How could I forget?

I am a postcard hunter.

My kids tease me about this and when I head into the gift shop at the art museum, they whine about my postcard search.  I show them what I’ve collected–one postcard for each of us, specially matched to our own interests.  Like the  Egyptian mummy cat for  my daughter who loves cats and the African giraffe sculpture for my son (giraffes are his favorite).

On our trip to Wisconsin, I search for four days for postcards only to finally track down a nearly hidden rack of them in the Minneapolis airport.

I’m pleased.  My kids are indifferent at best.  Postcards.  They don’t get the point or the value.

But for one  thing, I’m the one with the money and few souvenirs are as inexpensive as a postcard.

Plus, I have  a long history  of postcard memories.  I have some from my sixth  grade class trip to  Amish country in Pennsylvania and from the time I flew to visit my grandparents in Texas when I was  12.

I can flip through the postcards and remember  trips to  amusement parks and caverns and historical  sites and  museums. Those  help  me remember where I’ve been.

And I have  the collection of postcards others sent  to me.  Those  help me remember the people I’ve loved.

I have postcards  from  my dad, sent as he traveled with the military bands when I was a girl, and postcards from my grandmother on her trip to St. Petersburg, and even postcards from my great-grandmother  on her  travels in the 1950s.   They all  passed away so long ago,  and yet here in my collection I have their handwritten notes and a connection to their travels.

Maybe my kids don’t  really get postcards because they think  they’ll  remember.

But I know how often we forget.

How forgetful I can be.  Life pushes me faster and faster, rushing through this day and the next, and even those moments you most expect to remember blur into the fog of it all.

Memory isn’t passive, not the way we expect it to be.  No, remembrance is an active discipline, a choosing not to forget despite our humanness, our busyness, our moving on.

We think we’ll remember the miracles, the accounts of how God delivered us, the times He carried us right out of the pit, the stand-still encounters with God when it seemed like He cut through all the noise of this world and the cacophony of our own emotions and He spoke to us, God to person, one clear voice cutting through it all with a message we’ll never forget.

Yet, we forget it after all.

Psalm 78 shows how fickle remembrance can be.  Israel strayed from God.   He disciplined them.  Then:

They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God, their Redeemer  (verse 35 CBS).  

So,  they repented and returned.  He extended  grace and they followed closely for  a while,  until:

They did not remember his power shown
on the day he redeemed them from the foe (verse 42). 

They remembered and then they didn’t.

Asaph the Psalmist relays all the details of God’s miraculous provision,  the plagues in Egypt manna and water,  wilderness direction, victories  in the Promised  Land.

Still, they forgot all  that God had done. .

Could this be me?

Could forgetfulness  in my own heart lead not just  to apathy,  but to  waywardness?   And not just that, but to worry?  If  I forget what God has  done, I also forget all  that God  can do.

And He is faithful. He is so  faithful.  He is generous and gracious.  He is compassionate.  It’s not just that He provided, but HOW He provided that  I want to treasure and honor.

It’s been a year almost since we moved into our new home and people still  ask me, “How do you like your new house?”

I  tell  them the same thing all the time.  How I  drive into our neighborhood and round this one curve in the drive back to our home.  As I  do, I  see our house come into view and I breathe a  prayer of thanks.

It has been a year.  I am still thankful.  I keep breathing out that prayer of thanks because I do not want to forget.

And when I need new help  and new provision, , when there is trouble, when I am struggling, I remember the goodness of the Lord and how I celebrate every time I drive into this neighborhood.

We think we’ll  remember,  but how often we forget.

So we choose to remember.  We choose to  collect these postcards  of faith.  We choose to  commit over and over again to  gratitude and praise.  We choose to  give testimony to ourselves and to others:  Come hear what God has done.   Come know who our God is.

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee

“Lord, we consecrate this trip.”

This is what I prayed over my daughter  as  we sat side by side in the airplane.  It was her first time flying. I’m not a flight expert by any means, but I still  explained every step of the process from security checks to  boarding to  seatbelts and the runway as if I knew exactly what was  happening.

She still  didn’t really know what  to  expect,  so when the plane picked up  speed and the engine roared, she glanced at me for a reassurance that  this was  normal.  And then we lifted off the ground and she gave  me one shocked look of, “are we living through this?”

I  squeezed her hand and reminded her not  to fear, but to marvel, nudged at her to enjoy the awe and the wonder of it.

With the initial take-off over with,  we put aside the nerves. She settled into her book  and I settled into mine.  We were beginning an adventure, heading with other students and her teachers  to a competition in a state we’ve never before visited.

My prayers started out tentative and nervous.  What to pray?   Not that she wins.  That’s  not it.

I prayed for peace and strength and favor.

As we flew, though, I read these reminders from John Eldgredge in his  book  on prayer called Moving Mountains, about consecrating ourselves for God’s work and for His Kingdom purposes.

Consecrate.  I know the definition.  Make holy.  Make sacred.  Dedicate to  God.

We sing it, don’t we? We sing, “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.”

I  consider what this means, though.  What  is it I’ve been singing all these years  in one of my favorite hymns?  Do I know what I’m singing?   Do I mean it?

John Eldgredge writes:

“the act of consecration is….the fresh act of dedicating yourself…or whatever needs God’s grace–deliberately and  intentionally to Jesus,  bringing it  fully into His kingdom and under his rule.”

The night before, I’d read it in my Bible reading, how the nation of  Israel  gathered to dedicate Solomon’s temple and how Solomon prayed for God to  direct them, to answer prayer, to  be present, to forgive, to lead, to guide, to inhabit this physical building with the fullness of His spiritual  presence.

They set it apart.  They made it  holy, all the stones  and the wood and the linen made sacred,  not because they were sacred materials,  but because they were dedicated and anointed for God’s purposes.

Solomon prayed  over the people:

And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands… (1 Kings 8:61).

In Scripture, we see it elsewhere.  Joshua told the nation:

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5 ESV).

And the priests were instructed:

Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them (Exodus 19:22 ESV).

In the Old Testament, they anointed priests.  In the New Testament,  they anointed apostles and evangelists.  As the church gathered in Antioch, praying and fasting,  the Holy Spirit called out Barnabas and Saul for a special  work.  Scripture says,

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went” (Acts 13:3-4)

John Eldredge writes:

First ,  they consecrated themselves.  Meaning,  they dedicated themselves afresh to  God.”

So, I’m on an airplane with my daughter at the start of an adventure, and as we fly I read these reminders about consecration.  I consider what I most want here.

May my daughter see God at work and may others see God at work  through her.  May this whole journey be a part  of God’s plans for her; His hand deeply molding and preparing her for the future.  We dedicate this trip to you and set it aside for your Kingdom purposes.

That’s consecration.

It’s a prayer that feels truly fitting for  any new season or endeavor.

For this opportunity…for this new ministry…for our marriage…for a new baby….for our new house… for this job or this project…for the start of this summer….for the beginning of a new school year….for this trip.

We give this over to the Lord.  May it  be sacred and holy,  God at work, God present, God-directed, God-glorifying.  Amen and amen.

An Epidemic of Growing Up

We have an epidemic of growing up going on over here.

Some of that is reason to rejoice, like the end of another school year ushering in summer break.

But some of it I feel the need to grieve over a bit, like how my youngest daughter is about to turn 9-years-old and 9 is a big deal to me.  Bigger than 10. Bigger than 11.

Nine is the halfway point to her 18th birthday and halfway through the time I’ll have with her at home.

When my older  girls turned 9, I found myself clinging even more to family time so I could treasure it and enjoy it while it’s here.  Of course, they wanted more friend time instead.

And then there’s my son, finishing up his preschool year.

I remember when he used to call his sister, “Tat-Tat” instead of “Catherine.”

“Tat Tat go to dance?  Tat Tat go to school?  I want Tat Tat home.”

Seriously.  It was adorable.

But then he transitioned to calling her “Caperine,” and now it’s a straight up “Catherine,” because he’s lost that little hint of babyhood.

I’m sad.  I really loved hearing “Tat Tat,” and it’s another way we had to let go of something we’ll never get back again.

Then there are my oldest girls, making tough decisions. I’ve been stepping back and coaching more then directing, encouraging them to personally pray and seek counsel and then choose.

We’ve talked round and round and we’ve prayed and prayed over their choices about classes, activities, commitments and more.  If they do this, they can’t do that.  Is it worth it?  What is best in the end?

Many years ago, when I had just two kids who were both under two years old, a lovely older woman told me, “It’s harder to be a parent of adult children than it is to be a mom with young kids.”

I think I blinked two tired eyes at her in disbelief.

Now I understand a tiny bit.  This is what she was talking about, how it stretches us as moms and weighs heavy on our faith to let our kids make their own decisions and then handle the consequences of those decisions.

That’s starting to make a bit more sense now.

This week, I read in Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (verses 3-5 ESV).

Mostly I hear these verses quoted when people talk about the blessings of having a large family with lots of arrows in the quiver.

David Jeremiah, though, said:

The psalmist says our children are like arrows. And what does an arrow do? It goes to a place we can’t go, to accomplish a purpose we can’t accomplish (Hopeful Parenting).

He also quotes Stu Weber:

“…our children are the only messages we’ll send to a world we’ll never see. They are the only provision we have for impacting a world as a distance.”

I need the reminder just now that I’m not losing these “arrows” of mine as they grow up and they grow into independence.

No, I’m sending them out.

THEY GO WHERE I CAN’T GO.  THEY ACCOMPLISH WHAT I CAN’T ACCOMPLISH.

THEY HEAD INTO A FUTURE I CAN’T FULLY INHABIT AND HAVE IMPACT BEYOND MY ABILITIES TO IMPACT.

So I value this brief time with my children all the more because as I pour into them and teach them and pray over them, I prepare and equip them to hit the targets of God’s good and perfect will and plan for their lives.

But it also helps me let go a little.

I still mourn some. I mourn not getting to make decisions FOR them or even WITH them, but instead allowing them to decide.

I mourn the loss of “Tat Tat” and how my baby isn’t a baby anymore.

But I find myself letting go and trusting God.

He is with them.  He can teach them and carry out His will and hold them in His hands.

Originally published May 2016

When You Can’t Do Over But Have to Move On

We’ve been giving do-overs here at my house.

Snarkiness has been on the rise.

So, when we hear, “Move!  I can’t see!”

We respond with, “You want to try saying that again in a kinder way?”

Or we hear, “Put that down!  That’s mine!”

We say, “Try that again.  I’m sure you could say that differently.”

I love do-overs.

I love the utter grace of it all, that even though you made a mistake, you can have another go at it.  Maybe you’ll do better this time.

Learn from those errors.  Make some corrections.

Maybe this time you won’t miss or forget.  Maybe you’ll study harder or speak with kindness or choose not to gossip.

My hope is that the do-overs now will help those lessons sink in before it’s too late, because we all know you can’t always have a do-over.

Sometimes, bad things happen and once it’s done, it’s done.

A missed opportunity can’t be regained.

One day, those words will slip out and they’ll be said.  You can’t take them back.

Sure, you can apologize.  You can attempt restoration.

BUT WORDS ONCE SAID CAN’T BE UN-SAID, AND THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL TONGUE CAN BE DEVASTATING.

In those moments when you can’t have a do-over, though, you have to learn a new skill:  Moving on after you’ve messed up.

Shame from mistakes can drag us right down and bolt us to the floor.  We can’t move forward.  We’re chained to the past.

At night, I rumble through conversations I wish I’d handled differently.

I consider the mistakes I wish I could un-do and the decisions I wish I could un-decide.

It’s hard to let it go and just rest already.  I keep thinking, “if only….”

If only this hadn’t happened….

If only I’d done this instead…..

I want a do-over.  I want to rewind back to the start of the day and just try again.

But I can’t.  So I replay the wrong over and over and over.  I’m stuck in a perpetual loop of embarrassment and self-condemnation.

Paul makes this sound so easy:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)

Just forget what’s behind, look forward to the future and move on?

If only it were that simple!

Then I consider Paul’s words, how he’s straining forward and pressing on.  This is discipline and endurance.  This is refusing to get bogged down.

It’s falling down in the middle of a race and yet choosing to push to your feet and keep on going to the finish line even if you’re limping all the way there.

Surely this is how David felt after being confronted with his own sin of adultery and murder.

One bad decision led to another bad decision and now here he was, unable to have a do-over.  He couldn’t un-commit adultery with Bathsheba.  He couldn’t un-murder her husband.

But he prays for God’s mercy, for God to “blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1b-2).  He asks God to:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:9-10).

This I understand.

When I’m weighed down by mistakes that I can’t do-over, I’m compelled to cry out for “mercy!”  I rely on God’s grace to wash my soul and renew my heart for Him.

But then David does something more.  He doesn’t just stand there in the cleansing flood of grace.  He doesn’t keep re-hashing his need for mercy.

No, he begins to look forward.  He talks of moving on.

This is where I lean in to David’s Psalm today, because too often I’m stuck in the cry for mercy and can’t shake the shame.

Yet, David prays:

 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you…

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 51:12-13, 14b)

HE’S FINDING MERCY IN THE MESS, RECEIVING RESTORATION, LEARNING FROM HIS MISTAKES, TEACHING OTHERS, AND WORSHIPING GOD FOR THIS SALVATION-GIFT.

I have to choose to accept the grace, too.

I have to choose to forget the past.  Every time my face heats up with shame, I remind myself that it’s done.  Over with.  Behind me.  Forgiven.

I have to choose to move on, choose to learn and grow and worship and teach others.

And the next time I’m reminded of how I messed up, I make all of those choices all over again because even if I can’t do over, I can do better next time.

Originally published April 2016

Magic Bean Plants All Start Small

Magic bean plants.

All four of my kids have brought home this same preschool project:  a tiny bean planted in a cup of soil.  They planted,  they watered and then they carried it home.

We always place the bean plants on our kitchen window sill and a few days after arriving in our home, they sprout.

What a day!  We marvel and ooh and aah.

And those beans grow.  They grow and grow.

When my youngest girl watched her bean grow, I teased her about her “magic beanstalk.”  Every few weeks, it might produce a bean, which she picked, washed, ate, and pretended to like (raw).   That plant was hardy and so tall.

I’d ask her about the giant at the top and would Jack be visiting any time soon.  Maybe she got the magic beans from good-old Jack.

They are just a wonder,  though. One simple bean and it shoots up like a ladder to the sky.

One simple bean.  One small seed.

It’s a wonder, isn’t it, when we take the time to notice the small?  When we marvel at the beauty and strength and wisdom hidden in the tiniest and most overlooked things?

How beautiful, too, when we content ourselves with small instead of pushing, fighting, striving, duking it out for something grander or louder or more visible.

I read this  in Proverbs this week and it re-set my heart a bit:

Four things on earth are small,
but they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
27 the locusts have no king,
yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard you can take in your hands,
yet it is in kings’ palaces (Proverbs 30:24-26 ESV). 

What is it that we learn from the “weak” and the “insignificant?”

Be prepared

It’s the working in advance that sets the ants apart, how they toil in summer, setting aside the food, getting ready for a season of want by storing up during the season of plenty.

They don’t waste the bounty of now and they keep the future in mind.

Find a safe place

The rock badgers hide themselves away in cliff crevices, finding the safest places to escape from prey and withstand the weather.

They know what is needed–a refuge.  No one can fight and fight all the time.  No one is mighty enough to  withstand every foe.  But we can still find rest if we have a safe place.

Have a team

The locusts march together.  They aren’t ordered to do it.  No king sets them into battle formations and sends them out.

They choose cooperation because they are better together.

Stay humble

Even the lowliest lizard can be found in a palace and treasured by kings, but you could catch that same lizard outside and hold him in your hand.

They aren’t different lizards.  They aren’t putting on a show.  They aren’t dressed up in frills and diamonds.  They are simple and lovely,  God-designed and just doing what God designed lizards to do—no more than  that.

What is it we learn from magic bean plants…and from ants, rock badgers, locusts and lizards?  

To praise God in the here and now of our simple, beautiful life.   To raise our heads, our hands, our voices high in worship, honoring Him simply because He made us.

We learn to  find our safe place in Jesus, our Rock, our Redeemer, the Refuge we run to when people are hurtful and life is hard.  We hide ourselves in Him and let Him cover us and give us rest.

To treasure peace with others.  To cover tension and disagreements with grace and forgiveness.  To realize that the people we make our enemies aren’t really our enemies.  Disagreements don’t negate love.  We still love because they are beloved and treasured by God even if they don’t know it.

And not to go it alone and strike out all independent and determined to  live off our own strength.  We are weak.  That’s the truth.  God makes us strong in Him and He gives us strength with each other.

Also this:  God made us.  He loves us.  We can come into the presence of the King of all kings, lowly as we are, humble as we are, small, insignificant, tiny and weak as we are.  It’s not because we are worthy.  It’s because Jesus covered us with His worthiness.  He invites us right in and welcomes us into His presence.

We. Are. Small.

And, friend, let’s be small.  Let’s honor Him with all  that is in within us because we are oh so very loved by our very BIG God.

Moving out, moving on, moving forward

Preschool is done for the year.

My son had been looking forward to all of the end-of-the-year things.  The program.  The last day.  The picnic.

But as we headed out on the final morning of preschool activities, sadness hit him hard:   I want to stay. 

This is his first experience with finishing the year and really enjoying his own summer break, so it’s the first time he’s truly said goodbye to his classroom buddies and considered what it’d be like not to see them a few times every week for  a few months or so.

And that’s a bit sad indeed.

We can look forward to what’s ahead, of course.  His older sisters chime  in with their own reminders that summer is, in fact, awesome.

Then, I remind him that preschool will begin again in the fall and there will be familiar faces and new faces.  It will be worth anticipating.

This works for a moment, but then he remembers again that in order to  move on to the new, he has to  say some goodbyes.  There are some things he has to leave behind.

And saying goodbye….stepping into new places…that’s not always easy.

Sometimes there are assignments and places we make permanent that God intended to be temporary.  We cement our hearts right down and God asks us to be more movable than that.

It’s okay.  It’s good.  It’s necessary.  It’s beautiful even at times to step out of the old, maybe even before we know what new land God has called us to.

We trust Him to show us what that might be.  A land of rest, perhaps.  A land of labor maybe.  A place of new beginnings or maybe one more forward step in this long, connected journey we’ve been on.

The key is remebering that what we’re doing here in this very place is God-led. He could tell us to stay or He could  encourage us to move on. Either way, we lean into His leading.  The blessing is in the obedience.

Me?  I tend to be a permanent foundation builder, in it for the long-haul, committed to hang in and hang on even when God has hinted it’s time to let go.

In the book of Ruth, I find someone else who struggled with making the temporary assignment a permanent destination:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there (Ruth 1:1-2 CSB). 

Elimelek left Bethlehem for Moab “for a while.”  Another translation said he “went to sojourn in the country of Moab.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have gone in the first place, trusting  God instead to  provide right there instead of hightailing it  to foreign destinations.  But, he left, and  at first it was supposed to be a temporary trip.

But then “he lived there.”  The ESV says “he remained there.”

The temporary became permanent for him.  He put down roots.  His sons married Moabite women.  They didn’t seem to have any intention of returning to Bethlehem until death changed everything.  Elimelek and his two sons died, leaving their widows, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, with some significant decisions.

Elimelek settled and stayed.

But Ruth was willing to move.

She moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law despite her own grief.

She moved into the fields to glean and to  provide.

She moved onto a threshing floor in the middle of the night to seek a redeemer.

In her book, “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit,” Nicki Koziarz says Ruth “stays open to the movement of God.”

This is where I’ve been growing.  I’ve been stepping down and then waiting.  Saying goodbye and not turning around and jumping back into the same-old, same-old.   I’ve been listening more.  I’ve been taking my time and refusing to be rushed  into decisions that others seem to feel have to be made right away.

I’ve been leaning into  God and asking for Him to speak the “no” and speak the “yes” so I will know when to stay or go, put down or pick up, relinquish or fight on, say farewell or begin anew.

It starts with this:  Making sure I’m not turning temporary trips into permanent residences, trusting that God can always move me on and being willing indeed to go.

Bible Verses for Memorial Day

  • Psalm 27:3 ESV
    Though an army encamp against me,
        my heart shall not fear;
    though war arise against me,
        yet I will be confident.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 46:9 ESV
    He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
        he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
        he burns the chariots with fire.
  • Psalm 82:3-4 ESV
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
  • Psalm 116:15 ESV
    Precious in the sight of the Lord
        is the death of his saints.
  • Proverbs 10:7 ESV
    The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
        but the name of the wicked will rot.
  • John 14:27 ESV
    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
  • John 15:13 ESV
     Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • Romans 13:7 ESV
    Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV
    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
  • 2 Timothy 2:3 ESV
    Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Finding the sacred in this place

Hats and sunglasses, that’s what my son likes, and he’s amassing a collection.

When we headed to the beach this week to enjoy the weather,  he popped his Paw Patrol baseball cap on his head .

“This is my beach hat,” he announced.

Then he gave me the full run-down.  His Batman hat is for playgrounds.  His Paw Patrol hat is for the beach.  And, when he gets a Star Wars hat , that will be for the aquarium.  “My aquarium hat,” he says.

This is funny on so many levels.

For one thing, he doesn’t need an aquarium hat since we are infrequent visitors.

And for  another thing, we really and truly just grab whichever hat we can find whenever it’s time to go to wherever we’re going.  We have more than one hat precisely because we don’t always know where any given hat is at any given moment.

Hats are essential  wardrobe pieces for us.  We are fair-skinned folks who burn at the slightest hint of sunshine.

But exactly how many hats does he plan on having anyway?

Specific hats for specific places may not be practical or likely by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I love the idea of valuing place, all the individual beauty and uniqueness of this place and that place.

How something changes in us as we travel from  here to there, something about us in those destinations that might even require a new and different hat.

It’s so biblical, isn’t it, the way God’s story roots itself  in geography and location?  The Holy Land and Mount Sinai, Eden and Bethel ,right on to Bethlehem, to gardens and mountaintops, the Sea of  Galilee, the Jordan River.

God’s story in us does the same thing.

There are places that have entwined themselves with my own salvation story:  a childhood neighborhood, a college campus,  a church, a two-year sojourn in New Jersey, and the long-term settling in Virginia where God continues to work in me.

Maybe certain places in our lives are set aside for a holy work of significance.

Like the way the burning bush drew Moses’s attention out in the wilderness, and how God brought him and all of Israel back to that same holy mountain after they made it out of Egypt.

Or the way Jacob camped out at Bethel and saw a vision of a stairway to heaven and then returned to the same place years later to settle there with his family and build an altar to God.

It helps to know what places have holy significance for us, especially when we’re seeking His face.  Where do we go when we want to be alone with Jesus?  Where do we go when we’re desperate for a glimpse of Him or to hear His voice?  Where do we go when we need hush and peace and a stillness in our hearts?

Where is our Bethel?  Where is our Sinai?

Where is the place of spiritual retreat?

For  me, it’s a back deck or a porch, just one small step from inside my house to outside my house and there I am, in a peaceful place.

Sometimes, though,  I need to run away from the ordinary, everyday.  These aren’t long trips, just a drive to the botanical gardens, or to a museum, or the beach–anywhere there is beauty and there is quiet.

My go-to holy place, though, is a mobile one–it’s in a walk  The location matters less than the opportunity to stride in rhythm and not talk for about 30 minutes.   This is a sacred space for me.

It  also helps to know that God does focused work in specific places.

This is Gilgal for Saul.  That’s where the prophet Samuel sent the newly anointed King to wait before being presented to Israel.  That’s where Saul is crowned.  It’s also the same exact place where Saul loses his kingship, as he gives up waiting for Samuel and disobeys God’s instructions (1 Samuel 10:8,  11:15, 13:7).

Gilgal is where Saul both received and lost the kingship.

What if Saul had recognized the significance of the place?  Gilgal is where I wait and where God is faithful.  Maybe he would have been more patient.

Perhaps this place where you are right now is the growing place or the place of rest.  Maybe it is the land of milk and honey or maybe it is the waiting place.

It could be the place of worship or the place of calling.  Maybe it’s the place where we’re poured out or maybe it’s the well where Jesus fills us.

Where are you now?  In this place God has brought you, how is He at work?

Bible Verses about Peacemaking

  • Psalm 34:14 CSB
    Turn away from evil and do what is good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
  • Proverbs 12:20 CSB
    Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
    but those who promote peace have joy.
  • Matthew 5:9 CSB
    Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
  • Romans 12:18 CSB
    If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
  • Romans 14:17 CSB
     for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 14:19 CSB
    So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:33 CSB
    since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 CSB
     Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice.[a] Become mature, be encouraged,[b] be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of loveand peace will be with you.
  • Ephesians 2:14 CSB
     For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.
  • Ephesians 4:1-3 CSB
    Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • Hebrews 12:14 CSB
    Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.
  • James 3:17-18 CSB
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
  •  1 Peter 3:10-12 CSB
    For the[c] one who wants to love life
    and to see good days,
    let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit,
    11 and let him turn away from evil
    and do what is good.
    Let him seek peace and pursue it,
    12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
    But the face of the Lord is against
    those who do what is evil.

An invitation to the table

My daughter says her friends call her the “Snack Queen.”

She always has snacks, she tells me.  Everyday, she’s handing out granola bars, breakfast bars, pretzels and mini-muffins.

I tell her that’s what my friend calls me:  “The Snack Queen.”  How can we have the same nickname?

So, she accepts  a downgrade.  “I’m the Snack Princess then.”

We laugh about it and I think the title fits.  After all, the Snack Princess has snacks with her to share because The Snack Queen gives them to her.

I like to pack little snacks wherever I go.  Little ones can sit through a lot if they have a cup of goldfish, and life seems a little less tragic to a tired three-year-old when they have fruit snacks to ease the pain of sharing or missing naptime.

Long days of errands and waiting rooms are so much easier with Cheerios.

Maybe I come by this honestly because Jesus seemed to serve up a lot of snacks, too.

In fact, Jesus perpetually invited those around Him to fellowship over food.  He invited them to feast.

Jesus began his ministry with the wedding party at Cana and went on his way, eating with sinners and tax collectors, having dinner at Matthew’s house and Peter’s house, Zaccheus’s house and in Bethany with Mary and Martha.

He multiplied lunches into picnic spreads that fed thousands and then served the disciples the bread and the wine on the night He was betrayed.

After His resurrection, He  cooked up breakfast over a fire by the side of the sea to feed the hungry disciples who had been out fishing.

I love this about Jesus, how He meets us right there in the nitty gritty of life, the eating and drinking and sleeping.  He doesn’t preach at us to be more spiritual or act like none of these physical realities around us are necessary or even good.

Other philosophies told people to deny the material world.  It didn’t exist.

Jesus told His followers to come, sit, and eat, not because the physical reality is better  or more important, but because it is part of living with Him.

He entered right in to humanity and broke down the dividing line–the spiritual, the physical.  It can be both and it can be good.

Our Jesus, who laid out feasts for  His followers and who told stories over meals, shows us this:

  • He PROVIDES:

He provides for our physical needs, handing out fish and loaves to  a crowd that had nothing.  But He does more.  He handed the disciples the Passover bread and the wine in the cup and He told them to remember.  This was His body.  This was His blood.

Jesus provides not just for physical needs, but for our deepest, desperate spiritual need for  a Savior, satisfying the greatest hunger we will ever have with the Bread of Life Himself.

  • WE’re welcomed in

There is a place at the table for us and He welcomes us in.  Pharisees and tax collectors, sinners and religious scribes all dined with Jesus. He is a God who invites.

That means the invitation is there for us to accept or decline, not just for a feast here and now, but for the marriage feast we can share with Him in heaven if we’ve followed Him as our Savior.

The angel declares:

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9 ESV).

  • HE GIVES US REASON TO  CELEBRATE

Because we are so blessed, because we as Jesus-followers anticipate this great heavenly feast, we celebrate!  We raise the roof with our joy!

We should become people of invitation,  because we’ve also been invited.  We welcome, because we have been welcomed.

Jesus gave His very own self for us so that we could be saved and that is cause for rejoicing indeed!

Isaiah describes the wonderful sight:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.  Isaiah 25:6-8

This will be the ultimate joy, not just individual salvation, but redemption for this whole fallen physical world.

All that has been broken and destroyed by sin will be restored and made new. It will be made right as He lays out the table with the marriage feast, and we who believe Him and follow Him and love Him join Him at the table.