Come Thou Fount

A couple weeks ago I talked briefly about “ebenezer”s, and how we all need things (physical things) in our lives to remember what God has done.

Well, I think maybe “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” might be a theme for a while in my life. I’ll post the lyrics at the end, just in case you didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and have never heard this particular hymn.

Anyway, I say that because it has been an interesting week. It’s the week before I start back to school. There have been some absolutely fantastic and fun moments in it. There have also been several honest moments. And more than a few that left me emotionally drained and just finished.

But as I was driving home from work last night, briefly headed toward the mountains, the last glow of the sun leaving the mountains a pointy silhouette on the horizon, I saw a shooting star. You don’t see shooting stars much in city bounds, but I saw one last night.

And it reminded me that no matter what, no matter what was going on in my week, good or bad, memorable or simply ordinary, God is good; God loves me, and that is enough.

So, as I go into school and my already full schedule flexes to take on more reading and class attendance and paper writing, I need to remember that God is good.

He is to be our focus and motivation for everything. And as long as that is true, all might not be easy or comfortable or make others happy, but it can be good.

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 thy redeeming love.

2.            Here I raise mine 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.

3.            O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, 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.

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Fog

I’ve had to drive in the fog a couple times in the last week. Which, in Colorado, is weird. I usually drive in the fog MAYBE once every six months; to have driven in the fog several times in the last months is completely weird and slightly global-warming-end-of-the-world-the-dinosaurs-are-going-to-return ish. Weird.

The point of me saying that though is that about the fourth trip into the mountains with fog clouding my view I began to wonder if God was trying to tell or teach me something. Rule of three – if three times something is mentioned, out of the blue, in some sort of weird circumstance, God’s probably trying to communicate something. I’m just not used to the rule of three applying to nature as well. Probably why it took me more than three…and someone mentioning fog in conversation completely separate from my driving experiences for me to take notice.

Anyway, as much as I love fog during the day, it can be rather intimidating at night. Fog during the day you can’t see stuff. Fog at night…well, you really can’t see trees looming at the side of the road or the occasional deer on the road or even the car one hundred feet a head of you.

And lately, this is how my life has felt. I have seen maybe a half step ahead of me, and while I take that step, it is kinda scary, and makes absolutely no sense and a tad bit unsettling.

But, as much as I might complain about my life being in the fog, I think I prefer it to being able to see everything. For instance, sometimes if we see how far we have to walk, if we see how far we have to go, we become paralyzed with how much we have to overcome before we reach our goal. Like climbing a tall mountain. We can see the summit, and it feels so far away and like we’ll never reach it.

And honestly, God works both ways. Sometimes we see the end, but not often. Sometimes we’re in the fog and have to trust Him about the next step on the road ahead of us.

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Here I raise my ebenezer

Ebenezer. I type that most people reading will think of an old, skinny dude with slightly used clothing who is always grumpy and grumbling about the cost of coal (thus, heat) and undigested potatoes. Or you think of a duck counting money.

But today is not about Ebenezer Scrooge, but about his name which, I suspect, Dickens might have given to him on purpose.

See, the word “ebenezer” is an actual thing. It’s a thing that you keep around to help you remember what God has done for you, or in you. So, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the promised land, and God had each of the 12 tribes pick up a stone and build an alter to remember what He did that day – He was asking them to build an ebenezer. He was asking them to remember what He had done for them.

God knows just how easily we humans forget things, especially during times of hardship or pain. And so, having things around to help you remember what God has done in you is incredibly important. Otherwise we begin to doubt God’s goodness.

No bueno.

As you begin this new year, think over last year. Where were you a year ago? How has God helped you grow? And then, figure out something to keep around to help you remember where He has brought you from.

For me, pictures are a big deal. Every year for the last four years (if you count this one too) at the beginning of January, I have gone through all the pictures I took of the year that just ended, and put them together in a memory book. Memories are important. Our journeys are important. The stuff God does in our lives – the big and the small, mundane everyday stuff that we might not even really notice – is important.

This year, take some time out to remember. Figure out an ebenezer – you’ll need it in the coming year. God is good, but sometimes we need reminders of just how good He is.

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Reflections

The last Friday of the year, a great time (and place) to reflect.

Things I’ve learned this year:

– Treasure your friends and never take them for granted. You never know when they will be called elsewhere. And you have no idea how much you are going to miss them.

– Also, sometimes you become friends with people you weren’t expecting, and it’s wonderful.

– You can be still and have a heart at Sabbath even when your world is spinning a million miles a second.

– That being said, times of physical stillness are incredibly necessary.

– Being thankful for what you’ve got, when you’ve got it is crucial to enjoying life.

– Relationships are the most valuable thing you will ever invest in. Don’t give up on them. Keep working.

– God loves you, beyond imagination.

– Priorities, priorities, priorities… and remember that HIS priorities trump yours.

– Be ready for surprise, side trips, and bunny trails.  And enjoy them.

– God restores, redeems, and blesses…though usually none of that looks like what you think

– Pain is not necessarily something to run from, or try to end.

– The Velveteen Rabbit is still my favorite children’s book out there. Read it before the end of the year if you haven’t yet.

– Laugh

– Take care of yourself, and trust your instincts. Often, they’re right.

– Love God and trust Him above all others.

What about you?  What did you learn this year?

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Mary, did you know?

Christmas music, the perfect soundtrack to make everyone feel guilty for not loving their family and friends better, and so encourages them to go buy more stuff to make up for the lack of love. Or reminds everyone how the best way to show love is through giving stuff. Either way, it surrounds us right now.   It has taken over the airways.
Not the point. The point is that because I am surrounded by Christmas music, I was inspired to write the next bit:

I was somewhere recently and heard the new, gorgeous version of Mary Did You Know.   And I got to thinking that while, yes, Mary DID know there was something special about her son; that she DID know he was Messiah, she hadn’t a clue what that meant! She probably had no idea that the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the dead would live again, that he would calm the storm with his hand, the lame would walk again, that He would walk on water, etcetera.

Because, really, except for a couple old people hanging out in the temple, and one cousin who had only been born a few months before, no one knew.

But that’s true of every person born, isn’t it? I mean sure, Jesus is the Savior of the world, but to some extent, what was true of Him is true of every child born ever. Mother Theresa’s mother had no idea who her daughter would be. Neither did Martin Luther King Jr.’s father. No mother knows who her child will ever become. That’s true of all of us. We never know whose presence we are in. Even if that person is an adult, we have no idea who they will become by the time they are done on Earth.
So, this year as you get together with family – pleasant or not – keep in mind that you really have no idea what the people you interact with are capable of. You have no idea whose presence you are in. Your aunt who always has to bring the rolls and burns them every year might be the woman who one day knows exactly what to say to you when you need it most. Or might be the woman who discovers a cure for ADD or, well, who knows. Same goes for your Father-in-law, or your chatty cousin or nerdy brother. Each of us has our purpose and role to play, whether or not we realize it.
Remember this season, that you have no idea whose presence you are really in. It might give you a little more grace with your sister who thinks God loves her better than anyone else.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Sabbath

I’m done.   Every paper is turned in, every test taken.  It’s good. I felt such a crazy amount of freedom yesterday as I drove away from campus knowing I probably won’t be there again for a good six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seminary and my classes, but breaks are needed and necessary!

Which is probably why God modeled Sabbath for us, and then decreed that we should do the same. Something I found interesting in my New Testament class this past semester is that often, Jewish holidays were treated as extra Sabbaths in their week. I love that idea. I love the idea of holidays being Sabbath.

Which is so foreign of an idea in Western Culture. We have presents to wrap, places to be, meals to prepare (or run to the store and buy and then arrange nicely), family to enjoy (or attempt to please), and church to attend (at the very least). It’s all very hectic.

But what if it wasn’t? What if, for Christmas this year, we took some time out and just enjoyed the tree, the people, the food, the presents. What if we just took time to be still? Or, since abiding and Sabbath are NOT just about being still, what in, in the midst of the chaos, we focused on God being our source of peace. He is supposed to be, after all.

It is possible, in the middle of garnishing the ham, to take a second and quietly give thanks (and I do mean a second), or in the middle of the presents, to simply soak in the joyous expression of a loved one. Sabbath and abiding, I have discovered over this semester, are usually found in the half-seconds, in reminding ourselves Who really Is the reason for all of this.

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The Good Shepherd who Wrestles

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“Lord you are our shepherd, we will lack for no good thing, for you take us to the pastures that are green, we lay beside still waters, bring refreshing to our souls, as you guide us in the paths that make us free, lead on…”

This song, from the first time I heard it in church, has brought tears to my eyes and a deep longing, of “Oh yes please Lord”.

It’s been an interesting journey this past semester of school.  I have been busier than perhaps I have ever been: a couple of intense classes at school, more youth group involvement than ever previously, friend stuff.  I should be worn out and exhausted (and sure, I look forward to several days of simply luxuriously reading fiction when break starts in a week – George MacDonald, J.K. Rawlings, and Robin McKinley here I come) but I am still able to function and move.  This should not be so.  I should be an emotional basket case.  Weird.

God has been leading.

One of the things that has made this semester intense is the fact that I have been doing a bit of wrestling with God.  Sometime this semester, I wrote about how I think God invites us to wrestle with Him about various weak points or needs in our lives.  Well, I have been wrestling with the idea of God’s goodness, pleading with Him to show me He is good.  I mean, sure, I believe He is good.  But I have seen His work enough, I have been around Christians and the church long enough, to understand that “good” does not translate into God wanting me to be happy, or to have everything I want, or any such silliness as that.  And so, I have clung to the exact opposite.  That God’s goodness means that God will only shape me in misery, pain, and through general hardship.

Sometime in September I asked God to help me believe that He can use happy times to teach and mold as well.  That God’s goodness CAN encompass laughter, delight, and soul-comfort along with the pain that I already know about and seem to grip so tightly.

I’m not there yet.  I still mostly only look for His goodness in the pain happening in my life.  I’m still deeply longing for the fullest understanding of “good”– because it is true.  Sure, the American church does not teach the hard part of God’s goodness enough, and they are robbing their members of the deeper understanding of God because of this.  However, to only believe God works through the hard stuff, like I do, means I am missing out in who God is as well.

So I’m wrestling.  I’m wrestling to believe the 23rd Psalm.  I long, so deeply, to be led into green pastures.

And yet, as I look at my life, at my craziness, and I notice the peace within me despite everything, I realize He has been doing just that.  If you read Psalms 46, you read a battle song, full of the Lord doing battle, and at the end, He tells us to simply Be Still and abide in Him.  Be Still amidst the chaos of holidays, of family, of drama, of shopping, of church.  God will do battle for you (through you).  He is good – all the painful, wondrous, complicated, intricate implications of that word.

Let Him lead you into the green pastures…just know you have to actually use your feet to walk into said pasture.  And know that often the green pasture is surrounded by Only-God-Knows-What Chaos.  And you will be asked to help Him.  Our God is a God of the peaceful spirit actively participating in the good life God has given us.

 

 

Also – if you haven’t yet – go read the update under the Dressember tab.  I’m wearing dresses again for the month of December.
If you want to support me, but not necessarily wear a dress yourself, feel free to give here, to help people rescue those who are enslaved.

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