banished to the berm

This is something I never thought I’d hear myself say, but now “berm” has become part of my current vocabulary as I unexpectedly experienced “life on the berm” this past weekend. I shared this new experience with my two sisters, which made being banished quite tolerable, enjoyable actually, if I am honest about my brief experience of “living on the berm.” It wasn’t that bad, although it was totally unforeseen. We had no idea that we were going to be “bermed.” Therefore, we were not properly prepared mentally or physically for the experience. Had we known we might have brought a blanket and binoculars, and I would say maybe dressed differently, except in this case, we were all properly attired for the berm, even without being forewarned of the experience that awaited us.

Now there are all kinds of “berms” in life, so perhaps at this point some clarification of the situation would suffice to explain the particular “berm experience” I shared with my sisters only two days ago. With time, memories do tend to dim, to fade, to be forgotten altogether or to need fact checking, or they tend to take the opposite trajectory, becoming embellished tales over time, while in the immediate aftermath of the experience, the retelling is the truest.

So let me tell you about being banished to the berm, while it is still fresh in my mind and memory. Now, I do not recall “the berm” being a part of our long laid plans for this special sisters’ weekend and there is a good reason for that – it was never included in our plans. Berm isn’t even a word I’ve had occasion to use in recent memory as I navigate my everyday life – until berm became the word of the weekend due to circumstances beyond our control – circumstances that originated from a mistake, a human mistake, simple human error. And then the dominos fell.

We arrived at the football stadium early so as not to miss seeing the cheerleaders’ entrance prior to the Big 12 Conference football game. Why was this so important? Because we were there to see our niece/daughter cheer for the Baylor Bears. And as family members of a cheerleader, we believed our tickets to be in a special section of the football stadium, one in which other family members had been seated for previous games.

So imagine our surprise when we picked up our tickets outside the gate and discovered they were tickets for the “berm.” Now a “berm” can take different forms as in the berm on the side of the road or the berm along the beach, usually a flat strip of land although another definition of berm says “a mound or wall of earth or sand a landscaped berm” – our berm was the latter. We were definitely on a mound in that there was a slope but we were not at the beach – no sand. Our berm was the proverbial grassy knoll, but very family friendly because in order to bring anything into the stadium or into the berm, it had to be carried in a clear plastic bag.

So our grassy knoll, our berm, was safe. (it was not of the JFK genre) It was safe, but we were sidelined (pun intended) for this college football game. Ironically, the stands along the sides of the field provide the better view of the game, so in this case being literally sidelined would be a good thing. But we berm dwellers were metaphorically sidelined, which in football means the end zone – an interesting, if not sought after place from which to view the game, let me tell you.

We had been bermed, and we made the best of it. The weather was perfect. It was a lovely fall day, warm and sunny, so we didn’t have to worry about rain making our grassy knoll wet and muddy. We had shade and we were close to concessions and restrooms. Full disclosure though, I did just mention that our bermdom was a safe place and this is true enough. The exceptions to this occurred when extra points or field goals were being kicked in our direction. The nets went up in preparation each time, of course, but every time the football found its way over the safety net and into the hands of one of the many delighted bermmite Bear fans, eagerly vying for position so that they might be the one to catch the football that the safety net had failed to intercept.

This was as entertaining as the game itself. Our fellow bermmitians were as considerate as they were enthusiastic in their cheering on of the Bears, so Bermdom turned out to be a pretty good place in which to spend a Saturday afternoon. It was like being on a picnic, except not being forewarned, we hadn’t brought a blanket. But the grass cushioned the ground sufficiently enough that it didn’t really matter. Binoculars, however, would have come in handy. It is a big stadium and the cheerleaders are stationed in front of the fans in the stands – not those of us cheering from the berm – a.k.a. – the grassy knoll beyond the End Zone.

We wanted to keep tabs on the cheerleaders and watch them do their precision stunts and routines. As they rotated around the arena, my niece’s group was in front of the stands closest to the berm end of the field for some of the game and we could see her being lifted high in the air, along with others, as the crowd cheered. Keeping track of her from the berm was a challenge, as was watching the actual football game from the perspective provided by the berm.

And I have to say, the game does look different from the berm. Perspective or viewpoint makes a huge difference in our understanding of what is taking place right before our eyes. That turns out to be true of watching football from the berm as well. You don’t see the plays opening up like you do with a full field view the higher sideline stands provide. You don’t see the whole picture as the play unfolds when you are watching from the berm. We would see the end result when the down and yards were announced and we could turn around and watch replays on the big screen behind us. (a perfect example of hind sight being twenty-twenty)

Our experience was defined by the limited perspective afforded us from our position as citizens of the bermdom. We also discovered very quickly that there were no open borders between the berm and the rest of the stadium. Our tickets provided us access to the berm only. We had no access to any part of the stadium. We could see the people in the stands, hear them cheering, watch them wildly waving their towels – we could watch the marching band and hear its music, we could hear all the announcements, we could witness it all – the fireworks, the flyover, the football players running onto the field – we just could not enter into any aspect of the game through the stadium – for this game we were banished to the berm exclusively.

Do you ever feel like this in life, dear readers? Feel like you have been relegated to the sidelines, while you watch everyone else play, participate and pass by? Perhaps that is more of a berm of the highway experience, but also true of the berm of life. It is easy to feel you have been overlooked or banished to the berm, the sidelines of everyday life. You came to participate, but your ticket is to the berm instead of the main venue. You can watch but you are denied access, just like my sisters and I were denied access to the “big” venue – we had to watch from the “little” vantage point of the berm – located at the end of the End Zone. (the next “zone” after that is the parking lot)

How glad I am that in my Heavenly Father’s kingdom I am not banished to the berm of life. In fact Jesus said,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) And that full life includes an all access pass to my Creator, who is available twenty-four/seven to receive me.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

“Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2)

God has not banished me to the berm, a berm with no access nor admittance into His presence. Instead, God has made a way for me to enter into His presence and live my life there. I read in John 14:6,

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ”

and the really good news is this – Jesus said,

“whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

Jesus will never banish me nor you, dear readers, to the berm. We don’t have to live life on the outside looking in. Jesus invites us in. When we accept that invitation we can say along with King David,

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

thank You, Lord, that You offer access and redemption to all – the overlooked, the outcast, even the bermed

sincerely, Grace Day

sovereign surveillance

Ever feel like someone’s looking over your shoulder or maybe watching your every move? We hear a lot these days about spying and cyber stalking and all kinds of espionage involving surveillance. There’s big tech keeping track of us, there are drones and those new doorbells that record everything and even our own cell phones track our movements and hold all our private communications with others via text or email on them. Security cameras are everywhere we go now – businesses, schools, parking lots, etc. All this surveillance is meant to keep us safe. It is for our own good.

However, there is a difference between being “watched” and being “watched over.” The former implies an element of spying or stalking, of something sinister and unwelcome. But the latter carries with it a sense of being cared for and protected. Being “watched” implies danger, being “watched over” implies safety. I find comfort in these words from Psalm 121 –

“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)

I guess it depends on who is doing the “watching” whether it is a positive or a negative experience. I don’t mind my Creator watching over me, but I’m not so sure I want my government or anyone in positions of power and authority watching me. Why? Well, I know my Heavenly Father’s motives. I can read them in Jeremiah 29:11 –

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

That’s reassuring. So is knowing this –

“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)

Another translation says, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” The point is – God is all light with no shadow, no darkness in Him. He does not have a dark side like human beings do ever since sin entered into the garden. I can trust my Heavenly Father. Not so much my government or big tech or media. They don’t really seem to have my best interests at heart. I’m not convinced they care about me personally. How could they? To them I am just a data point, a number on a graph, a potential source of income, a faceless entity to be marketed to and manipulated in order to achieve their desired outcomes often at my expense – not a unique and very real person. They don’t actually know me or care about me.

But they do collect a lot of information about me and other individuals. (in order to better serve me, they say) Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok for example keep quite a bit of personal information about the people who use their services as do companies we do business with and the IRS. Maybe that’s the difference, though. They know about me, but they don’t actually know me personally. To them I am merely an entity to be categorized, controlled and managed. I am the number of boxes they can check in describing me – age, sex, education, income level, skin color, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, occupation, where I live, where I shop, what I buy, – they can know all these things about me, without actually, really knowing me.

Not so with my Heavenly Father. His Sovereign surveillance is superior to man’s attempts at surveillance in every way. Consider this –

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

And unlike human surveillance, God’s motives are pure. God keeps watch over us to help us, not to harm us. His surveillance of us is deeply personal because we are His creation, the work of His hands.

“Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and not we ourselves. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

And as our Shepherd, God watches over us with perfect surveillance. He never misses a beat. Nothing escapes Him. Even with all the billions of people, I never have to worry that I am invisible or unknown to my Heavenly Father. I mean, if He can keep track of zillions and trillions of stars, I think He can keep tabs on me. Isaiah had this to say about God and the stars –

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

No stars are unknown, unnamed nor missing! Neither are any of the human beings (including you and I, dear readers) whom He created in His own image. If you have any doubt, just look what it says in Matthew –

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

God’s perfect surveillance, His perfect watchcare, extends to knowing each star by name and knowing when each and every sparrow falls. His knowledge of you and me is just as detailed, actually even more so. Consider this –

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:30-31) and this concerning God’s surveilling care –

“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.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

The One who calls each star by name certainly knows my name too. And Psalm 139 tells me He also knows all my ways and all my words. (spoken and unspoken) My Heavenly Father does not lose track of me. In this chaotic, ever changing world, He always knows where I am and what I need. Even when I feel alone and forgotten like Job did, I can know with certainty the same thing Job knew when He felt God had abandoned him, which led Job to speak these words –

“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 had not forgotten nor lost track of him, and furthermore Job had faith that God was going to take care of him, even in his troubles and then bring him “forth as gold.” That sounds like “plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him hope and a future,” doesn’t it?

Something else that makes God’s Sovereign surveillance superior to man’s is discovered in Psalm 121 –

“He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

Because God is an Omniscient God, (meaning all knowing) I can rest in God’s loving surveillance, trusting that He does know “the way that I take” and “He won’t let my foot slip.” He also never sleeps – meaning He never takes a break, therefore nothing gets by Him. He knows it all. My Heavenly Father knows my deepest, darkest secrets and yet He loves and forgives me anyway. This is unlike the human surveillance of big tech, media or government who, as we witness daily, use anything they can find against whomever they wish to discredit, defame or destroy. How glad I am to read in Psalm 103:10-14 that God –

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from 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 is Sovereign over all. His surveillance is perfect and good, just like His character. I can trust Him. In fact Jude 24 says that –

“He is able to keep me from falling and to present me before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy -”

Thank You, Lord, that Your Sovereign surveillance so lovingly provides for me and protects me at all times. Though I fear man’s surveillance used for evil purposes, I rejoice in Your watchcare over me at all times.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

The surveillance of the Good Shepherd always protects me, always provides for me, ensuring that I arrive safely at my destination – to dwell with Him forever.

grateful for His sovereign surveillance every day,

sincerely, Grace Day

the God of D.E.I.

Diversity, equity and inclusion – three words we see bandied about everywhere these days. These words have become a mantra of sorts for corporations, organizations, even schools. It seems every school system now has an officer of “diversity, equity and inclusion.” What is so special, so essential, about these three words that every group, every company, every organization – from the smallest business to the largest corporation – wants to be sure everyone sees them proudly proclaiming their practice of diversity, equity and inclusion.

To this end, new positions have been created and new individuals hired in each and every school, university, business, organization, company etc. to ensure that these three words make the leap from paper to practice, from ideology to reality. The way everyone has scrambled to appear to embrace these three words, one would think these were totally new, never before known words or concepts. But just like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes –

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Yes, nothing new under the sun and nothing new about these three words either. In fact, the Creator of the universe, the Author of all life, is also the author of these three words – well with one slight but very important modification which is this – the “E” stands for equality, not equity. Why? Because equity is equal outcomes. Equality is equal opportunity. Opportunity versus outcome is an important real life difference.

Nevertheless, my Heavenly Father is most definitely the God of D.E.I. – as He is the author of each of these concepts. One has only to look around at creation to see the infinite diversity displayed in every aspect of it – in plant life, in animal life, in human life, we see diversity at every turn, we are surrounded by it. No two snowflakes are identical, no sunrises are the same, there are myriad varieties of tulips and tulips are just one flower among so many kinds of flowers that we can still be surprised by discovering new varieties that we hadn’t come across before.

From mountains’ heights to oceans’ depths, our earth is full of the diversity of God’s creation. From deserts to rain forests and the wide array of plants and animals that live in each one respectively, we see that there is no end to the diversity of all God has made. And that diversity extends to human beings. We are each unique and yet God knows us each personally.

“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.” (Psalm 139:1-4)

He is also the God of equality. We are each equally loved and valued as His creation, because we are each one created in His image.

“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

And His invitation to spend eternity with Him is extended to everyone equally. I read in 2 Peter 3:9 –

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Our Creator gives each and every one of us an equal opportunity. In Romans 1:20 I read –

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

God issues another of His equal opportunity, all inclusive invitations in Matthew 11:28-30, saying –

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

We all receive the same invitation, giving us the same equal opportunity to accept or to reject it. But because our responses are different, our outcomes will be different. With God, there is equality, not equity. Outcomes are not equal. In fact, in Galatians 6:7-8 I read –

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

However, my Heavenly Father is definitely the God of inclusion. In Acts 10:34 I read this –

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

Another of His all inclusive invitations reads like this –

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That “whoever” has no exclusions, no fine print. Everyone is invited to believe. God invented inclusion – He did so to ensure that no one would be excluded from access to Him, allowing His glorious diversity to be seen in Heaven as it is here on earth, precisely because He is an all inclusive God.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

Heaven will reflect the God of D.E.I. perfectly. We are all equal in our Creator’s eyes – (sound familiar? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator . . .) – heaven will reflect true equality along with true diversity and true inclusion. Here is a sneak peek at what we can expect –

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ ” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Now that is a picture of diversity, equality and inclusion!

Truly there is “nothing new under the sun.” Our God is the God of diversity, equality and inclusion. He invented each of these concepts and He puts them into real life practice. Today we seem to be struggling to implement these concepts in our daily lives. Maybe that’s because we aren’t taking a page from God’s playbook, the Bible, about how to live out these values.

Heaven is a place of diversity, a place of inclusion, a place where each one of us will be equally loved and valued. We may not be correctly nor successfully implementing D.E.I. strategies here on earth, but we have the sure hope of heaven, where the God of true diversity, equality and inclusion reigns supreme. He will make all things right and you and I are equally included in the diversity which will be manifest in heaven. Because we serve the God of D.E.I., we can say along with King David,

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I/we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

sincerely, Grace Day

the tightrope

I have always been in awe of the tightrope walkers of old in the circus. I have never, however, aspired to be one. Although glamorous, it appears to me to be a very difficult, very dangerous, very demanding, not to mention impossible line of work. Tightrope walkers are up so high and the tightrope is so thin, so thin as to be barely visible from below, that I always find myself holding my breath until they make it safely to the other side. I’ve never understood how they do what they do with such confidence and skill. How does that thin rope even support their weight? I’ve always wondered.

Turns out though, just to navigate my way through life, I need the skill of a tightrope walker. It’s all about balance – keeping my balance while everything around me is constantly shifting and changing. It’s hard to keep my footing in such an environment. There’s not much wiggle room on a tightrope. Must be why Proverbs 4:25-27 gives me this advice –

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Interesting, the lifewalker is told to “look straight ahead”, which is good advice for the tightrope walker as well. As a lifewalker, I am told to –

“fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.” (Hebrews12:2) I am also told,

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21) Words echoed in Deuteronomy 28:14 –

“Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.”

So even though I never aspired to be a tightrope walker, being a lifewalker is much the same, requiring much the same skill set of focus and balance in order to cross the chasm and arrive safely on the other side. My life kind of depends on being able to walk the tightrope without veering off to the right or the left. I am reminded of this in Matthew 7:13-14, where I am given these instructions –

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

It is imperative that I stay on the tightrope and not fall off to the left or off to the right. I must find a way to maintain my balance even while being buffeted about by the winds and storms of life. Fortunately, I do not lifewalk my tightrope alone. I have a Helper.

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” (2 Samuel 22:33-34)

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)

My Heavenly Father gives me the strength and the stamina and the ability to walk the tightrope I am called to walk in this life. The height of the tightrope is terrifying to me, but He makes it possible for me to walk there. In fact, I read in Psalm 37:23 –

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”

I take courage from the knowledge that my Heavenly Father makes my steps firm on this tightrope, even while at the same time, He is my safety net. I will stumble from time to time, but He has promised not to let me fall. He will help me regain my balance, allowing me to continue onward. Knowing my Heavenly Father will be faithful to His promise to me, I can lifewalk my tightrope with courage rather than fear. He will help me to find that delicate balance I need to walk in this world circumspectly.

I am to walk in both God’s grace and God’s truth, keeping a perfect balance between them, lest I lose my footing and fall. The tension between grace and truth keeps the tightrope taut as I walk on it across all the chasms I must cross each day in order to continue my journey. Truth and grace – my Heavenly Father is a God of both. Jesus said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus is truth, and He is full of grace, which He demonstrated in His interactions with others while He was here on earth and by His sacrificial death on the cross for each and every one of us. In fact, Jesus is described in this way in John 1:14 –

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I never wanted to be a tightrope walker – but here I am – struggling every day to find and to keep that balance between God’s truth and God’s grace – lest I lean too far to one side or the other, lose my footing and fall off my tightrope into the abyss. How glad I am that God is faithful to order my steps and keep me from falling even when I lean too far one way or the other and start to lose my balance.

“He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3)

“To Him who is able to keep me from falling and to present me before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

I can even walk the narrow path, the tightrope, taut with the tension between loving sinners and hating sin, between faith and works, between the temporal and the eternal, between grace and truth, between belief and doubt, between the now and the not yet, – the tightrope that stretches from the seen to the unseen – the tightrope whose end is eternity with Jesus, who came here to live among us and walked our tightrope perfectly, walked it first, so you and I could follow in His footsteps.

thank You, Lord, for showing us the way to walk in this world without losing our balance –

sincerely, Grace Day

livin’ in a TikTok world

Did I mention I sub in an inner city, public high school? That’s relevant because it goes a long way in explaining the TikTok reference in this post’s title. The students in my classrooms often randomly pop up without notice and began performing short dance routines while someone records them on a phone. I have learned that they are recording and posting to TikTok. Now I have never been on TikTok, but every day I have a front row seat to what goes on there.

These videos in the making, which I watch live in the classroom, consist of erratic gyrations that appear to be more random than purposeful while at the same time being so suggestive that I find myself wondering if TikTok has any standards of decency that would determine what is shown and what isn’t. Based on the “dancing” I see in my classrooms, I would guess TikTok has no such standard. TicTok is wildly popular because there are so many people desperate to be noticed, to make a name for themselves, to find fame and fortune, to create an identity and a place for themselves because they feel they have none. Still, I was reminded recently of the timeless nature of dance in all its various forms and of the important role dance plays in culture in every era of human history.

This became very real to me a few days ago when I attended a Yom Kippur service at a local Messianic Jewish church. It was a beautiful service full of music and dancing – meaning and tradition. The dancers, all wearing white, moved silently, gracefully, together as one, as we sang in worship. It felt celestial, sacred, solemn and joyful all at the same time. Among the dancers was an elementary aged young girl, teenage girls, young women, middle aged women and also gray haired older women who obviously knew and loved these dances well, as they had probably been doing them since childhood. Indeed, the movements seemed second nature to the oldest of the dancers, who moved with the grace and fluidity born of familiarity and years of practice. There will come a day when their spaces in the circle will be empty. But new generations of dancers will carry on the tradition, having danced with these older women for so long and learned their ways.

It occurred to me that the scriptures we were reading and the prayers we were reciting have been read and recited down through the years by God’s chosen people. Times have changed, but not God’s word nor His covenant promises and His faithfulness to mankind, whom He created in His image. Traditions like this observance connect the past to the present, bring meaning into the present and help us find our place in an unknown future. Connections to our past are part of our identities in the present. Without a connection to our past, we don’t know who we are or how or where we fit into our present in this world.

These vital connections come in many forms. They remind us of our roots, keeping us grounded so that we can continue to grow. When connections to our roots are severed, we are cut loose, caught in the currents of present culture which carry us away from who we are, who we have been, even as we search frantically for any new identity that will give our lives meaning and purpose. Absent connections or touchstones, we have nothing to remind us where we came from or who we are.

Touchstones, however, are all around us if we don’t discard, discount or ignore them. They can be quite ordinary or extraordinary – they may have great monetary value or none at all. On my kitchen counter sit such touchstone treasures, where I see them every day. The cream and sugar dishes that once set on my Grandma’s kitchen table, now sit on my kitchen counter next to cream and sugar dishes from my Mom’s kitchen and the cream and sugar dishes from my other grandmother’s dining room. These dishes had no special interest or value to me, while my grandmothers and mom were alive. But now that they are gone, these ordinary cream and sugar dishes have taken on a special significance to me as a connection to my past and to those I love.

So it is with the sewing basket. This is the most ordinary, unassuming of items, a small, round, brown wicker container with a lid, that always sat in a special place in my parent’s bedroom. It wasn’t until I went away to college and found it among my things when I unpacked, that I learned its history, its story. My mom had given it to me as the oldest daughter when I left home for college because her mother had given it to her as the oldest daughter when my mom left home for college. Before that, her mom, my grandma, had received this wicker sewing basket from her mom, Orie Olive, (how’s that for a name?) when she left the farm for the big city to attend nursing school. Four generations of daughters leaving home to pursue an education, to pursue a life.

I continued the tradition when my oldest daughter left home to go to college. Although I did change something. The basket had been filled with spools of thread and a pincushion with pins and needles. I filled it with nail polish, lip gloss and such. And so a fifth generation inherits the legacy Orie Olive left to us, encouraging my grandma Julia to become an independent woman in an era when women didn’t typically pursue higher education. And a wicker basket, probably from a dime store (that’s like today’s dollar store) is the symbol of this legacy connecting five generations of women.

History matters. Our personal histories matter. That’s probably why genealogies have become so popular in recent years. People are searching for connections to their pasts. They want to know where they came from, in hopes that this knowledge will aide them in their search for an identity. Individuals experiencing an identity crisis appears to be very commonplace these days. We seem to have forgotten who we are, so we can’t function in the present, nor find our way forward into the future. Without a strong sense of self, where we came from and where we are headed, we are easily manipulated into believing things about ourselves that are not true. Disconnected from our roots, we no longer know who we are.

That’s why history matters. It matters for an individual, it matters for a nation. It’s why we go to museums. We learn so much about our past, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is a Holocaust museum in my state. That definitely contains the bad and the ugly. But it is also a testament to the resilience, strength and faith of the human spirit to endure and persevere through hardship in hopes that good will eventually win out over evil. Hope is essential to the survival of the human spirit. The last words in Anne Frank’s diary are these –

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are still truly good at heart.” – (August 1, 1944)

Surprising words coming from a teenage girl forced into hiding along with her family because of the cruel persecution of the Gestapo against her and all Jews throughout Europe. To experience such hatred and still believe that good will win out over evil, is a remarkable testament to human hope in the face of unspeakable tragedy. Only three days after writing those words, Anne and her family were discovered and sent to the concentration camps where Anne died. But her words live on. Her father, who survived, published her diary, which became a best-selling book – a work both authentic and inspirational born out of the human tragedy of World War II.

History matters – personal, national and global. My home is full of the artifacts of my personal history. Whether it be pictures, dishes, furniture, a piece of jewelry passed down – my home is a museum of my history, full of touchstones that connect me to my past, to my roots. Connection to my roots sustains my life. Disconnection equals at worst, death – at best, a life spent lost, frantically searching for a new identity.

I watch and wonder if this isn’t what’s happening to my country right now? We are carelessly discarding our touchstones, destroying our monuments, discounting our documents, denying all the good that is part of our past to the exclusion of mistakes, so many of which we have corrected over time. We are desecrating the museum of our nation’s history, which has surrounded us for years in our public spaces, reminding us of who we are, what we have overcome – giving us confidence to face the future, knowing we have overcome evil and wrong in the past. The World War II memorial in Washington DC is especially meaningful to me, because my grandfather fought in World War II.

If we erase our history as a nation, we erase our identity. We will then fall prey to the highest bidder -anyone who promises to “reimagine”, “remake”, “reinvent”, “rewrite” both our past and our future. They will tell us who we are, what we will do and where we are going. We used to call that tyranny, dictatorship or Marxism/communism. Now it masquerades under fancier sounding names, like equity. But the outcomes are the same as they have always been. Only we don’t know this because we have not only done away with our own history, we have rewritten the history of the world as well. Must be why Reagan said, “Freedom is always only one generation away from extinction.” I surely would not want to be that generation through which tyranny enters in and takes over.

But our touchstones are disappearing. We are losing our bearings. Context is so important. Without historical context we cannot make sense of our present, nor plan for our future. How shocked I was when I learned that a statue of Lincoln had been taken down in Portland, Oregon. I remember thinking, do they not know that he was the President who signed the Emancipation Proclamation? Perhaps, they don’t? Ignorance is not bliss. It is chaos and despair. And that is exactly what we will be left with, when our nation’s museum is emptied out of all our monuments and touchstones, our history is erased and rewritten, and we are left rootless, awaiting death because we are no longer connected to all that gave us life and sustained us in the past. We are the nation who was –

“conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Gettysburg Address)

Have we forgotten this fact, this truth? Have we forgotten who we are – have we forgotten or forsaken this legacy left to us to guard at all costs? Without our history to remind us, we will forget who we are and who we used to be. We should never allow the museum of our country’s keepsakes to be desecrated and destroyed in the name of what? of justice? If we knew history, we would know that is not justice. But we don’t, we don’t know our history anymore.

Sitting in the Jewish Yom Kippur service this week, I felt completely connected to centuries of history that hasn’t changed over the years. It hasn’t been reimagined or rewritten. Truth doesn’t change. God’s word is truth and Isaiah tells us this,

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

With my identity as a child of God and my history found in His unchanging word, I can stay connected to my roots which sustain me, allowing me to grow and to flourish.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

I want the same thing for my beloved country. May her self-inflicted identity crisis come to an end as she returns to her roots. May her rich history and heritage of courage and faith be restored to her. May she remember her birth words –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness . . .” (Declaration of Independence)

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

“Let him/us turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him/us, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)

identity in a TikTok world? – found in Jesus Christ – He holds our history in His hands – He knows who we are even when we seem to have forgotten and lost our way . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

unheard melody

I feel it more than I hear it. It is always just out of reach, just out of earshot. But I know it is there. Everyday sounds fill my ears – but somehow music that I can’t quite hear fills my heart and enters my mind. I listen for words and notes, but I can’t quite make them out. Still, my spirit soars to this unheard chorus, my feet dance joyfully to its rhythm, I hum along to unknown notes, my soul sings words that feel familiar even though I can’t quite make them out, and I know they are expressing all my deepest longings and greatest joys. I march to the beat of this music. It is instinctive. I am drawn to it. I march to the beat of the drums, to the beat of an unseen drummer. I march to the beat of the different drummer.

I always have without understanding why. The unseen drummer of the unseen chorus – the unheard drummer of the unheard band – drowned out by the noise of the world – making nonstop music nonetheless – never ceasing melodies of joy – exquisite tunes of pain turned into praise – songs of sorrow soothed surround me continually as I go about my day. This unheard melody is my constant companion – an everchanging playlist filling my heart and mind – a truer tune – beautiful harmonies in my head – barely audible here, still the soft, sweet notes of my unheard melody are strong enough to override the strident notes of discord that surround me. Where does this unheard melody that keeps me such constant company come from? Psalm 19 gives me a clue –

“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)

Could it be this melody which fills my being even though I cannot hear it, has always been? Is it an eternal tune echoing throughout the universe, traveling across time? Job 38:4 & 7 give me a clue as they recount a conversation between God and Job – God asks this of Job –

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

So, the music was already present when God was creating the earth – stars and angels singing and shouting. Reminds me of a very special night on earth more than two-thousand years ago. On that night, some mere mortals did hear the unheard melody of the universe, if only for a little while. It was the night the angel appeared to the shepherds in the Bethlehem hills, to announce to them the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, the long awaited Messiah.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14) (post – “silent night”)

The music is eternal, it is always playing, just like a favorite childhood hymn of mine says –

“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres.”

All of God’s creation is singing, spheres, angels, birds, stars, even God Himself, according to the prophet Zephaniah who says,

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Job must have listened to the unheard melody of God’s singing, because he wrote these words –

“But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night,’ ” (Job 35:10)

It appears the psalmist also heard the unheard melody via songs in the night, since in Psalm 42:8 I read –

“By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”

Yes, there’s music everywhere, if only I have ears to hear it. Heaven is full of music, so full, I feel it must be spilling over onto earth, mixing with the music of earth’s creation, joining with the singing of the stars, with every sunrise and every sunset adding their voices, all continually singing praise to God the Creator.

In heaven I will hear the music clearly, every note, every word. It will no longer be an unheard melody carried in my heart. Just as, “now I see through a glass darkly, then I shall see face to face.” Now, I long to hear and to sing this eternal, celestial tune. Then, I will witness this –

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ ” (Revelation 5:11-13)

That’s a really big choir and I’ll get to join in with them. Actually, I can do that now, adding my earthly voice of praise to the chorus, joining the stars, the angels, the saints in songs of praise – preparing for the time when my unheard melody will be unheard no more and I will realize this –

“When in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song – it will be the old, old story that I have loved so long.”

maybe that’s why this unheard melody of the universe feels oh so familiar!?

sincerely, Grace Day