When God Bends Down

Psalm 116 – paraphrased by me

I love the Lord, because he hears and answers my prayers.
Because he bends down to meet me where I am, I will continue to cry out to Him all my days.
Death came near to me, I thought my life was over, I was in trouble, and full of fear and distress.

Then I called out “Jesus, Lord, Jesus!  Help us!” when I thought we were going to die.

And God, who is full of mercy, protected us.  When I thought this life was over, He saved us.
Now my soul is at peace, because God has blessed us with life.

Lord, I know you have rescued me from death.  You dried my tears, and you kept my feet from tripping.
Because of your mercy and grace, I am still following You in the land of the living.
My faith was preserved, even in the middle of my distress and anxiety, when I forgot how to trust.
How could I repay your goodness and mercy to me?
By remembering the gift of your salvation when I called on Your Name.
I will follow through on the intentions of my heart, and the promises I have made to you in the presence of your people.

To die as a faithful servant of God is seen as a precious gift.
Lord, I am your servant, the daughter of your servant.
Thank you for unfastening my shackles.
I will bring the sacrifice of praise as I call on Your Name.
I will follow through on the intentions of my heart, and the promises I have made to you in the presence of your people.
In heaven’s courts, in the presence of Jerusalem, Praise the LORD!

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Beneath the Cross of Jesus

My love for hymns is genetic, I think.  I can remember my dad expressing love for certain ones, and singing at the top of his lungs, those he especially held dear.  Momma was always humming or whistling a tune, and most often, it was a hymn.  Somewhere along the way, the words made their way into my subconscious, and have visited me this morning in this beautiful hymn.

I woke up with this song in my head.  I don’t remember dreaming of it, or thinking about it yesterday, but this morning, there it was, playing in my brain, and the words, that I didn’t know I knew, impressing on my heart.

God knows I love word pictures…and he gave me several today, you can know I’ll be busy scribbling them down in my journal and meditating some more on them.

“…the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land…”

“…a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way…”

“I take, O cross, thy shadow, for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face…”

“…my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross”

As I continue to think about these images, there is a strange convergence of Scripture happening in my wee brain.  Some of these images are familiar, and I saw them on Highway 95 nearly three years ago. 

…dwelling in the secret place, abiding in the shadow of the Almighty

…making the Lord my refuge…dwelling in Him…how do we do that?  The cross of course!

Moment by Moment

Romans 12:1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

M&M’s are one of my favorite ebenezers.

Our sanctification (or process of becoming holy)  is a moment by moment process.  It does not come immediately when we believe, we have to walk it out, and make choices one day at a time, even one moment at a time.   It doesn’t come easy, either.   Moment by moment we are being changed into the image of the one that those choices honor…if we make worldly choices, we will look like the world.  If we make godly choices, we will start to look like Him and bear His true image in our spirits.

Since I’m a visual learner (with a perpetual sweet tooth), who LOVES alliteration, I saw a bag of M&M’s and quickly associated them with “moment by moment”.   And, when it gets tough…and I’m tired…and I need chocolate…there they are, a sweet, gentle reminder that it’s worth it, as I continue to press on.  Of course, I purposely chose the yellow packet (with nuts) because most of my moments are a little nutty.

Make My Lifesong a Persevering Prayer

We are instructed to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), or as another version words it, without ceasing.

Not only are we instructed to do so, we are shown in two different passages of Scripture what that looks like:  The first is the passage that immediately follows the Lord’s instruction at the request of His disciples to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:5-13 ), and  the other is the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).

It should have come as no surprise to me (especially after this month) that this (Ephesians 6) is the passage that speaks of arming ourselves for war.  This passage shows an active fight…one of defending ourselves with the whole armor of God, and using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in our offensive attack against evil.  I love that this passage outlines what that armor is, and how it’s used, and am reminded in reading through that there is nothing to protect my backside, which means that there is no retreat in this battle, without risk of injury.

Truly, this is another passage that needs a whole weekend of its own, I urge you to study this out yourself.  It’s rich, and full, and so essential in understanding our need for perseverance in prayer, and in God’s divine provision for everything we need to accomplish it.

For the sake of this post, I will focus on this verse:

Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

What an incredible epiphany to find in this passage that we are instructed as the body of Christ to persevere in prayer for all the saints.  That’s us…the body of Christ, continuing in prayer for one another…for all the other parts of the body.  This thought dovetails in my mind so beautifully with my post on the communion of the saints, which, incidentally included another verse that talks about persevering…check it out!

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This passage paints a picture of a race…his followers running with perseverance (or endurance), without excess heavy baggage that bogs us down, and/or sin that easily attaches itself to our flesh.  This verse dovetails with a thought in another of my previous posts about being Son Followers.  Look where our focus is…we are looking to Jesus and following His example of enduring His cross, for what?  For JOY!

Sounds an awful lot like this verse, doesn’t it?

James 1:Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Steadfastness in this verse is translated “perseverance” in other translations.

As I am putting this retreat together, I have my Pandora “Full and Overflowing” station on.  (This station has been renamed “Make My Life a Prayer“, for the sake of this retreat…another Ebenezer of sorts).   It has some incredible worship tunes, and I find myself getting lost in some of the lyrics.  Right now, Lifesong by Casting Crowns is on, and I find it an appropriate prayer to wrap things up.  It states very well my heart’s desire to serve and please the Lord.  “I want to sign Your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true!”  Let my lifesong sing to you.

Dear Mrs. Elderly

You may not remember me, but I will never forget you.

I was visiting you at your temporary residence in a long term care facility, and you looked longingly out at the beautiful grounds on that late spring day.  The flowers were putting on a show, and you couldn’t afford to waste one more minute lest the rising temperatures would cause you to miss it altogether.

I guided your wheelchair slowly through the winding paths that meandered through carefully kept beds of annuals and perennials. You instructed me about each one, as you reminisced about your own garden at home.

Small talk and flower talk slowly turned to talking of family, and you, slowly and carefully turned the conversation away from yourself, and inquired of mine.  You were like me, you had a boy and three girls, and I spent a few minutes picking your brain for your advice and parenting tips and tricks.  We both agreed that there is a special dynamic with our youngest that we did not see with the others; a special, heart-wrenching, frustrating, worrisome angst that grips and squeezes, and threatens to suffocate even the most prepared, level-headed, practical Momma.  These youngest children (especially girls), we concluded, have a way of pushing our buttons, testing our limits, and trying our patience.  They are the ones that lead us straight to the throne room of heaven, crying out for mercy on behalf of our limitations and failures.

You looked at me, and though you had no way of knowing the battle that was raging at home with my girls, somehow, it seemed you did, and I felt understood.  You took my hand, looked me straight in the eye, and with the conviction of someone who has been there, you said “Don’t you worry about those girls, Lyn.  They will all three grow to be mighty women of God one day.”

Mrs. Elderly, do you know I have clung to those words for five years now?  Do you know, that in the deepest, darkest nights, when I thought God had turned his back on me and my girls, and the devil had won the victory, your words echoed in my mind?  I heard them when my oldest daughter, unmarried, took me out for coffee to tell me she was carrying my first grandchild.

Mighty women of God

I heard them in the midst of second daughter’s panic attacks.

Mighty women of God

I heard them when I drove our youngest daughter to counseling sessions.

don’t worry…one day

Again, when I found drugs in the bedroom and fresh cuts on my baby girls body, when I got a call from the school that she was being sent home, strung out and high from some bad weed that had been slipped to her.

Mighty women of God

Mrs. Elderly, some days, when I couldn’t see or hear God, I heard your words, and I held on a little longer, a little tighter to a promise that I know I heard once, in a garden, from the heart of God through the words of a gentle lady.

Thank you, Mrs. Elderly, for beautiful words spoken in due season.

Ebenezers

 Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I love this hymn.  The melody is catchy, and oh, how the words minister to my heart.  Isn’t it just like a prayer?

You might already know what an ebenezer is, or you may not.  I was informed a few years ago, but had to go look it up again, as I had forgotten.  According to dictionary.com, ebenezer comes from the Hebrew;  ebhen ezar “stone of help,” from ebhen “stone” + ezer “help.”  It is mentioned in 1 Samuel 7,    read it, the story is fascinating.  After I looked this up and re-learned it, I realized I needed to blog about it, because unknowingly, I have raised some of my own “ebenezers”, but I never knew they had a name.

In the past, I’ve kept a prayer journal, and recorded God’s answers to my prayers.

My own blog “New Things” is an ebenezer.  It is named for a word that the Lord gave me, prior to my need for it.  It comes from Isaiah 43, and has been a constant reminder of God’s help and goodness to me.

Mile marker 91 on Idaho’s Highway 95 is an ebenezer.  I wrote about it here, and here.

I have a prayer card with a relevant verse of Scripture that was given to me by my niece at just the right time.  That is an ebenezer.  (And I see it every day, it is perched above my kitchen sink).

Anniversary dates, patron saints, even children appropriately named can be an “ebenezer” of sorts.  Remember the story of Isaac’s birth?  Isaac means laughter, and he was so named as a memorial to his mother’s response to God’s promise to her of a child born in her old age.  My son’s name with his birthdate (Joshua 1:9) has become a life verse for him.

Why an ebenezer?  Because we are forgetful.  When the children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, Moses warned them not to forget (Deuteronomy 4).  We need reminders.  Look again at the story of in 1 Samuel from above.  “to remind the children of Israel of the Lord’s aid in defeating the Philistines, the prophet Samuel built a monument, named it Ebenezer and said ” “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam. 7:12)”  I need reminders.  I need a place that I can look back on, and I need something concrete that I can show my children, and their children; “THIS is where God came down and helped me, THIS is where I saw the hand of God in my life.  “THIS is a memorial to Him for the mighty work He has done”. 

Do you have Ebenezers?  I’d love to hear about them.

When it’s all been said and done pt.2

Continued from Part One

Our time here has been one disappointing closed door after another, including but not limited to being unemployed, fractured family dynamics, and fruitless attempts to get back home where we both can work and try to get back on our feet.

BUT, it’s also been an exciting faith walk (not to be confused with the cake walk), of total dependence on God.  On numerous occasions, we’ve watched Him provide money when we were down to our last dollar, food when the cupboard was all but bare, and sweet streams of refreshing and comfort when we were tempted to believe God had forgotten us.

We’ve been on the receiving end of harsh, judgmental attitudes of misguided, self-righteous individuals; as well as sincere Christian charity from God’s people who take Matthew 25 seriously.   We have found God’s love and provision in places that many self-proclaimed christians (with a little “c” on purpose) would be embarrassed to frequent.  We have been humbled and tried in the furnace of adversity, and we are in the process of learning to love as He loves and forgive those that have wronged us, leaving our offenses in the hands of the One who has the right to repay, the One who defends and delivers His own.

We are now at what feels like the tail end of our stay here.  Our household items are all being stored until we have the funds to move us all back to the U.S.  We are receiving word after word encouraging us to look up, and see our deliverance; to believe without seeing that our victory has already been given to us, and to thank and praise God for the work He’s done.  Reminders of His love and faithfulness come numerous times in the day, and as my mind continues to meditate on the lyrics of this song, I know, deep down, it’s been worth every step.  Worth every heartache.  It’s been growth, and it’s been for Him and His glory.

Lord, your mercy is so great, that you look beyond our weakness,and find purest gold in miry clay, making sinners into saints.  I will always sing your praise!  Here on earth, and ever after, for you’ve shown me heaven’s my true home, when it’s all been said and done, You’re my life when life is done.

…Did I do my best to live for truth, did I live my life for You?