the emperor and his elephants

Things are getting quite crowded for the emperor these days. It all started with the proverbial elephant in the room which didn’t seem all that problematic at the time. After all, it is a big room in which the emperor resides and that first elephant was such a small elephant, that it was quite overlooked. Which is to be expected because elephants in rooms are traditionally and historically overlooked. That’s the whole point of their existence. That’s why these elephants end up staying so long. They get comfortable. They find they prefer the “safe space” of the room to their natural habitat, the jungle. Elephants understand why we humans say, “it’s a jungle out there!” They prefer the protected environment of the room to the dangers of their jungle home.

Now traditionally it has been – one elephant per room. Hence the phrase “the elephant in the room.” But the emperor has changed all that. He has allowed multiple elephants to take up residence with him, providing them sanctuary as it were, and the room has become quite crowded. Not only are there multiple elephants in the room, more than ever before actually, but the elephants themselves are growing larger and larger the longer they remain in the room with the emperor.

Truth is, there are so many elephants in the room nowadays, that it’s hard to find the emperor, let alone to actually get a good look at the emperor. Perhaps this is just as well, however, because despite rampant rumors to the contrary, the emperor does not have new clothes. In fact, the emperor does not have old clothes or any clothes at all. Currently, the emperor is most decidedly naked. (not a good look to be sure)

But in a room filled with oversized, overlooked, unmentionable elephants, the emperor’s secret is kept safe. The emperor’s nakedness is as unmentionable as are the elephants themselves that reside with him in his room. I guess they kind of keep each other’s secrets – this emperor and his elephants. Silence is the keeper of all secrets and elephants in rooms are not to be acknowledged nor discussed in any form or fashion. I think that’s why so many elephants take up residence in rooms where they can remain invisible. (ok, they are not actually invisible, but the rules of the room dictate that all who enter in agree to pretend they do not see said elephants, just as they further agree not to notice the emperor’s nakedness but instead to compliment profusely the emperor’s stunning new clothes) The elephants will continue to take refuge in the room of the emperor until someone has the courage to call them out (figuratively and literally) and they are forced to return to the jungle.

At present it seems “elephant caller outers” are in short supply. It is quite impossible to find one really. Perhaps this is the result of courage and critical thinking skills being in equally short supply? But whatever the reason, the elephants continue to multiply and to grow quite large as they are left to their own devices, unacknowledged, unchallenged and therefore undisturbed. Perhaps they are earning their keep by providing much needed cover for the emperor in his currently naked state.

The casual observer might notice that the floor in the emperor’s room seems to be sagging. However, if a question about the damaged floor is voiced, there are plenty of alternative explanations available to address this phenomenon – none of which include overweight elephants that our public discourse tells us do not exist. Therefore, the sagging floor couldn’t possibly be the fault of the emperor’s many elephants.

Still there are now cracks appearing in the foundation of the emperor’s house. Turns out the emperor is housing elephants in many rooms, not just the one. In fact, he has elephants stashed all over his residence and these elephants require a lot of upkeep. As they multiply in number and grow larger in size, the emperor’s house is beginning to buckle under the weight of all these “elephants in the room.” It would appear that a total collapse of the emperor’s house is unavoidable unless his house can be emptied out of all the elephants. Perhaps exposing said elephants publicly might persuade them to return to their jungle home. (the elephants might actually prefer dealing with jungle predators rather than dealing with being recognized as real in their previously “safe rooms” and having no where to run)

But if the elephants are exposed, then the emperor’s nakedness will be exposed for all to see as well. The emperor needs the elephants but he’s running out of rooms in which to house them. It is “unsustainable” as we so often hear about so many practices. Ironically, it is not a “house of cards” that is ready to come crashing down, but a “house full of elephants” instead. And the latter will be the longer, louder crash.

I would hope that the elephants could be dealt with and returned to their proper place before their presence destroys the house in which they have been hiding. The house was never meant to give the elephants shelter nor sanctuary. It was meant to house not so much an emperor as a leader, a shepherd, a keeper of the covenant between a people and the laws they created to ensure their freedom and the freedom of those that would come after them.

With the elephants gone, the emperor will be in need of some new clothes because he will be clearly visible once again. (I think that’s what they call transparency) Reputable tailors must be found who will provide the emperor with garments not so much currently fashionable as they are enduringly timeless chic – clothes that will cover over human frailty with protection and strength – garments of integrity, of character and of courage – garments of humility, of service and of righteousness. These are the new clothes the emperor will need when the elephants no longer provide him cover.

Yes, the emperor is currently naked, but it is my hope that he will indeed one day have new clothes for real, not the appearance of a fabulous new wardrobe, mind you, but actual new robes of justice, liberty, and truth to cover his former nakedness.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

“The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established log ago; You are from all eternity.” (Psalm 93:1- 2)

” . . . clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. . . . Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 45:3-6)

sincerely, Grace Day

the battle is raging

Today I am remembering to be kind. I am remembering that everyone is fighting hard battles that I know nothing about. But as I write this, I am acutely aware of the hard battles that I do know about because they are being fought by people I know and love, right now in real time. I feel overwhelmed as I consider their circumstances, what they face on a daily basis and how daunting are the prognoses that they have received. How valiantly we fight to hang onto this life we have been given. How valiantly those whose stories I know are fighting for their lives. We go to extraordinary means to hang onto this life given to us by our Creator.

If someone were to observe the NIC-Us in our hospitals they would see firsthand the miracles taking place every day as little souls are being saved with extraordinary medical care and intervention until they are strong enough to breathe on their own and swallow on their own, etc. Our culture protects the lives of these preemies with all the medical technology we have at our disposal. We also actively pursue life through Invitro and other fertility procedures available to those who long to be parents. A NIC-U is a place where we witness the courageous actively engaged in the battle for life.

I have friends who have adopted “snowflakes” or frozen embryos and there are many who wait long and fight many legal battles in order to adopt children of any age. All is a part of the battle for life. Which is why I find it curious that the same society that has NIC-Us full of heroes and heroines fighting for the lives of so many also has “clinics” (don’t know what to call them?) where countless lives are so carelessly and unceremoniously ended. It is a paradox I cannot reconcile.

The local news constantly talks about my city’s murder rate. Every day there are more murders to report. Gangs, cartels, criminals – seem intent on taking lives rather than protecting them. The larger question seems to be – “what value human life?” There are those I know, who are currently in the fight of their lives – they are fighting literally for their very lives. Chances are, dear readers, you too, know someone battling for their life at this very moment. I see the battle for life raging on all around me day after day – chemo treatments, surgeries, addiction recovery and rehabilitation programs, those with high risk pregnancies courageously fighting to carry them to term – all around me people are courageously fighting the battle for life. As I feel the weight of these multiple battles, I remember what Jesus had to say –

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

We fight bravely for our physical lives here on this earth so that they might continue. But I have to wonder, do we fight as courageously for our spiritual lives which will continue long after our physical battle is over? 2 Corinthians 4:18 makes this clear saying –

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Does this mean we are fighting the wrong battles? Are we fighting for the temporary while ignoring the eternal? Am I hanging on so tightly to the temporal that eternity is eluding my grasp? C. S. Lewis explains it this way –

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

There is a huge difference between a finite little mud puddle and the infinite ocean, unceasingly ebbing and flowing with the rising and falling of its every tide. Still, a child who has never seen such a sight cannot believe that something as vast as the ocean actually exists. It’s the same with me. My finite mind cannot grasp eternity nor what heaven is like. It is impossible. 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells me –

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

I have to trust my Heavenly Father on this. He said He’s making preparations for me to join Him when my time here is done. I have His word on that. Jesus said –

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

That promise is hope. It is this hope that sustains through all the battles raging around me at present in my life and in the lives of those I love. My temporal, physical battle will be lost at some point in this life. But my spiritual battle has already been won for me by Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection. In fact, Romans chapter eight says this about you and me, dear readers, regarding the battles we are fighting daily –

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us (you and me) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Today the battle continues raging all around me, but you and I are “more than conquerors” through Jesus Christ. It may not look like I am winning my battle. I may not feel like I am conquering what comes against me, be it hardship or hunger or illness or persecution – but God promises nothing will separate me from His love and therefore from Him.

As I watch my friends fighting their battles day after day with courage and perseverance, I pray for them God’s presence in their circumstances, knowing that God’s presence brings His peace and His hope into every battle we must fight. We fight well until our last breath, agreeing with Paul that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I keep in mind these words –

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. . . . We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)

Still we fight the good fight, valuing the life God has given us here until we are released from this mud puddle into our eternal holiday at the sea, the infinite, glorious sea.

“I am confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

sincerely, Grace Day

new discovery – old truth?

It was her tone of voice more than her words which caught my attention and kept me from changing the channel as I’d intended to do. She was professionally serious while simultaneously excited to reveal to us, the TV audience, this cutting edge news, the revelations and results of a recent study. What could it be? I wondered, during the commercial break. The newsperson had implied it was good news. A cure for cancer, perhaps? The pathway to world peace? Must be something new and revolutionary that will change my life and the lives of others for the better forever going forward.

The commercials seemed to last longer than usual as I waited, filled with hope, to receive the good news of this new study which would potentially positively impact my life. And then the newscaster was back, and the study results were revealed. The study’s findings? Friendship or friends benefit one’s health. Yes, that’s what this scientific, groundbreaking study was all about – friendship. Researchers found that having friends is good for your health! Results of the study suggested friends are just as important as eating right and exercising are to one’s overall good health.

Shocker, right? Never in my continual pursuit of good health and taking care of myself, (body, mind and spirit) would I have associated having good friends with positive health outcomes. Based on my own real life experiences and those of people I know, I would never have arrived at this conclusion on my own or even suspected that this could be the case. I definitely needed someone or ones to spend my hard earned tax dollars on a study to discover this revolutionary new truth for me. (ok, remember hyperbole and sarcasm are tools in the writer’s toolbox which beg to be used from time to time – I couldn’t resist)

I have to wonder how the design of this study was set up. Was there a control group? Was there a group of individuals with no friends? How was “friend” defined in this study? I mean we have acquaintances, “frenemies”, – then there’s the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Or is “friend” determined by length of time known? frequency of interaction? Do online “friends” that you have never met count? or only face to face friends? Is there an optimum number of friends one must have for best health results? Can one have too many friends, become overloaded, and experience negative health outcomes as a result? Inquiring minds want to know these things.

As a result of this study, will doctors now prescribe “Make two new friends and call me if symptoms (depression, loneliness, anxiety, high blood pressure etc.) persist? Making true friends is definitely more difficult and time consuming and requires more effort than taking some pills. Connecting with others can be a laborious process that requires the courage to let yourself be seen and known by another human being. (post – “islands & icebergs” – Nov. 21,2017) But are the results of this study really new, surprising, not previously known information? I think not. The Bible’s been around for a while and within its pages I have access to information that’s been available to us for millennium. In proverbs I read,

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) Then I read,

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Seems like the idea of friends being good for us, for our well-being and overall health, is not a newly discovered fact but something we instinctively know and actually experience for ourselves in our everyday lives. And if we doubt our own real life experiences, our belief in the benefits of friendships is confirmed in God’s living Word. We don’t need a human, government funded study to reveal to us a truth that we already know because it is self-evident. I read these confirming words –

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)

Another translation says, “sharpens the countenance of his friend.” I wonder if that means “lifts the spirits of” because countenance refers to how we are feeling which is reflected in our faces or countenances? Friends are certainly one of God’s good gifts to us, one of His best gifts. And even better, God has reconciled us to Himself, making you and I His friends in the same way that He referred to Abraham as His friend. (talk about having friends in high places)

“And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:23) In Isaiah God said,

“But you, O Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham My friend,” (Isaiah 41:8)

Not only was Abraham God’s friend, but as followers of Jesus, we know what Jesus told His disciples –

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:15-16)

I also have this assurance that God is my friend – Jesus said,

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:13-14)

Jesus laid down His life for you and for me and He calls us friends! Jesus left us with this instruction –

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

We were created for relationship with our Creator and for relationship with each other. Our Heavenly Father does not intend that we should live our lives isolated and alone. In fact, He tells me to –

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15) and He tells me –

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

I need to be connected to other people in order to do these things that my Heavenly Father asks me to do. God’s word has been telling me all along how vital friends are to my wellbeing. I’m surprised scientists of today are just now beginning to figure that out. Or maybe they are not yet convinced and there will be further “friend studies” to verify if in fact friends are or are not beneficial to one’s health. Maybe they are holding off on making friends until the research is conclusive?

I, however, am thankful to God for each and every friend He sends into my life – each person is a treasured gift from God. Therefore, I will heed these words, rather than waiting on the next scientific study to be done.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

That’s what friends do – they encourage us, we encourage each other. A friend lets us know we are not alone – we are seen and we are heard. A friend shares our load, a friend laughs with us and cries with us. Friends truly are gifts from God. Lord, may I receive and treasure each one!

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

sincerely, Grace Day

a never ending quest

Ever want to go on a quest? It sounds like something exciting, mysterious, noble, important – full of adventure and fraught with danger, perhaps. Or is quest just a fancy word for trip, journey, excursion, tour, hike or any other form of movement from one place to another? I think the word “quest” implies more than just ordinary travel, more than just an ordinary journey. To be on a quest is to be on a search for something and not just any ordinary old thing. A quest implies one is looking for something of great importance or value, something essential, something so essential in fact that any danger and risk associated with said quest is understood to be necessary because the object of the quest is not only desirable but vital to the quester’s very existence.

I have come to realize that there is one quest upon which I and everyone I know embarks, whether we intentionally sign up for it or not, we are born into this quest and spend our lives pursuing this particular quest common to all mankind. All generations before us have pursued this quest and all who come after will as well. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

The objects of the human quest are these – identity, value and purpose/meaning. I watch this daily drama of the human quest play out day after day in my high school classrooms, in my interactions with others, on social media and in our cultural conversation at large. People are seeking answers to these questions (hence the term “quest”) Who am I? Am I worth anything? and Why am I here? (meaning and purpose) These are the questions that we continually ask ourselves. They are relentless questions, giving us no peace until we seek and find satisfactory answers.

Genesis chapter one provides the answer to these questions. I read –

“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)

So simple, yet so profound. You and I are created in the image of the eternal Creator God. We are His image bearers. Our identity, value and purpose are given to us by the One who created us. Consider what God says to us,

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ ” (Genesis 1:28)

That’s a pretty big mission statement! “Fill the earth and subdue it.” Nevertheless, God entrusted the care of His creation into our hands. Here’s another statement from God’s word that speaks to our identity, value and purpose all at once.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Other translations call you and me “God’s masterpieces” or “God’s handiwork” – making clear the value we have because masterpieces by definition are very valuable. This statement also makes clear the identity we have as “God’s handiwork”, we belong to Him, and the purpose we have? We are “created to do good works.”

As I listen to people’s stories, I realize we are all desperately searching for identity, value and purpose. Many of us find these things in our work or jobs. Our identity is what we do – whether butcher, baker or candlestick maker – or any of the myriad professions from which we can choose – our jobs define us, assign a value to us determined by the size of our paycheck, and give our lives a purpose and meaning. However, problems arise when we lose our jobs or switch jobs. Then we have to redefine ourselves, our value goes up or down depending on whether it was a promotion or a cut in pay, and our purpose shifts with the job description.

Another way we search for identity, value and purpose is through our relationships. This also provides only temporary satisfaction, as relationships are constantly changing. Once upon a time I was “Mrs. so and so” but now I am not. Did this unexpected change cause me to lose my identity, value and purpose in life? If my identity, value and purpose depended solely on that one relationship, then all would have been lost and my quest would need to start all over again to find those essential elements of life.

Many of us find our identity, value and purpose in our possessions, or in our circumstances, or in our achievements. Problem is – if we don’t have enough possessions or the “right” possessions, or if things don’t go our way (or even if things do go our way) – or if we never seem to achieve all that we feel will provide us with what we seek (or even if we do achieve our dream and find that it does not provide what we hoped it would) – we find ourselves always searching for our identity, our value and our purpose in this life – or more specifically searching for someone or something to give us the identity, value and purpose that we crave but cannot create nor bestow upon ourselves.

We are continually questing for that which was given to us freely at birth. But like Eve in the garden, we doubted God’s goodness, refused His good gifts, turned our backs on Him and walked away. We have been searching for our identity, value and purpose in life ever since. But apart from our Creator, we will not find the unchanging, unique identity, the infinite value and the eternal purpose that He gave to each one of us when we were created.

“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.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

There’s my identity right there, I am a “wonderful work” of my Creator. We all are. But if I reject the unique identity my Heavenly Father has given me when He formed me in my mother’s womb, then I will spend my life searching for an identity to replace the one that was my birthright, the identity I so carelessly discarded, thinking I could create a better one for myself.

The world often tells me that I am worthless or at best of little value. Not being rich or famous, which are the culture’s determiners of personal value, I am led to believe that I don’t really matter and likewise that others’ lives aren’t all that valuable either. Followed to its logical conclusion, this makes murder, euthanasia and abortion perfectly acceptable because there is no great value attached to human life. As long as people believe this lie, we will not value ourselves or others. We will not treat each other as the masterpieces of God that each one of us is. But the truth is, dear readers, you and I are extremely valuable in God’s sight. So much so that He said this –

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

And indeed, that’s exactly what God did for you and for me and for all humankind. God gave a man in exchange for our very lives. But not just any man. Consider what we read in the book of John –

“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.” (John 3:16)

That Son is Jesus, who came and gave His life as a sacrifice for my sins and for the sins of each and every person. That’s what God thinks you and I are worth, dear readers, the life of His Son, Jesus, who was put to death on the cross to pay our sin debt. John says this about Jesus –

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

We are that valuable to our Heavenly Father. Created in His image, (with a unique identity) purchased with the blood of His only Son, (infinite value) and given dominion over the earth and a mission statement (eternal purpose) – we have been given “everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) Jesus’s words give our lives purpose, meaning and direction. He told His disciples –

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

I don’t have to spend my life questing after identity, value and purpose. I find all three in Jesus Christ and unlike other people, things, causes and circumstances which constantly change – Jesus doesn’t change.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

and because of that, my identity, my value and my purpose in life, all being found in Jesus, do not constantly change. I do not have to spend my life on a quest for these things, things which have been mine from birth, gifts of my gracious Heavenly Father. I don’t want to forget that the world does not assign me my identity, my value or my purpose – my Heavenly Father, Creator God does. When I accept the identity, value and purpose God has given me, my never ending quest is over and I know myself, my worth and my place, all found in Him.

“Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; (other translation “and not we ourselves”) we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:3-5)

sincerely, Grace Day

diamonds & pearls – products of pain & pressure

I could feel my heart grow heavier with each prayer request shared. This is what “bearing one another’s burdens feels like, I thought. We call them “burdens” for a reason – they are heavy. Prayer requests are not to be taken lightly. (pun intended) Burdens by definition are heavy – they weigh on us, they weigh us down and they wear us out. Unimaginable – the things people I know and love are going through on a daily basis. We are broken people living in a broken world. No wonder the journey is so hard. But there is hope for each and everyone of us. And as preposterously unlikely as it may sound, there is also joy in this journey. It just depends on who is journeying with you. Jesus said,

“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

A light burden. Now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. Nevertheless, that’s what Jesus promised us when we come to Him with our burdens. We are invited to exchange the yoke of this world, which is heavy, harmful, confining, suffocating, disabling and deceiving and take His yoke instead, which Jesus said is “easy” and His burden “light.” Seems too good to be true but Jesus promised rest for our souls. That’s the kind of rest that this world just cannot give us. The world gives us chaos and conflict. Jesus offers us peace and the promise of His presence with us while we are experiencing trials.

Jesus was with His disciples in the boat during the storm. He was with Daniel’s three friends while they were in the king’s overheated furnace. He was with the Israelites during their desert wanderings. And Jesus is with you and me too, through each and every trial and trouble that we face. He is with us and He’s helping us carry our heavy loads.

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

Maybe that’s why Jesus said “My burden is light” – He’s the One doing the heavy lifting for me! And the pain and pressure He does allow into my life, He uses to accomplish His good purposes for me. Paul says –

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

I am reminded of diamonds and pearls. Both are considered valuable and beautiful. But both of them are created out of intense pressure, pain and in the case of diamonds, intense heat. Difficult circumstances produce in us an eternal glory, conforming us more closely to the image of Christ. God uses the pains and pressures of this life to perfect us into the people He created us to be in the first place – people of infinite value and beauty – just like the diamonds and pearls He created from atoms of carbon and grains of sand.

Only God makes diamonds from carbon atoms and pearls from grains of sand. Beauty from ashes. Beauty from pain, pressure and intense heat. Beauty from bearing life’s burdens. These are God’s good and miraculous gifts.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The journey from carbon to diamond or sand to pearl is a painful, slow-paced process, but in the end God brings forth something of beauty and value – diamonds and pearls – you and me! Job, the poster child for suffering, understood this truth of pain producing in us something both beautiful and valuable. Job said,

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

Job trusted God to eventually, in His perfect timing, bring beauty from the ashes that were all that was left of Job’s former life. You and I, dear readers, can trust God to do the same for us. God is turning each one of us into diamonds, pearls and gold as we follow after Him day after day, one day at a time.

“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)

sincerely, Grace Day

paradise lost

I sit at the desk, surveying the classroom full of students doing everything but their assignment for the day. Phones, friends and food are apparently too distracting for teenagers to be able to concentrate. But today my concentration isn’t that much better than that of the students. My mind wanders to a pleasant place, a place of warm weather, wonderful vistas of the ocean and fabulous food everywhere you go, including key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate. Who knew such a perfect dessert even existed? But it does in paradise. Unfortunately, I am no longer in paradise. I have recently reentered reality.

Today in body, I am in a high school classroom. In my mind though, I am paddle boarding on an ocean bay, hanging out on a sandbar while time stands still as peaceful hues of blue sky and blue water merge all around me. Seems like only yesterday I was biking around paradise, taking in all the sights and sounds that paradise has to offer. (probably because it was only yesterday, give or take a day or two) Since then, I have left paradise, but paradise has not left me. I carry it with me in memory. As long as I can remember it, paradise is not lost.

Now I know the title of this post is also the title of Milton’s epic poem published in 1667, but it seems the most appropriate title I could think of for today’s post. It’s fitting since I have just recently returned from paradise and find myself once again immersed in the mundane of day to day life that is lived in a place other than paradise. To be more accurate though, I didn’t actually lose paradise, I left paradise behind. I know right where paradise resides. So I guess paradise isn’t lost, it is still right where it has always been, it’s just that I am no longer in it. I wonder if paradise notices my absence? Does it miss me? I miss it.

I hope to return to this earthly paradise someday. And in a happy spoiler alert, brought to me courtesy of truth, I find that an actual eternal paradise is awaiting my arrival and that Someone in paradise is already preparing a place for me there. Jesus said,

“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

This is a sure thing, a reservation in paradise that will not be lost or cancelled. Peter says this –

“In His (Jesus’s) great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Paradise is not lost – I have a reservation, actually an inheritance there, that is being kept secure in heaven where it will not “perish, spoil or fade” – it is waiting for me. I can rejoice now even though I may be suffering at this present time. Paradise is not lost – it is waiting for me. My place in it is waiting for me. What will it be like? 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells me,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

but Revelation does give me a sneak peak 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. . . . To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21:3-7)

A further description of paradise continues saying –

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. . . . On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. . . . Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:23-27)

take heart! dear ones – paradise is not lost. Paradise stands ready to receive us when we finish the race we are running. When we run with perseverance this race marked out for us – we will find paradise awaiting our arrival. It was never lost, after all.

sincerely, Grace Day

another day in paradise

You would think that would be a good thing. But I am trying to leave paradise in order to return home to my mundane life in a much colder climate. Never thought I would be eager to leave paradise, however I am in an airport attempting to do just that for the second day in a row. Now this airport may be in paradise, but an airport is an airport is an airport – it is NOT paradise inside this airport or any other airport for that matter. No palm trees, no warm sand between my toes, no soft sea breezes, no pelicans taking flight, no roosters incessantly crowing – that’s right, I said roosters. Who knew roosters freely roam the streets, the sidewalks, the outdoor cafes and all other places in paradise? I didn’t know this – but fun fact – roosters rule! But I digress.

How is day two of my attempted return to reality from paradise going? Well, it began with promise – the promise of an early morning flight that would get me to my connection and a final flight home. I showed up early, the flight was “on time” as listed on the board at the airport. Those are always welcome words for a traveler to behold – “flight #### to ? on time”. I beheld those words this morning at the airport right before the board switched and began displaying a traveler’s second most dreaded words “flight delayed.” (the most dreaded words are “flight cancelled”)

So my travel day is starting with a one-hour delay showing on the board (making many of those around me nervous about making connecting flights) when rumblings of mechanical problems and a possible flight cancelation are bandied about in the air around me. At this point I pondered the possibility of not being able to get a flight out again today even as I heard passengers around me and the lady behind the desk use the word “rebooking.” Then miraculously, the board changed again, now saying this flight (my flight) was going to take off after all, even though delayed.

So with hope restored that I might make it home today, I board my first flight of the day and leave paradise behind, taking with me memories, photos and of course a souvenir shirt. Arriving safely (and gratefully) at my interim destination, I immediately check the flight board for info on my connecting flight – the one that will take me home. And there, for the second time today, I am greeted with the second most dreaded words which are clearly displayed for all to see – “flight delayed.” (which explains why I am writing to you now, dear readers)

So here I am, having left paradise behind me, with home ahead of me – I am currently in limbo – a traveler on a journey – a journey with unexpected, unforeseen setbacks, twists and turns – not unlike the journey that is life itself. At present, I am surrounded by hordes of fellow travelers just as intent upon reaching their desired destinations as I am in reaching mine. Some are carrying more luggage than others are, but all seem focused on finding the concourse, gate or plane that will take them to the place they are pursuing so passionately. Sitting here at the gate that leads to my plane, the plane that will take me home, I am watching a non-stop parade of people heading purposefully in all directions, coming and going. I can’t tell which is which, all seem to be in a hurry, all seem to be focused on whatever it is that they are headed toward – all seem oblivious to their surroundings.

What is so hard about my journey from paradise to home these last two days? For me, it is the uncertainty, the not knowing what is going to happen next and having no control over the outcome of events. I make a good travel plan and then it gets changed by circumstances without my knowledge or consent. I plan my journey, but it doesn’t turn out as I had hoped or envisioned that it would. Sometimes harder, sometimes better – but always my journey is surprising. I think it’s like this Proverb says,

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

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

As I write this, I am sitting in a crowded airport, awaiting with hope my “delayed” flight home. (as long as it is only delayed, there is still hope) I am hoping this “delayed” doesn’t turn into the dreaded “cancelled.” But there are no guarantees in this life, only faith, hope, trust, courage, perseverance, acts of kindness along the journey’s way (don’t wait for the destination to practice kindness and compassion, by then you will have forgotten how) My journey is filled with uncertainty as I’m sure yours is too, dear readers. And this can fill us with fear and anxiety because we don’t know from one minute to the next, what our futures hold. But there is One who does know the end from the beginning, and I trust Him.

” . . . 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)

I will experience many more “delays” and “cancellations” as I continue my journey. But I do not need to travel in fear, filled with anxiety because I know that God is able to keep me safe until I reach my destination, which in a fun plot twist is both home and paradise at the same time! That’s heaven – our eternal home in paradise with Jesus. I will no longer be suspended between the two.

sincerely, Grace Day

stranded in paradise

Isn’t that an impossibility? or at the least an oxymoron? “Stranded” implies one wants to leave but has no way to do so, while “paradise” implies a place of such beauty, peace, joy, etc. that one would never want to leave such a place. So logically one cannot be stranded in paradise because one would never want to leave such a place as paradise is. And yet as I write this tonight, dear readers, I find myself in just such a predicament. I am literally stranded in paradise.

First of all let me assure you, this place is paradise. Warm weather, beautiful beaches, the ocean’s tranquil waves and turquoise hues everywhere you look, palm trees, sea birds and boats dot the landscape and the food is fabulous everywhere you go. I have been experiencing this paradise with my children, their gift to me. But all good things must come to an end (someone said) and this vacation in paradise is no exception. All of us have jobs to which we must return and today is the day of our scheduled departure from paradise. Everyone has successfully departed but me. My flight home was not just delayed but cancelled entirely. And there are no more flights out until tomorrow.

So I find myself stranded in paradise for another day. You would think this would be a good thing. But suddenly paradise has lost its pizazz. How could this be? Maybe it’s because I’m alone in paradise now, having no one to share the experience with me. Maybe paradise is less about the place and more about the people. What good is warm sand if you don’t have anyone to walk in it with you? Now that my loved ones are no longer here with me, paradise has lost its allure and I am ready to return home – but I can’t. I am stranded in paradise. Interestingly, Jesus said this about the paradise we have to look forward to –

“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

Did you catch that? Jesus isn’t just getting ready some random place in paradise for you and I, but He’s creating a place for you and I that is where He is! We will not be alone in heaven. We will not be isolated or separated, but we will be with our Savior, Jesus. We will not be stranded in paradise alone. We will be with the One who came for us, gave His life for us, and is now preparing a place for us to join Him in paradise.

Jesus has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. This is good news. This means I will not find myself stranded in paradise for an eternity because Jesus will be right there with me. I have His word on that.

“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)

sincerely, Grace Day