unopened treasure

As we watched, students poured out of the school building and into the parking lot filled with waiting school buses, signaling the end of another school day, no different than any other weekday of the school year. However, today was different. The students seemed more boisterous, celebratory even. And with good reason. Today is the last day of this school year. With the end of the school day, summer break has officially began. Something else was different too. On their way out, students were given a gift. Packets of books were handed to each student as they exited the building – a kind of “parting gift” for the summer, if you will.

Teachers also received this unexpected free gift, so I, too, received this package of six paperback books, a summer reading journal, activity sheets for each book and a set of colored pencils. I felt suddenly rich, excited and grateful to be the recipient of such a generous present. Of course, I love to read, so books are valuable to me and greatly treasured. Turns out, this provision of a gift for each and every student is made possible by Scholastic and is part of their “My Books Summer” program. They partner with inner city public schools like ours, where budgets are tight, because they want to provide students with resources that will help them but that they might not otherwise receive.

I have looked through my package of books and can’t wait to start my summer reading with these new titles. They are from a variety of authors and cover a variety of topics. I noticed that at least three of the books are true stories about real people and their real life struggles and experiences. Words on the cover of one book say, “True stories of survival and hope in Syria.” I briefly wonder how many of our students even know that Syria is a country, how many could find Syria on a map, how many know where it is located in this world? But that says more about our public education system today than it does about the unrealized abilities of our students.

Syria may be far from where these inner city students live but they, and all of us really, can identify with the themes of struggling to survive and holding onto hope, no matter where we live. These are universal themes because they are universal human realities. With our current culture’s increased crime, murder and daily danger in our city’s streets and the accompanying sense of loss and despair, we can certainly relate to themes of survival and hope found in these books. Reading and learning the stories of others, connects us in ways that may be intangible, but these connections are nonetheless real and life changing. (one of the books is the true story of two pen pals who come from different cultures, countries and continents)

These books are full of treasure waiting to be discovered with the turning of each page and the unfolding of each story, whether fact or fiction. (one looks to be a mystery thriller and another an adventure fantasy) Now you know why I felt so rich after receiving this unexpected free gift of books – a gift I didn’t have to buy nor earn. It was simply offered to me. All I had to do was to accept it, take it home and open it up. (which as you know, I have done) Books allow me to learn things I couldn’t learn any other way, to travel to places I couldn’t otherwise go and to time travel as well, into both the past and the future. I don’t need a time machine. Just an autobiography, written by someone who lived long ago in some far away place will transport me to that other time and that other place without the necessity of a machine not yet in existence. Books are a free passport to anywhere, anytime. Books allow me to see the world through someone else’s eyes and experiences. Books breed empathy and understanding.

So perhaps, dear readers, you can appreciate my absolute horror at what I witnessed as I watched the students leaving the school building and heading toward the buses on this final day of school. It was so surprising, so unexpected, so unthinkable – that for a moment I didn’t believe what I was seeing. But it continued and it was undeniable. It started with one student who threw their pack of brand new books on the ground. Another student followed suite, and then one, shouting loudly, did an overhand dunk and threw his book pack into the nearby open school dumpster. Other students quickly copied this behavior, throwing their books into the open dumpster as well. (teenagers are notorious copycats)

By this time, some of the packs were breaking open, leaving books scattered on the ground as more students continued to exit the building, heading for the buses. So now a “food fight” except with books being thrown instead of food, broke out as the crowd of students continued in the direction of the buses. I felt helpless. I wanted to rescue each and every book and save them for someone who actually wanted them. (kind of like not wasting food when people are starving?) I heard that students were throwing the books out the bus windows as well. This made me inexplicably sad. Even though I had accepted my free gift, I wanted each student to experience the joy of their free gift as well. I knew what they were missing out on, but they had no idea the value of the treasure they had been given but had so casually, in some instances cruelly, discarded, thrown into the dumpster without even a backward glance or a second thought about the free gift they had just rejected.

As I headed home, I continued to grieve for the students’ loss. They had held treasure in their hands for those few moments in time, yet they chose to throw it in the trash rather than to open it up and discover its contents. I wonder if that’s how our Heavenly Father feels about us? He has given each one of us a free gift – but not all of us have accepted His extraordinary, extravagant gift. The gift has been given. It is up to me and to you and to each one of us whether we will accept God’s gift, take it home and open it up. God’s gift? His Son, Jesus!

“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)

“And this is the testimony; God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

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

God wants to give us this wonderful gift of His Son, which includes forgiveness of our sins, eternal life with Him, peace, hope, joy – so many things the world can’t give me or you or anyone. But are we ready to receive and to open God’s free gift? Colossians 2:2-3 reveals more about this free gift of God –

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

There’s a lot to unwrap in this gift – the “riches of understanding”, the “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” – all included with the gift of His Son. In fact, Romans 8:32 tells us –

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

There is so much included in the gift of Jesus, but I will never know this if I don’t accept the gift and open it up, just like I did my package of free books to find out all that was in there that I didn’t even know was included until I opened the package. Jesus said,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 5:20)

God’s gift has been given. Will I throw it in the dumpster? Or will I open the door and invite Him in? Just like the books for the students, God’s gift of His Son is a free gift and it is a gift offered to all people equally, to “whoever believes.” Ephesians 2:7-9 makes this clear, saying –

“in order that in the coming ages He (God) might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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.”

The free gift of God is His Son, Jesus. When I accept God’s gift of Jesus, I receive forgiveness, salvation, abundant life, eternal life, mercy, reconciliation, healing, hope, wisdom, identity, meaning, purpose – everything I need for life and godliness. I would be foolish to throw all that away without ever opening the gift to discover for myself the treasures hidden within. Only a fool leaves free treasure unopened.

I have this treasure with me today in the form of the Holy Spirit and God’s Living Word. I dare not leave the treasure of God’s Word, the Bible, unopened when it is God’s free gift to me every day – His Living Word. I open up this treasure every day and find His mercies new every morning. Lord, may I never leave Your priceless gift, Your treasure, unopened, but instead receive it gladly, new every day.

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God -” (John 1:12)

such a gift, such treasure, is simply too valuable to throw in the dumpster or out the window –

sincerely, Grace Day

the trouble with TRUTH

There are a lot of people searching for Truth these days, which begs the question why? Isn’t Truth obvious and therefore easy to find? Apparently not. One of the reasons for this could be that we live in a “post-truth” world. “Post-truth” was the 2016 word of the year. I guess that’s our current culture’s way of telling us that we have moved beyond Truth, whatever that means? We hear expressions such as “live your truth” or there’s “my truth” and “your truth” but nothing universally objective that we can all agree on that is truth.

I’m thinking there used to be a popular TV game show called, “To tell the truth.” Wonder how that would work today if no one can agree on what is true or if there is no truth? In court, witnesses used to be required to place their right hand on the Bible and promise to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”, before taking the stand. So it hasn’t been all that long ago that we agreed as a society that there are things that are “true” and things that are not true, or in other words, things that are false.

Knowing there are things that are true is the only way you and I can make sense of our surroundings and learn how to live in this world. Water boils at 212 degrees and freezes at 32 degrees (Fahrenheit) – I can count on that happening. Long ago, people learned to navigate by the stars because the stars are constant in their movements across the sky. It isn’t arbitrary – there is truth to be discovered. I’m grateful gravity is true – it’s what keeps me grounded, literally. (pun intended) Airplanes get us where we want to go because certain laws of physics and aerodynamics are true. If these laws were constantly changing, we would not have air travel. That seems to be a hallmark of Truth – it does not change.

Knowing truth seems important to survival. In fact I read in Proverbs 14:12 this –

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

If I don’t know the Truth, I will believe the lie. I will believe any and every lie of culture, of man, of philosophy, of religion set before me if I don’t have an unchanging standard of Truth against which to measure each idea or bit of information put before me. Many things will seem reasonable, plausible, even beneficial to me, but if not the Truth, they will lead me away from life and toward my destruction. That’s the thing – lies enslave me. Truth sets me free.

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

So the question becomes – “can I know the Truth?” Turns out I can know the Truth. Jesus said in John 14:6 this –

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

Could it be that Jesus is that unchanging, eternal Truth that I so desire to know in this world of constantly changing “truths”, ideas and information that change daily if not hourly, leaving me confused, skeptical and unsure how to proceed because I don’t know whom to trust or in which direction I should go? In Hebrews I read this about Jesus,

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

That’s good news. Jesus is the Truth and He does not change! Eternal Truth, living Truth – a firm foundation to build my life upon instead of the swarm of constantly changing lies that surround you and I twenty-four/seven today thanks to being globally connected via internet. Here’s more good news –

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Another assurance that Truth is unchanging because God Himself is unchanging, unlike our everchanging, unpredictable world. In John 17:17, I learn this about Truth. As Jesus prayed for His disciples He said,

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”

Makes sense, Jesus is the Truth, God’s word is Truth and Jesus is the Living Word!

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Jesus, “full of grace and truth” came to set us free from the lies that have held us captive for so long. These lies began in the garden when the serpent whispered to Eve, “Did God really say . . .?” The serpent got Eve to doubt God, then to believe the lie and we have been in bondage to lies disguised as truth ever since. (“There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”) Jesus identified the source of all lies when He said this to the crowds pursuing Him –

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

It is lies, falsehoods, and deception that the enemy of our souls uses to separate us from our Heavenly Father by getting us to doubt Him – getting us to doubt His character, His goodness, His faithfulness and His great mercy and compassion towards us. We forget the Truth which tells us –

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made. . . . The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm 145:8-9 & 13-14)

That’s the Truth about who God is. When we no longer know the Truth, when we have long forsaken and forgotten it – it is then that we begin to believe any and all lies put to us as truth. The apostle Paul, warned the Colossians about this very thing saying –

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Lies enslave – Truth sets free. Jesus, God’s Son, is the Truth and I am told in His Word, which is Truth –

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

It is the Truth, Jesus, the Living Word, which protects me from the lies and deceptions that would otherwise separate me from my Creator and take me captive, if I did not have God’s Truth guarding my heart and mind. God has said He will write His laws on our hearts so that we will know Him. For my part, I will be diligent to do this, so that I will know the Truth and therefore will recognize and not believe the lie, any lie which goes against the Truth of God’s Word –

“I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

“The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.” (Psalm 37:31)

sincerely, Grace Day

only the lonely

“God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6)

These are the words I’m thinking about today. This is the promise of God that brings me comfort and hope on Mother’s Day and on other days too, come to think of it. Today can be a difficult day for those of us separated from our moms by death, distance or division. The first circumstance is insurmountable for the present, but the latter two circumstances can be overcome until the first takes over.

I definitely envy my friends who get to spend Mother’s Day with their moms, since I am no longer able to do that. Being at present an earthly orphan, I have always taken comfort from God’s promise to “set the lonely in families.” And He does this by adopting you and me into His forever family. Consider what we learn in Romans 8:29 about this –

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

No more only child syndrome in God’s family. God’s family is large and constantly expanding. In 1 John 3:1 I am reminded of our status as children of God –

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

Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I have a dream” speech that we are all God’s children. When we realize this, we realize that we are all related, that we all have a family where we belong and have a place, and that family is the family of God. We can create family right where we are by reaching out to those around us, inviting them into our lives and getting to know them.

A friend did exactly this for myself and a few others today when she invited us into her home for a special meal after church. We are those separated from family by death, distance or division but today we were “family” to each other. We had a very special time of breaking bread together, sharing and laughing, making our burdens lighter and our joys more joyful. God really does bring special people into our lives to be “family” to us at just those times when we most need family.

Even as I write this, I am remembering a story shared with me just recently, of a young woman who lost her entire family, but God placed her in a whole new family! God creates all sorts of families in all sorts of ways. Adoption is one of those ways and it is such a beautiful picture of God’s love for us because He adopts us into His family. God chooses us, and makes us His own! The price? His own Son.

“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)

Jesus paid my price. I have a place in my Heavenly Father’s family – a secure place where I will always belong. And I don’t have to wait until heaven to experience hanging out with members of my forever family. There are plenty of opportunities right now for God to set me and you, dear readers and any and all “lonely” in families. God will gladly do this for us. He created us for relationship with Him and for relationship with each other. He knows that’s how we function best. In fact we are told –

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

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

That’s what families do for each other. As members of God’s family, that’s what we can do for each other. I’m grateful for the special time I had today with my sisters. We certainly did these things for each other of encouraging and burden bearing. God has invited each of us into a large, loving and diverse family. We just have to take Him up on His offer. He will “set the lonely in families.” Thank You, Heavenly Father, for inviting us into Your family, for making us Your children.

sincerely, Grace Day


hope is every sunrise displacing, dispelling the darkness, revealing that the darkness was only temporary all along,

hope is the rainbow after the storm, the spark that lights the fire, the eagle in flight, the oasis in the desert, the lone candle burning in the dark

hope is eggs in a bird’s nest, seeds in the ground, every star in the sky, every caterpillar’s cocoon, every spring flower and every budding tree

hope leaves baby teeth under a pillow, leaves cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer, hope hangs stockings and hunts for easter eggs

hope blows out candles on a birthday cake or the white fluff on a dandelion while making a wish, hope looks for four leaf clovers, falling stars and buried treasure

hope gets down on one knee and proposes possibilities and promises

hope plants seeds in the earth, hope waters them, watches over them – hope expects a harvest and waits patiently for it

hope extends an invitation believing someone will accept it, hope reaches out a hand believing there is someone out there who will reach back and hold it

in the flood hope believes the rain will stop, in the drought hope believes the rain will start

hope endures the fog, knowing it will lift, revealing the path ahead once again

hope continually casts a net, believing it will fill with fish

hope waits in eager expectation for the dough to rise, the bread to bake, for the mountain to move, for the mustard seed to grow

hope believes broken hearts can be healed, ruined lives can be restored and wrecked relationships reconciled

hope conquers fears, hope dares to dream dreams, hope believes for the best even while surrounded by the worst

hope remembers the Red Sea parted, water sprang from a rock, manna fell from the sky, barren women bore children, impenetrable, insurmountable walls fell down, the blind were given sight, the paralytic walked, the lepers were cleansed, five thousand were fed, the lost were found, sinners were forgiven and the dead brought back to life again

hope knows this –

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

hope believes this –

“weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

hope prays, knowing God is listening, sure that prayer matters, makes a difference

hope prays without ceasing, knowing prayer moves mountains  

hope holds on when the end is not in sight, hope sees beyond what is visible to what is possible

hope walks by faith and not by sight

hope whispers in the wind, portending of better things to come – hope is the unheard melody of the heart – hope is the Good News of the Gospel

hope is a glimmer, a flicker, a flash illuminating the darkness – hope is the voice of one crying in the wilderness – “your Deliverer is coming!”

hope leaves its home, like Abraham, believing there is something better waiting

hope is the lighthouse on the distant shore, the light at the end of the tunnel, the guiding light of the Star of Bethlehem

hope is songs in the night, calm in the storm, freedom in the furnace and courage in the lion’s den

hope is a teenage Jewish girl, forced into hiding by human evil, who nevertheless wrote these words in her diary –

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

hope is a man who lost everything saying –

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

hope is a baby in a manger, hope is a blood stained cross, an empty tomb, a risen Savior, an eternal advocate, the promise of paradise, a home in heaven

hope says with the psalmist –

“I am still 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)

hope waits, hope believes, hope endures, hope sustains during tough times, hope lives

hope lives because Jesus lives and reigns and is faithful to all His promises – Jesus said,

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

with every heartbeat hope proclaims – “He is risen! Hope reigns!”

sincerely, Grace Day

the art of the deal

“Oh, please Lord, just let the zipper on my backpack work one more time and I promise I’ll get a new backpack, clean this one out and throw it away” I felt myself praying as the bell was about to ring and my backpack had busted wide open as I was loading my books and computer back into it because I would be changing classrooms at the bell. This was not a good time for my backpack zipper to quit working. But then is there ever an opportune time for something I depend on to break? That was a rhetorical question, don’t feel you have to answer.

However, full disclosure – this isn’t the first time the zipper on this backpack has come apart. I have been through this a few times before. And on those occasions, I prayed essentially the same prayer and God answered in the affirmative, my zipper miraculously came together again and I got through the day without losing the contents of my backpack. God honored my request in those moments of need. He kept His end of the deal, but obviously, I did not, which is why I find myself in this all too familiar situation again today. You would think I would be too ashamed to ask God to bail me out once again, to pray the same prayer, after I had not done what I promised I would do. But desperation causes us to take desperate action and to pray desperate prayers. (I think they call those hail Mary’s?)

Why did I not do what I promised God I would do? Well, once my backpack zipper was working again, I didn’t see the need for a new backpack and didn’t want to take the time to shop for a new one, nor did I want to spend the money required for a new backpack. But there is another reason, perhaps even more compelling than time and money, which figures into my decision making. I like my old backpack, it’s just the right size and has the right number of compartments. I have things perfectly organized so that I can find what I need when I need it.

You see, my backpack is really my portable office during the school day. That’s because I’m a substitute teacher, so I’m in a different classroom every day, plus I often change classrooms several times during a single school day. So I carry with me everything I think I will need or want. This would include my laptop and any books I am currently reading, my Bible, current Bible study books, my Lipton tea, lunch, pens, paper, my school ID., phone, Kleenex, Band aides, wipes, hand lotion, paper clips, post its, dry erase markers, – you get the idea – whatever I think I might need, I carry with me. (no wonder the zipper broke, my backpack is kind of overloaded)

I don’t really want to do the work of cleaning my old backpack out. There are lots of papers in there, as I am forever writing things that I plan to finish writing later, so I save them all. Plus some articles that I’ve been meaning to read – well, you get the idea – mine is the backpack of a hoarder or a saver, depending upon your perspective. (I wrote a post about that some years ago – “hopeless hoarder or savvy saver?”)

Anyway, today history is repeating itself and I once again, have a choice to make. God graciously answered my plea in part. My backpack’s zipper is not completely restored but is partially intact, enough to keep the contents of my backpack from spilling out if I am careful, I hope. Now I have another opportunity to do what I promised God I would do the last time this happened – clean out and throw away the old backpack and start fresh with a brand new one. Sure, I am comfortable with the old one, it’s what I know. But just maybe, it’s time to trust God and to do something new. (are you seeing where I’m going with this, dear readers?)

This backpack situation is really reminding me of all the other situations in which I cry out to God, making a deal with Him, “if He will just ____ for me, then I will ____ for Him.” In other words, if God will just rescue me from my situation, I will do things differently, I will not end up here again. So, I cry out to God, make a deal with God, God then rescues me, keeping His part of the deal, but I default on my promise or part of the deal (if not initially, then eventually) and find myself right back in the same situation, crying out to God once again, “Oh God, if You will just . . . then I promise I will . . .”

And so it goes. I think this is what is commonly called “the vicious cycle.” How to break free? God always keeps His part of the bargain. His word tells me as much.

“If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

I also have this promise from 1 John 1:9 which assures me that God always upholds His end of the deal.

“If I confess my sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive me my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness.”

Even though I haven’t kept my end of the deal, God will always keep His end. If and when I turn to Him and confess, He will forgive me, clean me up and give me another second chance. How ironic that in my secret identity role as the “blackboard bandit” of the school, I recently wrote on the classroom white board that God specializes in fresh starts, in Do Overs, in second chances, new beginnings and clean slates. It is my hope that those words will encourage the students who read them. Looks like today, I’m the one who needs reminding that this is God’s character, because I’m the one who finds herself needing yet another second chance today.

I find that I totally identify with the apostle Paul when he said this about himself in Romans –

“For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. . . . What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:15, 19 & 24)

And that’s me in that moment – zipper broken, bell about to ring, stairs and crowded hallways to navigate in order to get myself and my broken mobile office (aka broken backpack) safely and intact to a classroom on another floor of the building – me attempting to strike yet another deal with my Heavenly Father. I wonder if He was thinking, “I’ve heard this one before, wonder if this time will be different?” Except God doesn’t have to wonder because He knows the end from the beginning. And still He gives me another chance, knowing full well that I will not keep up my end of the deal. God gives me the Do Over I desire, the Do Over I do not deserve. I love these words of the Psalmist which say –

“He does not treat us (me) as our (my) sins deserve or repay us (me) according to our (my) iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our (my) transgressions from us (me). As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are (I am) formed, He remembers that we are (I am) dust.” (Psalm 103:10-14)

That’s why I know I can call upon my Heavenly Father again and again and He will hear me and He will answer me. God does not hold my past mistakes against me. He always extends mercy and forgiveness to me because He is faithful and compassionate. That is the very nature of His character. And His character does not change.

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

I will find myself in trouble and in need again, but this I know –

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

sincerely, Grace Day

surrounded by Hope

Hope – that’s the word on the mug which sits in my kitchen windowsill, purposely positioned there so that it is ever before me, reminding me of my personal word of the year – hope. It is an important word to me and it appears that author Tom Hughes feels the same way I do. He says in his book, “Down to Earth” this –

“People can endure the loss of many things – finances, careers, relationships, self-esteem, and even loved ones – and still continue onward. Nevertheless, there is one thing human beings cannot survive without: hope. Hope is how we live. It is the air we breathe to lead spiritual lives. It gets us from one day to the next and sustains us in the dark times. . . . Hope gives us the power to press forward.”

I agree. Hope is essential in sustaining human life. I need something to hope for or someone to hope in or I give up and die. But hope keeps me going, even in the toughest of times. Hope does not let me down, which is what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5,

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Lately, I have been surrounded by hope, literally it seems to me. Just yesterday, while stopped at a traffic light, I noticed the license plate of the car in front of me, which I never do but this one was not the usual jumble of letters and numbers – it was only these four letters in large print (which is probably why I saw it so clearly) – “HOPE” in all caps. It was a welcome reminder.

Just the day before this, while prayer walking in the neighborhood, I came across a yard sign with “HOPE” in big letters. Underneath was the word “plumbing” in smaller letters, so it was the “HOPE” that stood out and caught my attention. Let me just say as a customer, if you need a plumber, you are definitely hoping that they know what they are doing and hoping that they can fix your problem. Anyone who needs a plumber, needs hope.

Doesn’t seem that long ago I was stuck in traffic next to a white van with “HOPE” in huge letters on its side and back. I don’t remember what business or service was advertised – I just remember the word “HOPE” bringing me a much needed message or reminder as I sat in that traffic jam waiting for the seemingly endless delay to be over so that I could get to my destination. I needed hope in that moment and received the reminder from a fellow highway hostage whom I did not know and would never meet.

Sometimes I don’t see hope in my circumstances (like I saw it literally in my circumstances of the traffic jam, displayed in large letters on the van) – but hope isn’t about what I can see. Hope is about what is unseen, about what is yet to be. Peter says this in 1 Peter 1:3-4,

“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,”

“A living hope” – I like that. Hope is alive! That’s because the Person in whom I have put my hope, Jesus Christ, is alive. And that makes all the difference. I can trust Jesus, therefore, I have hope.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

When I want to surround myself with this living hope I need only surround myself with God’s word. The psalmist said this to God –

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word.” (Psalm 119:114)

God’s word is “living and active” – therefore my hope can be living and active as well. I can choose to focus on all the negative, discouraging, destructive things going on today in our world, all the painful, seemingly insurmountable mountains in my life or I can choose to surround myself with the hope I find in God’s eternal, living word. That hope is available to me and to you, dear readers, twenty-four/seven. He will never “leave us nor forsake us” so we don’t ever have to be without hope. I will say this along with the psalmist –

“guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Psalm 25:5)

I am surrounded by HOPE, all day long, even when darkness, pain and tough circumstances surround me, HOPE is right there with me in that mix of broken world despair – HOPE is there reminding me to hang on, to keep going, to keep believing, to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds because –

“weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

yes, HOPE surrounds me, HOPE holds onto me even when I am too tired to hold onto HOPE – because the tomb is empty HOPE lives – surrounding me, reminding me that a brighter day is coming, so my hope for each of you, dear readers is this –

“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)

sincerely, Grace Day

perfect prayer walk partners

I think I have found them – the perfect prayer walk partners, that is. Today is one of those beautiful spring days, with flowers blooming (including plenty of dandelions) birds singing and sun shining. We met in front of the church for our weekly prayer walk, divided up and set out in different directions to walk the streets of this neighborhood, a neighborhood which has just recently experienced the trauma of brutal murders.

This morning however, all was quiet, even peaceful as we pursued a path down the streets that would take us to the location where a body had been found, so that we could pray over that place. We were an unlikely trio, perhaps, by the world’s standards – a young blind man, an older autistic gentleman and myself. The blind man led us, as he lives in this neighborhood and knows his way around. (I am forever directionally challenged, whether driving or walking) I have walked with him on several occasions and I always follow his lead.

What an interesting sight we must be to the casual observer – a handsome young man with a white cane tapping the ground in front of him, followed by a lady and a gray bearded gentlemen with a slightly unusual gait – walking and talking, not so much to each other, but to God as we make our way slowly down the street. This is a sacred time I look forward to each week.

Today the topic of who God can use seemed to be front and center. But the answer to this question was already apparent to me – I was walking with the answers! (and I was one of the answers, too!) God can and will use anyone who presents themselves to Him in obedience. He will use anyone who answers His call as Samuel and Isaiah did saying –

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10) and

“Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

The three of us had listened, like Samuel, and as a result, we were “sent” like Isaiah, into these streets to pray and intercede for all the people living in this neighborhood. What a sacred assignment! One none of us take lightly. We were not necessarily equipped beforehand for this task, but God Himself equips those of us who answer His call with everything we need. Today, once again, my prayer walk partners and I found this to be true.

God provided us many opportunities to pray with people we met as we walked today. What a privilege to pray for other people! What joy to be used by God to bless and encourage other people. The world considers blindness and autism handicaps. God does not see these things as disqualifiers or detriments to service to Him in any way. I think that’s because God sees things from a different perspective than our limited human perspective allows us to see these same things. This is made clear in 1 Samuel 16:7 –

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ”

And indeed, our Creator is the only One who can see into our hearts clearly and accurately. That’s what matters most to God, the attitudes and motivations of our hearts, not our supposed handicaps. What our culture considers a disqualifying defect, our Creator views as an empowering asset, which can be used to bring much glory to our Heavenly Father. Case in point, the apostle Paul,

” . . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God’s glory and goodness show up in our weaknesses, in our deficiencies and in our handicaps, as the culture calls them. It is often these very handicaps and our own weaknesses that force us to feel our need of God and allow us the opportunity to experience relying on Him, rather than on ourselves and on our own strength, which doesn’t really get us all that far. Seems counterintuitive to give God thanks for our handicaps, but that’s exactly what Paul ended up doing, saying – ” . . . I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

As we prayed our way through the neighborhood streets this morning, I thanked God for giving me two such wonderful prayer walk partners. As a blind man led us, determining the direction we took (you have to love the symbolic irony of that, I do) I was humbled by the powerful prayers of my autistic prayer partner, just as I was by the prayers of the young man who led us.

Today, I am reminded once again – God is not limited by my or by your human, physical limitations. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t even see our various “thorns” or conditions as limitations, but only as avenues for His love, grace, strength and power to be poured into our lives, enabling us to serve Him well. What others see as weaknesses, are the very things God uses to make you and me strong in Him. It is like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 –

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” –

then I read in Jeremiah 9:23-24 this –

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”

God can use each and every one of us for His good purposes, weaknesses, handicaps and all. Our very frailties are what draws us to Him – therefore His strength and goodness are made manifest to others through the very things our culture would tell us disqualify us from His service or from doing anything of value. Not so! We all have value and purpose in God’s kingdom. In our weaknesses, we receive His strength, so that we may say and truly believe –

“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

sincerely, Grace Day

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