Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘God our Refuge’

 

In spite of sunny spring weather that day, I sat in misery in the middle of the bedroom floor. Around me was strewn bubble wrap, packing-tape, and a bunch of stuff to be cocooned, before stashing it all into Moving Box #78,493. (Does extreme exaggeration make clear my frustration and exhaustion with the whole process?)

Some weeks before, the district superintendent of our church denomination had informed us my pastor-husband was being assigned elsewhere. After five years of living and working with the current loving congregation, our time together would soon end.

I wasn’t ready to move.  We’d become as close as family to many in that church, as we met in small groups, sang in the choir, served one another and the community, and got together just for the fun of it.

I was homesick before I’d even left.

While wrapping and packing, I listened to song writer/vocalist/pianist, Ken Medema, on our tape player. His song about Moses talking with God at the burning bush was a favorite, and as it began, I listened more closely.  (Click below to enjoy this distinctive song.)

 

 

What’s that in your hand, Moses?” 

“It’s just a rod.” 

“Throw it down, Moses.”

 “Lord, don’t take my rod away from me. 

Don’t you know it’s my only security?”

 

(“Moses,” by Gebhard Fugel, c.1920)

 

Suddenly God was speaking those words to me, with slight variation:

 

What’s that in your hand, Nancy?” 

“It’s just a church.” 

“Throw it down, Nancy.”

“Lord, don’t take my church away from me. 

Don’t you know it’s my only security?”

 

Tears filled my eyes as I realized, our church home had become my dwelling place of security. I was certain we’d never again find such a caring, supportive faith-family.

Now, decades removed from that morning I know: places—not even wonderful churches (and we served in four more)–can provide perfect security forever.

There is only One who can offer eternal refuge. God alone.

Home is a Person.

He is our dwelling place (Psalm 90:1). And just as a home requires a foundation, roof, and walls, so God provides these elements for us in the spiritual realm.

 

 

As our foundation, God offers:

  • Strength.

Nothing I face will stymie or overpower him (Psalm 147:5).

  • Reliability.

I’ve lived a long time. So far God’s track record for getting me through tough times has been 100%*. That’s reliable.

  • Promises.

I can trust him to keep his word based on the perfection of his character (Psalm 145:13).

  • Power.

All the universe is under God’s control, yet he tends the small matters too (Psalm 8:3-4)–like mending the broken heart of a young pastor’s wife.

 

 

As our roof, God offers shelter and protection (Psalm 5:11).

Not that we’re immune to danger, difficulty, or pain, but by God’s strength we’re able to bear it (Philippians 4:13).

 

As the walls around us, God provides a barrier of love (Psalm 32:10) and a guard of grace**.

“All shall be well,” wrote Julian of Norwich. “There is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.”

Praise God for such expansive love (Psalm 103:11).

 

 

That morning long ago, amidst the bubble wrap and boxes, I surrendered as best I could my tight hold on that church. Instead of trying to fight my fears alone, I asked God to strengthen my trust in him.

And that’s the kind of prayer God always answers “YES.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father,

for watching over me all the days of my life.

Thank you for your loving guidance,

training me to live by faith in your wise sovereignty

and rely on your strength to endure.

Help me hold fast to the truth

that you have my best interest at heart—

now and forever.

 

(Psalm 23:6; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 103:19; Psalm 46:1-2; Romans 8:28)

 

 

* A similar sentiment found on Pinterest, no author name provided.

** “Guard of grace,” a Charles Spurgeon phrase.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.vimeo.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2), http://www.dailyverse.net; http://www.wikimedia.com.)

Read Full Post »

A little over two years ago when Steve and I retired, God provided for us a perfect little ranch house built into the side of a hill. A strip of woods and a ravine separate our block from the one behind us, and large windows in the kitchen/family room offer a tranquil view of treetops.

 

img_0855

 

One of the projects we completed before moving in was the addition of a deck off the back of the house. The vista we enjoy from window and deck give us the sensation of living in a tree house, and we revel in the beauty and quiet.

Just about everyone loves tree houses. Even television now offers programs featuring their construction.

Why do they cause such delight?

Perhaps because tree houses provide:

  • A quiet, peaceful refuge, removed from the stressful responsibilities of our lives.  There’s something about being up among the trees that repairs our equilibrium. We breathe easier, the peace of the surroundings soaks into our spirits and tension is released.

 

37859696_4972c873d0_b

 

  • A respite from the ordinary. Most of us are surrounded by concrete and dry wall much of the time. To experience a vista of trees and sky is sweet relief.
  • A new perspective and fuel for the imagination. Away from daily routines and distractions, we can see our lives from a more objective viewpoint. In addition, our thoughts dance more freely, creativity flows more readily, and discoveries unfurl more frequently. No wonder many tree houses for adults are built as artist/writer retreats.

 

5989332892_eb56917fa1_b

 

All of these reasons make sense, but I have one more theory about why we love these structures: Tree houses provide a physical, tangible replica of the presence of God.

Jesus made the way for us to experience his company, like the ladder or staircase to a refuge in the trees (1).

God is always with us, whether we’re aware or not. The key is to draw near to him through prayerful conversation and mindful observation of his glory—in a sunset, a bird song, or the scent of wisteria on the breeze. Then his peace can pervade our thoughts, and God becomes our refuge (2).

 

e32fc36692cd1f941bec953ea8541363

 

With him there’s no such thing as ordinary living. He offers a God-enhanced, abundant life of joy in blessing, comfort in sorrow, sufficiency in trouble, and more (3).

New perspectives open up to us as we sit in quiet contemplation with our Heavenly Father, perspectives such as: contentment is a matter of choice not circumstances; my identity, security and purpose are not the result of events or effort; they are the result of who I am—a beloved child of God; God-thoughts change the atmosphere of my spirit (4).

 

psalms-16-8

 

Tree houses offer much; God offers much more. Best of all, he’s not limited to a small structure perched among the trees.

The high life with God is always available.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, God of the universe, for the incredible privilege of an intimate relationship with you. Anytime, anywhere, I can turn to you and breathe in your peace, admire the view of your glorious attributes, and experience rejuvenation of my spirit. I praise you, O Most High, for the restful shelter you provide. You are my refuge and fortress in whom I trust (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

8227863

 

What benefits of the high life with God do you especially appreciate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 18:10
  3. John 10:10; John 16:24; Psalm 147:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. Philippians  4:11-13; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 16:8

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.fellowshipsite.org.

 

Read Full Post »

article-step-by-step_ds-photo_getty_article_178_67_200377237-001_XS

Back in the 1970s somebody came up with the idea of worry stones—small, smooth pebbles that people could rub between their fingers to release their worries. (What a great money-maker, huh?  Collect some free pebbles, clean ’em up and sell for 100% profit.  Genius.)

According to enthusiasts, the constant rubbing activates the nerves at the base of the thumb, releasing endorphins. As a result, a sense of calmness purportedly settles in the user’s mind.

Even if that’s true, what happens when the person stops rubbing? Since the worry has not been resolved; isn’t it likely to return? I can’t see myself rubbing a stone until I fall asleep at night, can you?

Here’s a better idea.  Instead of going to a small pebble for worry-relief, go to the Rock.

What Rock, you ask?

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Next question:  Why go to the Rock?

1.  God our Rock is more stable and reliable than Gibraltar.

igibrat001p4

The Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol for stability, having stood sentry on the southern coast of Spain for centuries. Some say it dates back to the Jurassic Period.

But our God is older still, isn’t he.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Now that’s reliable.

2.  God our Rock is more sheltering than a deep cave.

Verteba_Cave

(Verteba Cave, Ukraine)

During World War II, a small group of Ukrainian Jews found a way to escape the Nazis. They lived underground in caves for a year and a half.

At night they foraged for food. They even built showers and latrines deep inside.

But imagine living every day in pitch blackness and in fear of being discovered.

One day it happened. Nazi soldiers stumbled upon their hiding place. A courageous woman spoke for the group, as German guns pointed straight at her.

“What are you afraid of here?” she said. “Is the Furhrer going to lose the war because we live here?” Miraculously the soldiers left without doing anyone harm.

The band of Jewish villagers found relative safety in those caves,  and in April, 1944, the cave dwellers were liberated, able to return to the light.

But God our Rock offers guaranteed eternal safety for our souls. His Son, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)

3.  God our Rock is more protective than Masada.

slide-static

Perhaps you’re familiar with the mountaintop fortress, towering 1500 ft. above the Dead Sea.   The refuge was built by Herod the Great, from 37 to 31 B.C., to showcase his power.

Infamous for his brutality, Herod had good cause to be paranoid. He spared no expense to make sure this desert fortress could withstand attack and provide long-term refuge. His plan included protective casement walls, an ingenious water-collection system and cisterns for storage, storehouses, barracks, palaces, an armory and more.

Impregnable? Almost.

When Herod died, Jewish rebels were able to overtake the Roman guard remaining at the fortress. A thousand Jewish zealots lived atop Masada for three years.

Yet nothing or no one on earth can compare to God our Rock.

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” cried David. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2-3).

And how do we avail ourselves of God’s refuge?  Through gratitude, praise, and prayer.  We can:

  • Thank him for his promises, for the times he has protected and provided in the past.  We must feed our confidence in God rather than our fear.
  • Praise him for his glorious attributes that he is bringing to bear upon our situations–attributes such as power, wisdom, trustworthiness, and love.
  • Affirm our faith. If we occupy our minds with expressions of trust, there won’t be room for thoughts of worry.

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.  

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him”

(Psalm 62:1-2, 5).

(Photo credits:  www.ehow.com; http://www.kids.brittanica.com; http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com; http://www.masada.org.il.)

Read Full Post »

(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. Now if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks.  But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 12-3-12.)

 

When I was a little girl, my parents kept a large garden in the backyard. They grew corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and more.

Among all that produce grew something else: garter snakes. I was petrified of those snakes, in spite of assurances from Mom and Dad that they could do me no harm.

 

Garter_Snake

 

So what was my reaction if, while playing in the yard, I noticed the slightest bit of slithering? I RAN while emitting eardrum-splitting shrieks. No doubt those snakes took off just as rapidly in the opposite direction, but I never looked back to find out.

Those experiences make a good word-picture of what my response should be when snakes of negativity, worry, or hurt feelings invade my mind. RUN!

James recommended exactly that: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7b).

But where should I run to? As a child, when seeking escape from the garter snakes, I often ran into the house, a safe and secure refuge. (Although I did have the occasional nightmare about smart snakes, who knew how to slither under doors and up stairs, so even the house wasn’t safe!)

As an adult, facing “snakes” of a different nature, where should I run?

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

That means, when my thoughts begin to turn to the negative, I need to run to God, my refuge of hope and help (Psalm 119:114).

When people speak or act unkindly and my emotions are bruised, I need to run to God, my refuge of comfort (Psalm 31:19-20).

When worry overtakes me, I need to run to God, my refuge of peace (Psalm 9:9).

Once my attention is focused on him, I must:

  • Look into his eyes and see the great everlasting love he has for me (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • Sense his strong arms around me, holding me close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Hear him reminding me of all his promises and all the times he has blessed me in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).
  • Taste his goodness (Psalm 34:8) in all the flavors of his attributes: power, wisdom, holiness, loving-kindness, grace, and more.

And what will be the end result? “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11a). That sure beats cowering, fretting, and flustering, doesn’t it?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for availing yourself to us as a refuge, a person-place we can run to for help, protection, and peace. We love you, O Lord, our strength, because you are our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Psalm 18:1).

Thank you for caring for us, those who seek to trust in you (Nahum 1:7). May we avail ourselves of your gladness and joy rather than let the snakes of negativity, worry, or emotional hurt get the best of us!

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.org.)

Read Full Post »

Our News from Italy

Notes to our Prayer Supporters

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Rebeca Jones

Building Standing Stones

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Live fully * Love Bravely

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions