don’t need to be afraid or discouraged. I will always be fighting hard battles in this life. So will you, dear readers. But I am not without hope. And neither are you! We have His promise – Jesus said,

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

Even in the midst of fighting our hard battles, we will experience this –

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. . . . 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 40:29-31)

My Heavenly Father is with me as I fight life’s hard battles. It is He who gives me strength, so that I can persevere. He is the Vine – “apart from Him I can do nothing.” But He has promised “never to leave me nor forsake me.” So I know that one day, along with Paul, I will be able to say –

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” and I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (2 Timothy 4:7 & Matthew 25:21)

and you and I will rest forever from fighting all the hard battles we have had to fight, battles that others knew nothing about and battles that they did – we will have won them all in Christ’s Holy Spirit power!

sincerely, Grace Day

the dropping of the other shoe

Today is an ordinary day, which is no surprise as these are ordinary times. Or I want to think they are, anyway. Oh sure, there has been a recent rumor or two lately, a rumbling of something ominous to come – always just out of sight, hovering in the background – unseen but still felt, although vaguely – more tenuous than tangible. I think this feeling used to be called “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Now this implies that one shoe has already dropped, and this is true. I remember clearly that day in mid-March 2020 when the first shoe fell. It fell with a thud and stopped us in our tracks. It too, was an ordinary day until the shoe fell and schools closed along with restaurants, gyms, businesses, churches, sporting events, concerts etc. The world shut down except for really big stores like Walmart and liquor stores. (I guess the virus could only spread in smaller grocery stores and didn’t even enter liquor stores at all)

Today, two and a half years later, as I look around the classroom, there is no reminder here of what we have so recently come through, save the occasional student wearing a mask, usually slipped down around their chin – a last visual vestige of the trauma that was thrust upon us all so suddenly and so completely that we could not catch our breath. (or was that because we were wearing masks?) Yes, they masked us, ensuring we could not breathe nor speak freely. The masks became silence’s symbol and fear’s announcement simultaneously, proclaiming – “be quiet and be afraid.” “Do not question the dictates, the science is settled!” we were told repeatedly.

No eating out – but those that issued the edicts did. No haircuts – but those that made this rule did. Don’t gather in large groups or even groups over ten – so no weddings, funerals, birthday parties – but our cities’ streets were full of groups over ten for months on end. We watched from our windows as we were told not to leave home. We were left to wait and to wonder – wonder “what comes next?” When can I go back to work? When can I go to the gym or church or eat out? When can I visit my family members and friends? When can I celebrate a birthday or a holiday with those I love? What started out as two weeks to stop the spread stretched into two years of various restrictions and predictions.

Though most restrictions have lifted or eased, predictions continue to abound. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are shortages and rumors of shortages to come. Climate change (formerly called “weather”) was supposed to have ended life on earth decades ago. We are still waiting for that shoe to drop, as it were, living under a constant heavy cloud (of CO2?) of daily dire predictions and ominous warnings. We are told to be vigilant for the next virus and to plan for the next pandemic. I’m not sure living always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always expecting something bad to happen, is the best way to live. I know that’s not how I want to live this life I’ve been gifted.

The good news is, I don’t have to live life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t have to shut the door, pull down the shades, huddle under the covers, and let the TV news be my link to the outside world and my connection to others, albeit a virtual connection, not a real one. You and I were created to live a life of freedom and that includes freedom from fear. Consider what 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us –

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

We may be living in dark times, but we don’t have to walk in darkness. We have Someone to light our way.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Those words encourage me when darkness seems to be ever increasing. I can know that Jesus’s presence is the light that extinguishes any and all darkness. My journey has felt pretty perilous these past couple of years. Globally and nationally, we were being told we were in a pandemic of death. On every TV news channel, a live “death count” ran at the bottom of the screen, continuously inching upward, always running, lest we forget to be afraid and leave our homes. We all must have felt collectively that we were in the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death” – a place to be greatly feared, right? Well, not according to King David who wrote this in Psalm 23 –

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:4-6)

There is a better way to live, a better way to walk in this world – fearless and free – free of fear, free to live the life my Heavenly Father is calling me to live for Him. Even though I have to walk through dark valleys, I don’t have to be afraid because God is present with me and has promised –

” ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Because of my Heavenly Father’s presence walking beside me, I don’t have to fear the evil that surrounds me as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. His presence comforts me, allowing me to continue. I also receive His provision during my time in this dark, uncertain valley of death. In fact, my cup overflows! That’s what the Psalm says. That’s His promise. He prepares a feast for me right in the middle of the valley and anoints my head, marking me as His own. I have His assurance that He will never leave me and that I will live in His house, with Him forever.

Knowing all this means I do not need to spend my days living in fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can live with joy, confidence and hope because my Heavenly Father is Sovereign over the affairs of men. Jesus reminded His disciples of this when He told them,

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

No matter when the other shoe drops, no matter how many more shoes drop – I can say with confidence

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

You and I, dear readers, can walk through this present day valley of the shadow of death without fear, experiencing God’s comfort, protection and provision as we walk through these days with hope and courage, knowing we do not walk through the valley alone.

sincerely, Grace Day

digital identities?

that’s what the article said, “we are moving toward digital identities,” further stating, “digital identities can help transform the future for billions of individuals, all over the world, enabling them to access new economic, political and social opportunities, while enjoying digital safety, privacy and other human rights.” (WEF Insight Report 2018) Well, that sounds good, I guess. If I receive a digital identity, my future will be transformed. Of course, “transformed” implies something positive, something good, something better. But what if that’s not the case? Who decides what “transformed” looks like? Is it better? and if so, “better” for who? – for everyone or for just a select few?

Even as I ponder the possibilities of this transformed future, it occurs to me that my future has already been transformed as have I, in preparation for it. It’s not a digital identity that makes this possible. It is my God-given identity which transforms me as I await the transformed future my Heavenly Father is preparing for me even now. I read about it in 1 Corinthians –

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” (1Corinthians 2:9)

A digital identity does not have any power to transform me, but my identity in Christ completely transforms me. 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains it this way saying –

“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.”

So who am I? Where does my identity come from? A government or God? Governments use our fingerprints to identify us for good reason. Our fingerprints are unique to us alone, identifying us out of the billions of people on the earth. But government didn’t issue you or me our fingerprints. God did.

“”For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

My Creator, who knows every star in the universe by name, probably because He created each one, knows me by name too. In fact, He knows every hair on my head. My identity is known to Him because He created me. I am His handiwork. (Ephesians 2:10) He knows the way that I take and He watches over me.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

My God-given identity provides me with worth and security as His child.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:5-8)

Knowing that my Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe, is watching over my “comings and goings” twenty-four/seven is comforting to me, not creepy. That’s because He is good and His intentions towards me, as His child, are only good.

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

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)

Comfort, assurance, provision, peace, purpose, joy, hope – these gifts I receive as one whose identity is in Christ. You and I are created in the image of God – our identity is in Him – we are His image bearers.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) And as His image bearers, God blesses us –

“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)

Since I already have a unique God-given identity, why do I need a digital identity? As I said earlier, it is comforting to me to know God is keeping track of me, but it is more than a little disconcerting to think that government would be doing this as a result of my new digital identity. In whose image would my digital identity be created?

I’m not sure I want my government or any government or any group in power to be “watching over” my comings and goings, what I buy, what I read, what I say, where I go – because I’m not really convinced that their plans are “to prosper me and not to harm me.” I’m happy with the unique identity my Creator gave me. My Heavenly Father never mistakes me for someone else. He knows my name, hears my voice, knows every hair on my head and never leaves nor forsakes me. I am not just a number to Him. I am not invisible to Him.

“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:1-5)

I agree with King David, who wrote this Psalm, who then said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,”. Yes how miraculous, that we are known and loved personally by the One who created us! As one created in God’s image I have been given total freedom. I can follow His ways or not, worship Him or not, believe in Him or not, trust Him or put my trust in myself or someone or something else – the choices are mine to make. Our Creator, dear readers, created us as free beings. It is our own choices which often enslave us to other people or things.

Digital identities are supposed to make us freer by ushering in that “transformed future.” Ironically, they will allow us to be tracked and controlled by whoever is in power at the time. Our autonomy will be severely curtailed and we could be denied any number of goods and services based on our digital identity. A digital identity is data driven. You and I will be nameless, faceless – defined instead by the identity groups into which we fit or by the “boxes we check” ie. gender, age, skin color, education, religion, economic group, nationality – anything that stereotypes us as members of a particular grouping of people. With a digital identity, we are not known personally, nor seen as unique, but seen only as members of various intersecting groups. These groups can be marketed to but also can be controlled and manipulated to achieve the desired outcomes of those in power.

A digital identity is impersonal. It obscures our individual uniqueness, in favor of reducing each person to a data point, to a number to be dealt with but not a person to be known by name or on a personal, face to face level. We were created to be known by others and to know others personally. God fashioned us for relationship with Him and with each other. He says in Ezekiel 37:27,

“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” I read the same thing in 2 Corinthians 6:16,

“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.’ ”

God desires a personal relationship with me and with you, not a digital one. He said He will live with us and walk among us. He knows our true identities because He gave them to us. We are not an intangible, digital identity to God. He knows us completely and has something wonderful in store for each one of us. We are not told what the “transformed future” brought to us by our digital identities will actually look like. We are left to wonder. However, here is a description of the “transformed future” God has in store for us because of our God-given identities in Him –

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

that’s a future I look forward to, knowing that God is faithful to all His promises, – no digital ID required, just my God-given identity in Christ Jesus!

sincerely, Grace Day

burden bearing

No, it’s not an Olympic sport – nor is it a contest anyone wants to sign up for and yet we all find ourselves entered as participants simply by virtue of the fact that we are human. We were automatically enrolled without our consent. This is a contest no one wants to win. Although there are those who will let it be known they are carrying more weight than others. They are known as martyrs.

But for most of us, burden bearing is just something that we do, not because we choose to, but because it is an inescapable part of daily life. There is a quote I love that states, “Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.” A similar quote by Ian MacLaren, says, “Be kind, everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” Why don’t I realize this? Maybe because the battles we are fighting and the burdens we are bearing are invisible to others. We take care to hide them from others, so our sorrows, pain, any hardship, loss, or need is kept concealed as we attempt to deal with our difficulties on our own.

As events unfold (we call that “life happening”) we often find our burdens getting heavier by the day, with no relief in sight. I’m guessing this is where the expression “he/she looks like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders” comes from. But we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. God has a better plan in mind. In Galatians 6:2 we read,

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Another translation says “carry each other’s burdens” – you get the idea. We are not weightlifters, we are burden bearers – burden bearers help others by walking alongside and shouldering some of the weight as they journey on together. This lightens the load and helps the one with the heavier burden to keep going. But how can I possibly do this for others when my own burdens are often too heavy for me to bear alone?

This is possible because I have One who offers to bear my burdens for me. In 1 Peter 5:7 I am told I can,

“Cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me.” Psalm 55:22 tells me the same thing saying,

“Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.”

As my Heavenly Father bears my burdens, lifting them gently from my shoulders into His capable hands, this lightens my load and frees me up to bear the burdens of others who are carrying heavy loads, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The job of a burden bearer is not easy, but it is essential. Life prepares us for this essential role well. I get plenty of practice bearing my own burdens, which makes me stronger and better able to offer assistance to others. And how wonderful to be able to share with my over burdened fellow travelers the good news that they too can cast their cares on their Creator who cares for them so completely that He will gladly take on their burdens. I take great comfort in these words when the weight of my burdens threatens to overwhelm me, and I find myself alone –

“Praise be to the Lord, to God my Savior, who daily bears my burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)

I will not collapse under the weight of the world because God is my burden bearer, just as He calls me to be a burden bearer for those around me who are struggling under heavy loads. And many there are who, though they never signed up to be weightlifters, are nonetheless currently carrying crushingly heavy loads while longing for relief. The texts I’ve received today bear witness to this fact even as they provide me the opportunity to be a burden bearer, a unique privilege which I don’t take lightly.

So as a burden bearer, I will pray. This is one way of “bearing one another’s burdens.” I will pray many things, I will pray –

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

and I will pray this –

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9) and this –

“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)

praying burden bearing prayers – sincerely, Grace Day

safe and sorry

Are you thinking I got it wrong? You would be right if you are thinking about the saying “better safe than sorry” – implying we are either one or the other. But I beg to differ with this age old wisdom. While the old idiom implies that if you are safe or you play it safe, you will not be sorry, it is possible to be both safe and sorry at the same time. You see, sometimes safety comes at a very high price. And sometimes “safety” turns out not to be all that safe after all.

I was pondering this dilemma recently as I read about new technology that will be able to microchip children. Why? To keep them safe, of course. And since we all want to be safe, we should all get microchipped, right? In 1991, Chuck Colson predicted, “We are reaching the point where we will trade our freedoms for our personal safety.” Although he died in 2012, he would probably feel his prediction has come true, had he lived to experience these last two years of the pandemic.

So much was done to keep us “safe.” We were locked down, locked in, masked, distanced, isolated and vaccinated – all in the name of safety. We couldn’t be trusted to make good decisions for ourselves, so our government made those decisions for us. They decided who was essential and who wasn’t, who could have a funeral or a wedding or work out or eat out or have family over or be with a loved one in the hospital – the answer was no one could do any of those things. Now I know that our government normally doesn’t have the power or our permission to make those decisions for us, but an emergency was declared and apparently in an emergency we give our decision making power to the government. Then the question becomes, when and how do we get it back? Assuming we ever get it back?

But at least we were safe right? Well, actually the lockdowns didn’t protect us from the virus but they did hurt us in all kinds of ways. Lost work, lost wages, lost businesses, lost learning, anxiety and depression resulting from the isolation, increases in alcohol and drug addiction, suicide and illness due to lack of treatment. A high price to pay for being kept safe from the virus. Turns out, the vaccine hasn’t kept us safe from the virus either, but it has caused all kinds of unnecessary harm, including death, myocarditis, blood clots etc. to otherwise healthy people. Many I know are now sorry – they followed the rules and played it safe – now they realize they are not safe, but they are sorry.

Trading my freedom for my safety? Makes me think of a quote from C.S. Lewis’s story, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in which the question was asked about Aslan, the lion – “Is he safe?” The answer? “Of course he’s not safe, but he’s good!” There are things more important, more valuable, more enduring than mere safety.

The pilgrims must have believed this. I’m glad safety wasn’t their top priority when they left the comfort of civilization in England and set sail at great personal peril for the New World. If they survived the voyage, they still needed to face and figure out how to survive all the dangers in this new, unsettled land with no homes, no food – they left safety behind in pursuit of freedom – in particular, religious freedom.

Those who moved continually west across our country, left the safety of the land they had already settled in favor of unknown possibilities of a better life which they prized above their safety. I’m thankful our founders prized freedom over their own safety when they broke away from being subjects of the crown/king and at great personal cost, created a new nation complete with a Constitution that guarantees, not safety, but freedom and opportunity for every individual. I’m grateful for each and every person who fought to end slavery in this country, at great personal sacrifice, rather than continue to turn a blind eye and remain safe in their silence. Their choice to fight was not safe, but it was good.

Choosing to follow Jesus Christ is the same – it has never been the “safe” choice – eleven of the twelve disciples were killed for following where their faith in Jesus led them and today around the world, many know if they choose Jesus, it puts their lives in danger from that day forward. It is not the safe choice, but it is the good choice. Some things are more important than personal safety, like faith and freedom, the freedom to live out one’s faith. Those that left us this legacy of faith and freedom, did not put their own personal safety above their higher callings to God and country. How grateful I am to be an inheritor of the legacy they left to us all. Will we now forfeit this legacy because we prefer to be safe rather than free?

Our founders had faith in Someone greater than themselves and believed in something bigger than themselves – which is made clear in our founding documents and their early writings. Following Christ and walking by faith is not for wimps – it requires great courage. I think today we are asking ourselves the wrong question. We don’t need to know if someone or something is the safe way or the safe choice – we need to know if it is the right way, the right choice, if it is good, if it is a God honoring course of action – these will always come with risks – in the past, physical death, at the moment being “cancelled” but maybe tomorrow actual death will replace social media ostracization, job loss, loss of power, security and comfort in this current culture.

It’s time we started living our lives in this real, God created world, instead of a virtual world where we don’t know what’s real and what’s not. People can be controlled much more easily virtually than in reality, real time and real space. Safety at the expense of freedom? I think not! I’m with the guy who said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” (Patrick Henry) – and even more with the One who said “Take up your cross and follow Me.” He isn’t safe, but He is most certainly good. Following Him in faith is not for the faint of heart, it is for us who are brave enough to pursue truth, knowing eventually, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Our country is built on the sacrifices of those who did not put their personal safety above the greater good of a country where faith and freedom can flourish. We are currently told we must accept the loss of certain personal freedoms in the name of safety. Time for us to speak up before we become so “safe” that we are no longer free to do anything (worship, keep and bear arms, assemble, travel unrestricted, own our own homes and businesses, speak and write freely) or to make any health, personal, professional etc. decisions for ourselves.

Ironically, even our Creator leaves all decisions to us, whether to follow Him or not – pursue His ways or our ways. God gives us freedom of choice in all things. Why would we hand our God given freedoms over to government?

Lord, thank You that in You there is freedom and eternal life. You are not safe (by the world’s standards) but You alone are good. (” ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’ ” Mark 10:18)

I can trust You with my life, and I do. I trust in You, not in schemes of man. Help me to be brave enough to choose freedom in You over the temporary safety the current culture offers if only I will look the other way, keep silent, and go along with those who want to impose their will on me “for my own good and the good of the nation.” May I sacrifice my safety now, so that my children can have a future of freedom and faith in You. You are not safe – but You alone are good.

If I choose safety over You, Lord, – in the end, I will be neither safe nor free, but I will be sorry.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ ” (Isaiah 6:8)

not safe – but good! not safe – but free!

sincerely, Grace Day

I have a plan – But God!

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Are you a planner like me? I like to make a plan and stick to it. I guess it gives me a feeling of control over my life. It’s a feeling that is based on illusion, but still a feeling that I seek to experience on a daily basis. However, pursuing this goal of control over my life proves as elusive as the illusion itself, which is that me being in control of my life is actually possible.

Turns out, others share my angst. In his poem, “To A Mouse”, Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, wrote this – “The best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong” or “often go awry.” Actually, that is the translation. The original words, written in 1785 read, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft a-gley.” Our words have changed some over the past two-hundred thirty-seven years it seems, but the human condition continues in its constant state. “There is nothing new under the sun”, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, long before Burns wrote his poem or Steinbeck wrote his book entitled, “of Mice and Men”, referencing the Burns poem.

There’s a story in the New Testament about four men and a paralytic who had a plan. They executed their plan pretty well, achieving success. Still, as events unfolded, they couldn’t have planned for what they ultimately received, which was more, much more than they had desired for themselves or their friend initially. Their plan was to get their friend an audience with Jesus, because they believed that Jesus could heal their friend, freeing him from his paralysis. So they made a plan to carry their friend on his mat to the place where Jesus was. Still, “the best laid plans . . . often go awry” and that’s just what happened to the four friends and the paralytic on the mat.

When they arrived at the house where Jesus was teaching “So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door . . . Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” (Mark 2:2-4)

So they made a new plan because of the crowd of people. Their old plan hadn’t included roof walking and demolition – but now they had a new plan, which involved going up on a roof, cutting a hole in said roof big enough to lower their friend on the mat through it and then getting their paralyzed friend lowered through the hole they had just created, into the very presence of Jesus. This they accomplished. Their friend was now face to face with Jesus. But what happened next wasn’t what they expected to happen because it wasn’t a part of their plan for their friend.

Their plan was that their friend would be healed and walk again. But Jesus had other plans. The first words out of Jesus’s mouth were, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What? Couldn’t Jesus see the condition of their friend and understand he needed a physical healing, allowing him to walk again? What good were these words of Jesus? There must have been stunned silence in that crowded room following Jesus’s words to the paralytic. Those present held their breath, waiting to see what would happen next.

Now among those present were Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their response to what Jesus said? “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” This is what they were thinking and Jesus knew it. Jesus responded saying,

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ” Next we read –

“He (Jesus) said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ ” (Mark 2:7-12)

Wow! Jesus is revealed for who He is – God’s Son, the promised Messiah, with the power and authority to forgive sins, the people present end up praising God, the paralytic has his sins forgiven AND he also receives the physical healing he had long desired, which is why his friends brought him to Jesus in the first place. The paralytic received so much more from Jesus than he asked for that day. He wanted physical healing. He was given spiritual healing as well. The paralytic came for something temporal and received something eternal, not instead, but in addition! – forgiveness of his sins, a pardon from God, granting him eternal life! He asked so little of God when God desired to give him so much more than he ever thought possible.

I guess I do that too. Like the paralytic, I believe God for too little, not too much. “I have not because I ask not.” I forget that God – “is able to do immeasurably more than all we (I) ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (me).” (Ephesians 3:20)

I always have a plan, but I need to remember that God always has a better plan for me. I have a plan – BUT GOD!

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

Hope, what a priceless gift and how hard to come by on my own and in this troubled world. Hope sustains in the darkest of times, hope makes all things bearable because it is the promise of brighter, better times to come. That’s the “future” spoken of here in Jeremiah, the future that God wants to give me – eternity with Him.

Yes, I have a plan – BUT GOD has a better one! I just need to –

“Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I may have a plan – BUT GOD – His ways will win out.

“Many are the plans in a man’s (my) heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I’m glad those words from Proverbs are true. I’m grateful that it’s not my plans, BUT GOD’S purposes that prevail. My Heavenly Father saves me from my own plans time after time.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Better I follow God’s ways than my plans.

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

sincerely, Grace Day

a second wind

It’s one of those days. I want to run. I want to fly, to soar. But I can’t even put one foot in front of the other without collapsing in complete exhaustion. I need to be sprinting, but I’m not even walking. My feet feel glued to the ground, unable to move. Is this what the expression “feet of clay” refers to? But it’s not just my feet that feel heavy today – it’s my heart, my mind and my spirit. This is an overall weariness I’m experiencing and it has caught me quite unawares.

Maybe I didn’t realize how much I’ve been carrying around. I’ve allowed it to accumulate over time. Eventually, it all becomes too much to bear and I find myself crushed under the weight of the cares of the world, unable to move forward. What to do? These words of the psalmist come to mind – seems like he might have felt like I do now when he said,

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. . . . The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your (my) coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

The psalmist was weary, but when he looked up to see God’s creation surrounding him, he was reminded of God’s watchful care over him at all times. I am too. Guess I need to look up more often when I am down. Just seeing the sunrise this morning, reminded me of God’s inescapable presence presiding over all things. I don’t have to carry the weight of the world around with me, God is already carrying it easily for all of us, including me. When I forget this, I end up carrying needless burdens with me as I run my race. No wonder I am weary and worn out. I need to take my Heavenly Father up on His gracious offer every day, you know the one where He invited me to –

“Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Other translations say I can give God my “worries” or “anxieties” but you get the picture – the things that weigh me down, I can give to God. He has invited me to do this so that I can run the race marked out for me, free from these added burdens. It’s not that there isn’t plenty for me to be worried or anxious about these days. In fact, it seems to me there is an overabundance of things that could concern or worry me. But my Heavenly Father is saying to me, “I’ve got this! You don’t have to be anxious, My child.” He also reassures me saying –

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

Do I believe Him? Am I willing to surrender all of my fears and anxieties, the things that are weighing me down and making me so weary, am I willing to hand all these wearisome burdens over to His sovereignty? If I could trust Him with my cares, my load would be lighter and I bet I could finally run this race with the gracefulness, the lightness of foot, (and of heart and spirit) the purpose, the power and the joy with which I was meant to run this race all along.

Today I am feeling weighed down, enveloped by an overwhelming weariness. Then I read these words from Isaiah 40:28-31 –

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. . . . 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.”

There it is – the promise from my Heavenly Father that I need to receive today. “He gives strength to the weary” – that’s me! “increases the power of the weak” – that’s me too! When I accept His invitation to cast all my cares on Him and when I put my hope in Him alone – a miracle occurs! The weight of the world is lifted off my shoulders and my weariness dissipates as if it had never been. No longer heavy of foot or heart or mind or spirit, I find that I can not only walk, but run – and not only can I run but I can soar – my spirit has been given wings, the wings of hope – a gift God alone gives to those who trust in Him.

thank You, Lord, for today’s miracle – You took all my cares upon Yourself, setting me free to walk, to run, to soar for You – and to finish this race strong, as I run it with the strength You give me moment by moment until the race is won.

sincerely, Grace Day