letting go

I sat with head bowed, palms open and turned upward in my lap, as the pastor had directed us to do while he prayed over us. The symbolism of my hands, open and empty, was not lost on me. Opening my clenched fists requires that I let go of anything and everything that I am holding onto so tightly. (I wonder how many of us had to put down our phones in order to have our hands empty, open and available during the prayer?) Only when my hands are open and empty, am I ready for God to fill them with the good gifts He has been waiting to put within my grasp all along.

I just have to loosen my strangle hold on all that I cling to so desperately, finally letting go, leaving my hands wide open to receive all that God wants to give me. Makes me wonder why I hang on so hard and so long to these things – when God promises to give me something better.

If I let go of my fear – God stands ready to replace it with His courage.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

When I let go of my grief, God will take it upon Himself and bring me His comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

“Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,” (Isaiah 53:4)

I don’t have to hold so tightly to my guilt and shame, I can release them and receive God’s forgiveness.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I can let go of all my anxieties and let His perfect peace fill me instead.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

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

I can let go of despair and allow God’s hope to enter in and fill me instead.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

I can let go of these heavy burdens I insist on carrying with me every day, afraid to put them down and leave them behind. When I lay them down, I will find they have been replaced with what God wants to give me. 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)

I can let go of all anger and judgement towards others. In their place, God will give me His compassion and mercy for each and every person.

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

I can let go of all my doubts and receive from God the assurance of His love for me in its place.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

“if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

I can let go of hate (which is really heavy) and receive God’s love in its place.

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

I can let go of my selfish ambitions and dreams of worldly success, leaving myself open to God’s direction, receiving God’s plans for me, His purposes for my life, which are far better plans and purposes for me than my own plans for myself.

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

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

I would prefer to go through life with hands open and upturned to God, rather than to live life with fists clenched. But I catch myself often during the day, with my hands closed around something, hanging on for dear life, unwilling to part with whatever it is, perhaps fearing the emptiness and doubting that God will fill it.

“He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagles.” (Psalm 103:5/NLT)

letting go – a thousand times a day if that’s what it takes – what it takes to open my hands, my heart and my life to my Creator, God – my Heavenly Father so that He can reign down His manna and His mercy on me and my hands will be open to receive it – to receive all of His good gifts –

Still, there is one thing I want to grasp and not let go of and it is this – it’s something that Paul said –

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

sincerely, Grace Day

wheat, weeds and works in progress

Ever feel like in a particular period of time, you receive multiple messages and they are all about the same thing, like there’s a lesson you need to learn? During these times do you feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? Well, that’s how the “new agers” would look at it anyway. But when this happens to me, I realize that the Creator of the universe, (not the universe) who coincidently is also my Heavenly Father, is trying to teach me something. So maybe I should sit up and take notice. Maybe I should pay close attention. Maybe I should listen and learn.

Now in my role as the “blackboard bandit” I have been continuing to write positive messages on whiteboards throughout the high school. Today’s message involved telling the students (or whoever would chance to read the words) that they are God’s masterpieces (Eph. 2:10) and consequently they are of infinite value. The world does not necessarily tell them that they have value just as they are. Actually the world doesn’t tell any of us that we have intrinsic value given to us by our Creator God. But we do. That’s the truth. Still, we more often believe the lie that we are worthless. Probably because the world doesn’t see most of us as very valuable unless we temporarily have riches or fame or power or influence.

So today’s whiteboard message about the students being masterpieces included the encouragement that they are all works in progress. We all are. Then the devotion I read today was written by someone struggling with their self worth because they weren’t where they wanted to be. None of us are though, because we are all works in progress. We are unfinished masterpieces or masterpieces in the making, if you will. God doesn’t give up on us. So we don’t have to give up on ourselves or on each other. The apostle Paul reminded the Philippians of this truth when he wrote these words to them –

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

That’s encouraging, don’t you think? God’s still at work in my life and in your life, too, dear readers. During this same time I am studying the parable Jesus told about the wheat and the weeds. In this story the farmer sows wheat but weeds are also growing up in his field right alongside the wheat. The workers ask permission to pull up the weeds because after all, the weeds are taking up the wheat’s space, soil and sun, making it harder for the wheat to grow. But surprisingly, the farmer says to them this, in Matthew 13:29,

” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.’ “

Ok, but aren’t the workers smart enough to recognize which are the weeds and which are the wheat, and pull up only the weeds? I would assume it would be obvious to any farmer worth his salt, which was the edible wheat and which was the poisonous weed. Apparently, not so. Author Tom Hughes, explains it this way –

“The word Jesus uses, often translated “weed,” is a specific type of rye grass called darnel, which has poisonous seeds. At the harvest, if you processed it with the good wheat, the resulting flour would be ruined. If you fed it to your family, they would get sick. So the poisonous weeds must be removed. Here’s the problem: Until they are full grown, darnel and wheat are virtually impossible to distinguish from each other. You might think you are removing a weed, when you are really uprooting wheat.”

“Until they are full grown.” These words are a reminder to me that I can’t judge other people prematurely. (or at all) Besides the fact that it’s not my job, I can’t tell the wheat from the weeds while we are all growing up together in God’s field. Author Hughes puts it this way –

“The reason Jesus does not ask us to get rid of evil people is that we would not do a very good job of it. We keep thinking someone is a weed. We write the person off. We look down on the individual and wish he or she were simply gone. God is saying, ‘Be patient. Give that person some time and you might be surprised. That person might turn around.’ ”

God is patient with me as He slowly turns me from a weed into wheat. Should I be any less patient with those around me who are also growing up toward the sun (actually Son) as I am? God is in the business of turning weeds into wheat. He alone determines the time of the harvest and God doesn’t wish that anyone should pull up any weeds or wheat before His appointed time.

“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.” (2 Peter 3:9)

So God is letting the wheat and the weeds grow up together and only God can tell the difference between wheat and weeds. I can’t. Neither can you. It is only God “who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) And as if to reinforce this idea, I found myself reading similar sentiments in Brant Hansen’s book, “Unoffendable.” Hansen wrote –

“I don’t know, ultimately, where people stand. I know what they need and what I need. I know we need Jesus. . . . It’s simple, honestly. You can quit trying to assess everyone; quit pretending you know where people stand; quit fooling yourself into thinking you know what others are thinking, what’s in their hearts. Let’s be humble and admit what we don’t know. . . . I’m so glad the judging business is God’s business. I can’t handle it. Neither can you, really, even if you think you can. . . . It takes a tremendous amount of humility . . . to hand over this job to God. But He made us, and He knows how we operate best. . . . He’s promising a better way of life. . . . He’s offering peace.”

I identify with the struggling person who wrote the devotion I read. She felt more like a weed than wheat. But it’s not harvest time yet! God is still transforming us day by day into the likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus. Our stories are still being written (post – “eight billion books) – we are still on the Potter’s wheel and He is still adding colors daily to the masterpieces He is making of our lives. God is doing all the work – ours is to trust Him enough to allow Him to have His way in our lives and finish the work He began in me and in you.

My Heavenly Father knows the end from the beginning. I will trust Him with the outcome.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

Right now, it is not time for me to judge myself or to judge others. Judgement is God’s job, which He will do in His perfect timing. This leaves me free to love and to accept everyone, without the burden of having to decide if they are a weed or wheat. We are all works in progress. I can’t possibly know what anyone will one day become. Only our Creator knows what any of us will one day be. His vision for each one of us is perfect. He does not abandon us before it is time for the harvest but rather I read this in Philippians –

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

God’s purposes are good. He turns water into wine, weeds into wheat and works in progress into masterpieces. Thank You, Lord.

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

sincerely, Grace Day

the tomb is empty

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!’ ” (Luke 24:1-6)

the tomb is empty – the heavens are full – full of the souls saved by the resurrection that rendered the tomb empty and heaven full!

Because the tomb is empty, life is full.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Because the tomb is empty, death no longer has dominion over our lives.

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14)

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

The tomb is empty, the earth is full.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

The tomb is empty, the earth is full of God’s love.

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5)

“The earth is filled with Your love, O Lord; teach me Your decrees.” (Psalm 119:64)

The tomb is empty, the earth is full – full of living things created by the One who left the tomb and ascended into heaven.

“How many are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24)

The tomb is empty, the seat at the right hand of the Most High is filled with the One who died in our place, paid our sin price, then rose to life, leaving behind an empty tomb, filling instead the seat at God’s right hand.

“Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

“It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.” (1 Peter 3:21-22)

The tomb is empty, our hearts are full. Our risen Savior fills us with His compassion, comfort, peace, forgiveness, hope, joy and love. Jesus left the tomb empty so that He might fill all the empty spaces of the earth, including the empty spaces in my heart that need to be filled.

“And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

Jesus left the tomb empty, dear readers, so that you and I don’t have to live an empty life while being empty ourselves. We can be filled and life can be full.

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

yes, today, the tomb is empty – and because it is – the heavens are full, the earth is full, our hearts are full, life is full –

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

the tomb is empty – Jesus is risen!

sincerely, Grace Day

a blackboard bandit

That’s me! That’s my new secret identity. (maybe I shouldn’t be sharing this info with you, but I am just so excited about the idea of a new super, secret identity) Although I really should have put more thought into my undercover action hero name, because my mission doesn’t involve a blackboard (they don’t really use blackboards anymore – so no more chalk dust) and I am not taking or stealing anything, so I am not a bandit. (the alliteration was just too good to pass up) In reality, it involves a whiteboard and a dry erase marker. And rather than taking something away, I leave something behind when I leave.

So, my mission has just began, and already I need a new name. I’m considering “whiteboard whisperer” or “secret scribbler” but maybe first I should explain what my super secret mission is all about. I am a substitute teacher in a large inner city high school. Consequently, I am in a different classroom every day and sometimes multiple classrooms on the same day. I am not “the real teacher”, just a poor substitute for the real thing. (see posts – “the substitute” and “the real thing”) There are a lot of vacancies currently in this school, positions that desperately need to be filled. So the students’ work is posted online and they use their computers to do their classwork. The whiteboards in these classrooms are usually empty, because no instructions or information are written on them since it is all posted online.

Enter, me, or rather my super secret hero alter ego – the illogically named, Blackboard Bandit. I write an uplifting, inspirational quote or message on the otherwise empty whiteboard in the hope that whoever might notice it and read it will be encouraged or comforted or inspired or experience something positive in the moment. Maybe the words I secretly scribble on the classroom whiteboard will be just what a particular student needs to help them deal with whatever the day will bring their way. That is my hope. That is my new purpose.

Words have the power to build up or to tear down, to provide wise counsel or foolish advice. Well placed words can be food for thought to help young minds stretch and grow. The best words are those from God’s living, eternal word. In Isaiah I read this about God’s word –

“so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Proverbs tells me this about the power of words in our lives –

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

As I listen to the students’ conversations in the classrooms, it is apparent to me that they are dealing with many things at this time in their lives. They are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world. They are searching for their purpose and their place. I see them discouraged and depressed and what they listen to and what they watch leads to more fear and anxiety in their lives, not less. They are not wise consumers of social media. (they could benefit from my previous post -“a penny for your thoughts” – about the power of our thoughts over our lives)

And that’s where words come into the picture. Our words are what we use to communicate our thoughts both to others and to ourselves. So maybe some well placed words on a whiteboard in a random classroom can make a small difference for the better in some student’s life. It is worth taking a chance and a moment to write some positive, encouraging, uplifting and true words on the board in hopes that someone will be impacted for the better by the power of the words.

I, as the “blackboard bandit” of my school building, working anonymously so as not to reveal my super secret identity or alternate aliases as the “secret scribbler” or the “whiteboard whisperer”, may never know how many, if any, students read and receive my messages of encouragement and truth left behind for them to discover on the whiteboards in their classrooms. But this is something positive that is within my power to do, costing me no more than a dry erase marker. So I will seize the opportunity to leave behind a positive message wherever I go, hoping it will brighten someone’s day and give them something worthwhile to think about as an alternative to the negative messages from social media which surround us twenty-four/seven.

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Henry Drummond)

sincerely, Grace Day – aka “the blackboard bandit”

a penny for your thoughts

That used to be a popular saying – “a penny for your thoughts.” Turns out though, our thoughts are worth much more than mere pennies. Our thoughts determine our character, our actions, the way we live and the way we see the world –

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” (Proverbs 23:7 – KJV)

Our thoughts can have power over us, or we can have power over our thoughts. It is a constant battle, but a battle we can win with God’s help and good advice from His word. We win when we control our thoughts rather than our thoughts controlling us. At least that’s the premise of an author I was reading recently, Tom Hughes. In his book, “Down to Earth” Hughes states,

“Self-talk is something we all do. But it’s important to think about what you talk to yourself about. To live differently, you have to think differently. To think differently, you have to monitor your thoughts – your self-talk. . . . man’s upcoming actions result directly from his thinking.”

So, if I want my life to be different, I have to change my thoughts. This is because my thoughts precede and even determine my actions. If I think differently, I will act differently. If I act differently, my life will be different. Therefore, if I wish to change my life, I must first change my thoughts. Paul said as much in his letter to the church in Rome when he wrote –

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

My thoughts can renew and transform me, or my thoughts can destroy me or they can hold me captive, especially if they are thoughts that lead to fear, anxiety, depression, shame, self-doubt, unforgiveness – if they are thoughts based on the lies of the enemy of my soul. This must be why Paul gave these instructions in his letter to the Philippians –

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. . . . And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Paul also tells the Colossians this –

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4)

These instructions remind me that I can choose my thoughts and I can choose to change them. I can be intentional about my thoughts and where they lead me. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 I am told to –

“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

We used to be told – “you are what you eat!” It would seem to me that – “I am what I think!” or “I become what I think!” In Proverbs 4:23 I read,

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” (NCV)

So true. I must examine my thoughts in order to determine which ones are beneficial and which ones are detrimental to me. Paul’s list in Philippians is a good guide for me when I am trying to determine which thoughts to dwell on and which thoughts to discard. Paul’s standard on thoughts worth keeping? Is it true? Is it noble? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely, or admirable? Is it excellent or praiseworthy? These are thoughts worth thinking and continuing to think about.

As I think about the high school students I see every day, I often see that they are surrounded by lots of negative thinking. They put each other down and they put themselves down. Then our culture comes in via constant media messages making them feel even worse about themselves. Constant comparison to false images of supposed perfection causes them anxiety, depression, loss of self-confidence, thinking that they will never measure up or be accepted – these thoughts lead to destructive actions on their parts which lead to negative life consequences. Changing what they think about, what they fill their minds with, would change their actions which would in turn change their lives.

This is why learning overcomers’ stories and focusing on those inspiring individuals who are examples of succeeding in spite of adversity, fill students’ minds with thoughts of hope and possibility, rather than thoughts of despair and victimhood. Who their heroes are impacts their thoughts and consequently, their lives. Are their heroes overcomers who inspire and help others or are their heroes victims who feel everyone owes them and that they are entitled to what they have not earned? What thoughts we fill our minds with really does make a difference in our lives. That’s why God’s word tells me to “take captive my every thought.” I also find this promise in Isaiah –

“You (God) will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 – NKJV)

I like the NLT translation of this verse –

“You (God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

If I fix my thoughts on my Heavenly Father, His promise to me is that I will experience His perfect peace. In Philippians, this peace is called “the peace that passes understanding” because it doesn’t make sense humanly speaking. It is one of God’s good gifts to us, this peace that doesn’t depend on our current earthly circumstances. God gives us His peace when our minds, our thoughts, are fixed on Him. God’s peace replaces the anxiety and fear that I experience when my thoughts are fixed on what is going on in the world around me rather than on Him and on the wisdom, truth and promises in His Living Word. In Joshua I read what he said to the Israelites –

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

They were told what to “meditate”, what to “think” on, not just randomly, not just now and then, but “day and night.” If they follow Joshua’s instruction about what they should be thinking about, (God’s law) they are promised prosperity and success. This result is possible because their thoughts will translate into their actions, and their actions will result in them being prosperous and successful.

This battle for our minds is very real, dear readers. Satan knows if he can gain control of our thoughts, then he has access to our actions, to the choices that we make, which in the end, determine our eternal endpoint. What starts as a mere thought, can end up as a life choice. (ie. the thought, “I have been forgiven!” – result when I constantly remember this true thought? – I live without that burden of guilt and I am able to forgive others because I, myself have experienced forgiveness) That’s why what I choose to think about matters so much. Which thoughts I choose to discard and which thoughts I choose to dwell on, will determine my destiny. Hopefully, I will discard the lies and dwell on the truth.

To that end, Lord, make me like the person described in Psalm 1:1-3 –

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

and let me say with the psalmist –

“Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on Your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey Your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey Your word. I have not departed from Your laws, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:97-103)

sincerely, Grace Day

I didn’t see “that” coming!

I felt thoroughly prepared for battle – well, verbal battle that is. Which is to say I was mentally prepared for the conflict in the encounter that was to come. In my mind, I was preparing my arguments, assembling the words of my assault while also deciding on the words of my defense by attempting to anticipate what their words of attack or of rebuttal would be. They were not forewarned of my arrival. I showed up unannounced, without an appointment. (full disclosure – people don’t make appointments for this kind of thing)

I felt the facts were in my favor. I had been wronged and I wanted things set right. I wanted justice. You see I mailed my niece, who lives in another state, a birthday present. I went to the Post Office, waited in line, (a very long line which did not move) then decided to use the handy kiosk in the lobby to mail her gift, a calendar in a large bubble envelope. (I know, a calendar isn’t breakable – I just like the thicker, more protective envelope)

The kiosk cooperated, and I was successful in getting her gift mailed. I was happy to cross that important task off my “to-do” list. So you can imagine my surprise, my disbelief actually, when a few days later I received this same large envelope that I had so recently mailed, back in my own mailbox. I was puzzled until I read the note stating that this was a “package” not a large envelope. So of course a “package” would be more expensive to mail, requiring more postage than I had purchased. I was disappointed and discouraged. This would require another trip to the Post Office, more money and it would be a few days before I could get back there to take care of this unexpected setback.

I did not anticipate this problem. Or as they say – “I didn’t see that coming.” Since I couldn’t return to the Post Office for a few days, I used the time to put together my battle plan which would right this wrong I had suffered. I prepared persuasive arguments in my head. I determined my defensive strategies as well, so as to have a rebuttal for whatever reasons they would give me for these unconscionable actions the Post Office had taken against me, preventing my niece’s birthday gift from arriving in a timely manner. I’m thinking I could claim damages – both financial (having to repurchase more expensive postage in addition to what I had already purchased) and emotional (robbing my niece of the joy of receiving her gift)

And then today it was time – time for the anticipated battle to begin. I had trained (in my head) and I was ready to present my case and defend my cause. I walked in with aforementioned large envelope or “package” (depending on who you believe) in hand, expecting the customarily long wait. There was no one ahead of me and I was summoned to a window immediately. This threw me off guard and off my game, because I had planned to use the time in line to go over my battle plan one last time.

I was greeted with a kind smile and demeanor, which further threw me off my game plan. I handed over my large envelope, I mean “package”, explaining that it had been returned to me and waited to see what would happen next. After examining the note on the front, her first words were, “We can give you credit for the amount you have already paid.” Wow! I did not see “that” coming! Good news! My verbal battle plan did not include preparation for that unanticipated response, so I lacked a contingency plan. Fortunately, gratitude and simple good manners kicked in and I responded with the appropriate and heartfelt – “thank you.”

Next she attempted to remove the paper some unknown post office employee had affixed to the envelope (I mean package), one covering the address where the gift was to go and the other covering the shipping label I had purchased from the user friendly kiosk. She was having difficulty but another lovely lady came to assist her and with the skill of a surgeon, she successfully removed both heavily taped papers from the front of the envelope (aka package) without tearing or damaging it. It was then I realized I would have had to buy a new bubble envelope if they hadn’t been successful. More good news! Again an appropriate and heartfelt “thank you” from me to both of the lovely ladies who were doing more than their jobs would require, all to my benefit. They could have simply said, “come back when you have this repackaged, we can’t do anything with this envelope (package). But they didn’t. I didn’t see “that” coming.

Now I am ready to mail this birthday gift again. I don’t have to go get another envelope. As my envelope/package is on the scales, she asks me the obligatory question about what the envelope (package) contains and of course I respond, “calendar.” Hearing my reply, the lady with the surgical skills has a moment of inspiration and, taking the envelope off the scales, she slides the calendar inside to one side of the envelope, folds the excess of the envelope over and tapes it down. This reduces the size of the large envelope, making it simply that, a large envelope, but not a “package” any longer! Then they say to me, “you don’t need to pay anymore postage, the original amount you already paid should be sufficient to get it to its intended destination.” I did not see “that” coming!

I did not see any of “this” coming today. I prepared for a battle that did not even take place. I anticipated resistance but received helpfulness. The results of my encounter provided a solution to my problem that exceeded my expectations. All that time I spent planning my battle strategy, preparing my arguments and counter arguments and various defenses, I could have used to do other things, so many other, probably more worthwhile, things. I was preparing for the wrong battle. I was preparing for an unimportant battle. I prepared for a battle that never even took place. What a waste of my time and energy!

But here’s the thing. There are battles raging all around me. Some are important, necessary, essential, worthwhile battles. Others are not. I need to be able to recognize the difference between temporal and eternal battles in deciding which battles are worth fighting. I guess there’s something to the saying – “pick your battles.” Some battles are not worth fighting and some battles are worth the sacrifice of my very life. With God’s help and God’s wisdom, I can learn to discern the difference. If I don’t, I will waste my life fighting battles that do not matter now nor in the end.

God’s word gives me the guidance that I need. In 1 Peter 3:15, I read this instruction –

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

So I do need to be prepared to answer questions from others, important questions about the hope I have found in Christ Jesus. I can be always preparing for these opportunities because I don’t know when they will come, but when they do, I so want to be ready. I am even told how to give my answers, “with gentleness and respect.” These are the persuasive arguments and defenses I should be preparing, those found in God’s word, the ones that will lead others to God and to eternal life.

Ephesians, chapter six has clear instructions for me as to how I can prepare for the battle – well, not just any battle but the battle that matters most. I read these words –

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:11-18)

So my battle weapons are truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and prayer. Prayer is my battle strategy and my battle preparation activity. (I don’t think I prayed before I went into the Post Office today to do battle with those poor, unsuspecting postal workers – but they sure showed me – they killed me with their kindness and won me over!)

May I take a lesson from those lovely ladies. May I fight the battles God calls me to fight (instead of my own self-made battles about nothing) using the weapons He supplies, not my own. May I make known God’s truth, God’s gospel, God’s goodness, forgiveness, love and salvation to those who are perishing apart from this good news. Lord, may I remember that the most important battles I fight, I fight on my knees in prayer to You.

” And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

sincerely, Grace Day

I am Sarai, I am Eve – I want to be Rahab, I want to be Ruth

God made a promise to Sarai. Well, actually He made it to her husband, Abram, but Sarai was Abram’s wife, so by extension God’s promise included her, too. And it was a truly incredible, wonderful promise considering her age and her barrenness.

“And Abram said, (to God) ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him (Abram): ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then He (God) said to him (Abram), ‘So shall your offspring be.’ ” (Genesis 15:3-5)

Now Abram and Sarai were both old, well past their time for child bearing. But – “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

So Abram and Sarai waited for God’s promise to them to be fulfilled. Ten years went by. Sarai grew impatient and began to doubt God’s promise. So she took matters into her own hands. Sarai said to Abram –

” ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.”

Sarai gave up on God and took matters into her own hands with disastrous results. Ishmael, Hagar’s son, was not the child of the promise God had made to Abram. God was merciful, though, and eventually Sarai did conceive and give birth to a son, Isaac, just as God had promised Abram it would happen.

Eve was living in a perfect, sin free environment. And still she doubted God. She doubted His goodness to her. Eve was persuaded that God was holding out on her, that there was something better than what she had already. Eve didn’t trust God. She didn’t trust that God had given her everything she needed. So she took matters into her own hands and ate the forbidden fruit, even giving some to her husband. We all know what disastrous results Eve’s doubt and subsequent disobedience had for all of us. We are still experiencing the fallout from Eve’s decision today.

How often do I get tired of waiting on God and take matters into my own hands, like Sarai? How often do I doubt that God knows best or has my best interests at heart and so I make decisions that are disobedient to God’s will and God’s word, like Eve? And then I blame God for the results. That is not who I want to be.

I want to be Rahab. I want to have her courage and her conviction. She risked her life when she aided and protected two Israelite spies because she believed their God was the one true God. In turn, they spared her life and the lives of her family members, when the Israelites conquered Jericho. Rahab risked it all in the service of God, whom her people didn’t even know or follow. But they had heard of God’s deeds on behalf of His people. Rahab said this to the spies –

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, . . . for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.” (Joshua 2:10-12)

The spies agreed, so Rahab risked the wrath of the king, who was searching for the two spies. She lied to the king, saying the spies had already left, then sent them safely away later. Rahab’s faith and boldness remind me of another woman who didn’t know God and yet left everything to follow Him. Her name is Ruth. Ruth was a young, childless widow. She left her parents and her homeland to accompany her widowed mother in law, Naomi, back to her homeland. There was nothing in this decision that would be to Ruth’s benefit. Naomi had no money and no other sons that Ruth could marry. Naomi was returning to her homeland, but there Ruth, a Moabites, would be an alien, a stranger and an outcast.

Still, Ruth decided to go with Naomi, instead of remaining in her own country where she could marry again and have children and a future. Ruth left the only home she’d ever known to travel with Naomi to a land unknown to her. Ruth’s words to Naomi show her selfless sacrifice and her desire to know the true God.

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

Ruth boldly declares that Naomi’s God will be her God and even invites the Lord to deal with her if she breaks her vow to Naomi. Ruth had faith that led her to take action – the action of obedience. When she and Naomi reached their destination, Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions every day. She went to work in the fields at harvest where Naomi told her to go. Every evening Ruth brought Naomi grain from the harvest and whatever else she had earned. Eventually Ruth met and married Boaz. They had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David.

Who could imagine such a hope filled ending would result from such a hopeless beginning? But Ruth acted in faith, courageously leaving her past behind her, to set out with Naomi for an unknown future. She trusted the God of Naomi and was not disappointed.

Ruth and Rahab, two women of faith and courage. That’s who I want to be – a woman of faith and courage. It takes courage to walk by faith (earlier post – “risky business) but that’s the only way to please God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Rahab and Ruth both sought God and both were rewarded. When I become impatient, when I began to doubt God and His goodness, I will remember what happened with Sarai and Eve. Then I will remember Rahab and Ruth. I will take courage and continue this faith journey wherever it leads me, knowing that eventually it will lead me home.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

sincerely, Grace Day

my bracket is so busted!

Good thing I am not now, nor have I ever been a gambler. In fact, in a recent post I reminisced about how I was brought up to always play it safe, to never take risks. Nevertheless, with this being the season of March Madness, and me being a big basketball fan, having grown up in a state where basketball rules, – I did the unthinkable – I filled out an NCAA basketball tournament form. You know the one. It’s the one with all the brackets. The one where you predict the winners and losers of each game, bracket by bracket (or match up by match up) until you arrive at the final four teams remaining and then the ultimate champion of this year’s NCAA tournament.

Full disclosure – no money was required for me to fill out this form and submit it. Someone at the school where I work organized this for fun. I don’t know what the prizes or rewards are for those who come closest in their predictions to what prove to be the actual outcomes. And now I realize I will never know because I will not be one of the eventual winners. My bracket is so busted already. Many of my brackets are broken beyond belief, even in this early stage of the tournament.

And here’s the reason why. The unforeseeable, the unlikely, the unimaginable, the unpredictable has become reality in my team of choice’s first game – which was a game between a sixteen seed and my team, a number one seed. Logic would dictate that the number one seeded team would be the better bet to fill the bracket and move on to the next game of the tournament, right? But maybe that’s why they call it “March Madness”, because there is no logic to it – no rhyme nor reason. Past performance doesn’t dictate current outcome. All bets are off as they say. (whoever “they” are?)

And yet we fill out our brackets and bet on basketball outcomes using our best powers of prediction. Having the additional info that the sixteen seeded team is the shortest team in the tourney, that this is their coach’s first year at this school and that their opponent, the number one seed, has one of the tallest players in the tourney – I felt secure in filling in my bracket with the name of the number one seeded team, which is also my alma mater. But, as it turns out, my confidence was misplaced. My hopes were dashed and my bracket was busted when my team, a number one seed, lost to the sixteen seeded team last night. I did not see that coming!

Now my bracket is busted! In fact, now many of my brackets are broken beyond repair, as I had my team going all the way to the final four. There’s no coming back from this. I put my hope in the wrong team and now everything is lost. Additionally, I put misplaced hope in a few other high ranking teams, Virginia for example, who were also defeated, leaving my other brackets busted as well. I put my hope in the wrong teams and now my brackets are busted beyond belief!

Good thing I don’t gamble for a living. My powers of prediction aren’t that great. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t even know what challenges and opportunities today has in store for me. How can I live with such uncertainty day to day? If a number sixteen seed can upset a number one seed, then anything can happen. How can I live my life without anxiety and fear in a world filled with uncertain circumstances, a world in which anything can happen? My hope was in the wrong team. But in life, I know where or with whom to put my hope.

These words of the apostle Paul about putting his hope in Jesus Christ, are words I say along with 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)

The missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jesus gave similar advice saying –

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

And Peter said this –

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His 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.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Wow! I have hope – a living hope! I have an inheritance in heaven kept secure for me, waiting for me. This is a sure thing, unlike the busted brackets of my March Madness hopes which proved so disastrous for me. Who I put my hope in makes all the difference. I need a sure thing, Someone I can count on. Someone who won’t let me down.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)

I will not be disappointed. My Heavenly Father will not let me fall. In fact in Jude I read,

“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy -” (Jude 1:24)

My team let me down, but my Heavenly Father will not.

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” (Psalm 130:7-8)

unfailing love, full redemption from all my sins – sign me up! I will put my hope in God’s word and in His Son, Jesus Christ (who are one and the same – “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”)

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)

sincerely, Grace Day

saving time, making time, keeping time

I am very tired today, but then I have been unusually, exceptionally tired every day this week, even though my daily schedule hasn’t changed at all. As I fight this fatigue, I find myself wondering when it will end and what is causing it. Then I remember that it was just a few days ago that I had to adjust all my clocks to “spring forward” one hour. Where did that hour go? I think I need that hour back in order to restore my energy and overall wellbeing.

They call this move of the clocks DST, or daylight savings time. However, it doesn’t seem to be about “saving” time, if you ask me (and no one did) I think I’ve lost that hour, not saved it. And I want it back. I guess in theory I can get it back six months from now when we all “fall back” by setting our clocks back an hour. But I’m not convinced. I want to know where my hour went. I need my hour back now!

Still, if there are only twenty-four hours in a day, then I can’t really “make” more time, or “keep” time from moving forward or even “save” time up for a rainy day, (or a busy day) can I? This past week I have been “spending time” trying to figure out where my lost hour went. I haven’t found it yet. But this I do know. Last week I was driving to work in the light. This week I am driving to work in the dark once again. This does not seem like progress to me.

In fact, this manipulation of time seems to create problems, which is the opposite of progress. My state hasn’t always participated in this madness, in this futile attempt to change time by adding (or subtracting) an hour from our clocks. We used to let time alone, while all the states around us changed their clocks. But I guess peer pressure finally won out and now we do what all the other states do. (except Arizona and Hawaii)

Resetting clocks causes all kinds of chaos twice a year. There are clocks in every classroom of my high school and after we “spring forward” or “fall back” none of them are on the new current, correct time. Very confusing. Those that are unaware of the change in time, show up for work, events, meetings etc. an hour early or an hour late. More confusion. Add to that the fact that they change the time of year that they change the time! We used to “spring forward” the first week of April. This year we did so the second week of March. Our state legislature has spent much time debating time, daylight savings time, that is, for years. They have gone back and forth on this issue, which explains why for much of my life we did not participate in daylight savings time.

As I write this, I realize perhaps I have been “wasting” time in my attempt to find this missing time which daylight savings time has stolen from me. Trying to regain lost time is proving to be a futile effort on my part. I should have known this would be true. After all, Jesus said to His disciples,

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

I’m really not in charge of my hours or my days. In fact, King David wrote –

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Time is a gift from God. He causes the sun to rise and to set each day. He causes the earth to spin as it revolves around the sun. God is the creator of time and the keeper of time. Just because we reset our clocks and call it “daylight savings time”, doesn’t mean we have actually saved any time, nor have we added any daylight hours to our lives. The sun will continue to rise and to set on her own God given schedule. We aren’t able to persuade her to linger longer in our sky, though we might wish to do so. God has already determined the hours that make up our days and the seasons that make up our lives.

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Daniel 2:20-22)

“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:26-28)

I guess I will stop searching for my “lost hour” since it has never been lost, just arbitrarily renamed by resetting human clocks. There are still twenty-four hours in my day. I can’t create time nor can I control time, but I can strive to make the most of the time that God gives to me. I will make the psalmist’s prayer my prayer –

“Teach me to number my days aright that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I will “redeem the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Another translation says, “make the most of every opportunity.”

That’s what I will do – grateful for each new day I will let God be in charge of my time and my timetable. Like the old hymn says –

“Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise” –

sincerely, Grace Day

mercy and manna – everyday miracles

Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction of terms “everyday miracles?” Miracles are supposed to be rare – not common occurrences, aren’t they? Unless maybe every day is full of miracles amid the mundane and I just don’t realize it because I fail to recognize the multitude and the magnitude of miracles that make up my days, each and every day.

Manna was a miracle the Israelites received new every morning during the time they were wandering in the desert. Just because they received this bread from heaven day after day for forty years, doesn’t make the manna any less of a miracle. The manna was God’s supernatural provision for His people. They did nothing to produce it or to make it happen. They simply received it new every morning.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.’ . . . The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. . . . The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.” (Exodus 16:4, 31, 35)

God literally gave the people their daily bread, new every morning. For the Israelites in the desert, every day started with a miracle. Manna rained down from heaven, providing them food for another day. They had no control over this miraculous occurrence, it was a gift from God, freely given new each day. If I think no such miracles are occurring today, I would be wrong. Consider these words –

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Other translations say “His mercies” are new every morning. Either way, it’s good news for you and for me. Just like the manna in the desert, God’s mercy to me and to you, is given new every morning. This means every day we get a clean slate, a do-over, a second chance. Mercy, like manna, is a miracle God freely gives to each of us. Just because it’s free though, doesn’t make it any less of a miracle.

Every sunrise is a miracle. The sun appears in the sky without fail, giving warmth and life to everything and everyone that lives and grows here on the earth. Every baby born is a miracle – the miracle of new life manifest for all to see. A kind word, a courageous act, forgiveness instead of retribution, lending a helping hand to a stranger, a hawk in flight, a star filled sky, a meal shared with friends – everyday miracles fill our lives.

It is said that all of life is grace – God’s grace. God’s grace is a miracle. Therefore, since all of life is grace and grace is a miracle, all of life is a miracle. And this is true. It is by God’s grace that you and I are here. It is God’s grace that sustains us.

“For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

“who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“But He (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God’s grace is His gift to us. His grace is all sustaining and all sufficient for you and for me. We have His promise on that.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

I am a wanderer in this world, headed home, traversing deserts, mountains, valleys and more as I make my way day by day. And every day, God’s miracles surround me, inspire me and remind me of His everpresent Presence walking with me. His manna and His mercies are new to me every morning. They sustain me throughout the day. The miracle of His grace is reflected in each moment that makes up the hours of the days that become a life filled with manna, mercy and grace – all freely given by God. Such are the miracles of everyday life. We are all recipients of God’s miracles of grace. We can all say along with Paul –

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14)

thank You, Lord, for the everyday miracles of Your manna, Your mercy and Your life-giving grace –

sincerely, Grace Day