Divine Collaboration

It’s hard to imagine isn’t it?  Divine collaboration.  Sounds like something out of a cerebral mythology thesis.  At least it does to me.  Yet, those are the words that keep coming to mind.  

“Daddy,” I asked. “What do you want from me? What do you want from Your Church?”

With a wink and a contagious grin the size of galaxies colliding, he replied, “I want Divine Collaboration.”  

This is an honorific to Him, I can tell.  It’s a title he likes to pin on all His kids.  We are all his Divine Collaborators. And I could tell He was thrilled that he’d gotten my attention.

Perplexed and definitely curious, I said, “Please explain.”

I am a philosopher and processing with God is something I like to savor.  I want to stew and chew and taste every scoop of insight the Lord ever gives me.  I feel delightfully compelled to savor and digest the nuanced flavor profile of God’s interactions, not just with me, but with his Body and with his Creation. I’ve learned a lot eating at the Lord’s table with Him.  We talk.  A lot.

The other day I was talking to a friend about this tattoo idea I had and all of a sudden I heard myself say, “It’s kind of like this ‘divine collaboration’ between God and me.”  It just made sense to me to say it that way.

I had to smile. There it was again. 

My husband and I took a road trip last month to celebrate our anniversary.  We drove along part of the iconic Route 66 through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona all the way to the Grand Canyon.  As we drove through high desert devoid of much life and saw rock formations that put modern architecture to shame, I heard it again: divine collaboration.

The land spoke to me as I marveled at the spectacles and grandeur created where infinite pale sky meets striated rocks in various stages of petrification and erosion.  I felt the profundity of time’s endlessness: infinitely changing and staying the same all at once.  I had never felt closer to my Father God, the Creator of All Things than I did in those moments of experiencing his Creation.  His words were clear: this is divine collaboration.  

As I experienced the beauty of God’s world in all its intricacy I began to pray for the people who lived there, and I felt the land speak to my heart about them: these people that God loved so dearly and who had been so horribly abused by the “progress” of European settlers.  I wept and prayed and wept and prayed.  I fell in love with those impoverished and yet resilient indigenous people who continued to hold on through the worst types of adversity.  Serious divine collaboration.

 It’s so much more than just a “good conversation” with Jesus.

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 ESV

Even Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he accepted it anyway and obediently emptied himself from fear and doubt and the entitlement of his status, and trusted that His Father in Heaven had his back and they were a team, even if it didn’t feel like it sometimes. 

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross because He trusted God.

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1

How can we possibly be like Jesus? Jesus divinely collaborated with the God of the Universe, while considering equality with God something beyond his grasp, and obediently and humbly received and obeyed, even in angst, even in hunger, even in torment, even in fear.  He conquered because he humbled himself and obeyed in perfect unity with God.

Even though obedience made him look like a slave.

So maybe trusting God in obedience isn’t slavery, even if it might look like it is?  Maybe obedience is actually divine collaboration.  Maybe choosing to humble oneself, one can find exaltation in the Living God and be empowered in His Righteousness to be joint heirs with Christ.

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsf of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17 ESV

Divine collaboration: to trust that even obedience unto death will gain eternal reward and glory for God AND you.

It can be unimaginably painful, I’m not going to sugar coat it.  Yet, I know that suffering pays beautiful dividends for those who are willing to learn and grow from it.  Empathy, courage, salvation. It all come from suffering.  Death and suffering are not the end for those who are in Christ Jesus.  We know, because of Christ’s example of trust and faith, that God will be faithful to us as well.  

God doesn’t want mindless robots.  He’s not going to force you to do anything.  He asks.  He always asks, because he loves you.  He offers this divine collaboration to anyone who would accept it.  If you can get over yourself long enough to believe that it might actually be better with God than without, to accept for even just a moment that God is in fact good and trustworthy, you too can have this beautiful title of “Divine Collaborator”.

Divine collaboration means trusting God, submitting to God, and then freely talking to God without fear of condemnation. 

Daddy didn’t get angry with Jesus when he questioned Him in Gethsemane.  He listened.  He comforted.  He strengthened.  And Jesus endured to the end.  He trusted the Father, and on the third day was resurrected from the dead.

Jesus obeyed God and was raised up in Glory.

We have seen the truth of who God is in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and we believe in our hearts through faith, that God raised him from the dead and he will one day do the same for us.  We are saved from death into life and from orphan to first born son. God wants us to be his friends.  He wants unity in love.  Unity in love means divine collaboration. It means trusting that the source of love and life is from God and endowed to his children with generosity.

Divine collaboration isn’t passive.  It isn’t selfish.  It isn’t arrogant.  To walk in Divine collaboration with God is to actively believe in the reality of your shameless and righteous status as a child of God and fearlessly “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) not just to receive forgiveness of sins, but to be lifted up into glory with God himself and receive wisdom and comfort from Him for eternity.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  

Refuse to be silent receivers of God’s mercy and love.  Choose instead to be Divine Collaborators.  Let’s use the tools we have been given, infused with the Holy Spirit and the many gifts He has provided us, and share our thoughts and ideas with Jesus with confidence. Realize that He’s already decided to “use the foolish things to confound the wise” (1 Cor 1:27) so we can stop worrying about if God really wants to hear from us or not. Trust me, he does.  No, we’re not worthy of it on our own, but we’re not our own if we’ve given ourselves to Jesus.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

Divine Collaboration with one another is equally valuable.  God’s obedient and loving children are a collective force.

We are stronger together as Christ’s body here on Earth. Know that we are all one with Our Father in Heaven by His Spirit.  We should be unified as His image bearers and as walking tabernacles of His Presence.

Let us each humble ourselves and be divine collaborators together with our Lord.

Pro-Women, Pro-Choice, and Pro-Life

Did you know that the Bible actually endorses abortion under certain circumstances? I am a thousand percent pro life, and I also believe that there are times when an abortion is necessary…ie an ectopic pregnancy, incest, rape, etc. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to do as Christ, and give each person the right to work out their own salvation with God on their own terms with the assumption that the Lord will work in their heart to bring each person closer and closer to Him through and by His Spirit.

And by no means am I intending to imply any salvation except through Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected for the ultimate atonement of our iniquity.

It seems to me that it’s much easier to judge others (and even ourselves), before recognizing that to judge at all is to presume to know more than the Ultimate and Only Righteous King. He is the only One capable of judging each person with equity and love.

We see through the glass darkly, and we grow in humility when we acknowledge that God is at work in everything around us, working it for our good despite the cruel and desperate work of the enemy on the prowl to utterly destroy our lives.

Therefore, I choose to accept that God can work with whatever we are willing to give him, and that by choosing to tangibly love the ones who act like our enemies by providing support through the loving acceptance of personal autonomy, trusting that the One Who Made Us will work this stuff out, and that our prayers, love, and the sharing of the Gospel to all people (perhaps even especially toward the ones who are most different than us politically, religiously, morally, or otherwise) is what will make the most difference in the bringing of God’s Kingdom Come.

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” ~Jesus

My Wellness Matters to God

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that we do chores after we had watched our favorite Saturday morning cartoons.  We cleaned our bathroom and bedrooms from top to bottom, changed the sheets on our beds, folded and put away our laundry, dusted and vacuumed and did yard work. Only when we were finished were we allowed to play.

I carried this habit into adulthood.  And when I got married and had my first apartment, I kept an immaculate house.  Then I had kids.  Life’s priorities change when you have kids. The word “immaculate” fell out of favor and was exchanged with phrases like “lived in” and “it’s fine”.  Kids.  They’re great.  Really.  And I taught them how to clean just like my mother did.

For a time, my kids were a huge help.  They cleaned their own bathrooms and bedrooms.  They helped with the dishes and laundry.  Then one day they grew up and moved out and  I realized how many of the chores I used to do on a regular basis had fallen by the wayside or been absorbed into the “lived in” and the “it’s fine” category, with no kids left at home to even help out with the basics.

I also suffer from chronic health conditions and debilitating arthritis. Over the years I had learned to really depend on my kids and my husband to help me, and I’ve also settled for a lot less than I had when I was younger.

It made me sad.  I saw how my parent’s house deteriorated as they aged.  The kitchen sink was always clean, but dust and clutter multiplied quickly with no one able to keep it all in check. I don’t want that to happen to me.  

I took it to the Lord, and I laid my pride at His feet.  (Funny how I can lay everything down at His feet, but can’t seem to lay even the smallest burden down to ask a friend to help!)  His answer was simple: Your desire for a clean house matters to Me because you matter to Me. 

My wellness has value to God.  

Cleanliness for me became a symbol of wellness, and my pride had kept me from that wellness.  I blamed my fading cleanliness on kids growing up and my disability. Only when I took it to the Lord in humility and acknowledged my pride did I see the Lord’s heart for me.  I didn’t want to ask for help?  I didn’t want to pay for house cleaning?  Because of pride?  

Do I boast in myself or do I boast in Christ?  My wellness matters to God.  He has seen the desire of my heart.  He has heard my plea for help.  He showed me grace for my pride and my stubbornness.  And he’s blessed me with the finances to hire some help.

Since January of this year a crew from Totally Clean ICT has come regularly to clean my house.  They are a locally owned company, run by two Latina women.  I get to bless them with my business and they get to give me back my clean house.  That’s a win win in my book.  

Because wellness has value to God.  Thank you, Lord, for always providing for my needs.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Compressed Consolation Prize

In the shade, horse lips, slobbery tongue
Wet, insistent partnership
Hidden in pockets filled with treats
Crunchy kibble, bite size chunks–apple flavored.

Broken knees walk tilted steps for
Soft velvet muzzle kisses
Require persistent apple flavored treat
Refined little nuggets so nutrient rich.

Consolation prize, the real prize,
The prize fight where bloodied broken lips nuzzle
For treats but won’t let you close
Without nutritious apple snacks

Compressed into consolation prizes
Not worth fighting for
Broken compressed nothing until one taste
Sweet consolation prize.

No perfect knees
Gone adolescent exuberance compressed into
Bite size tasty treats
Full of insight, treasure trove of consolation prizes.

Compressed caesura, transcendent requiem
Clarity unaltered by self-righteous indignation,
Or sharp and critical loathing disguised as wit.
Sharp as cataclysmic disregard and invalidation.

Presumptive triumph compressed
Into juicy little broken bits
Of delicious apply flavored kibble
Not fit for human consumption.

Ever onward unstable legs!
Forward Ho! Broken bones and curious scars.
Preemptive strike in
Bright white light that shines in the darkness and cannot be overcome.

Courageous strength submits to Truth;
Submits to life and powerlessness.
Acceptance amidst fear and pain and more of the same.
Love breathed Life, presumed consolation prize.

Persistent partnership, with death defeated
And the darkness exposed for all to see.
No need to rehash every crunchy delicious apple flavored tidbit.
More than growth has been given to me

For I have seen the invisible,
Delicious apocalyptic revelation
Choreographed by the Creator of the Universe
So that the Darkness that battled to define me no longer has a say.

Immovable Rock, Source of abundant life.
His life for mine will never count as wasted consolation prize.

 

 

 

To Follow Jesus

The heart of every believer is to follow Jesus and seek His will for their lives. But often that journey is wrought with fear, doubt, and confusion as we listen and try to discern His voice amidst the countless distractions of our busy lives.

My friend Kendra recently posted on Facebook about her own reflections regarding her journey with Jesus and with her permission I am sharing it here:

“At dinner with friends a few weeks ago, someone asked the table: “What would be your ideal? What would represent a ‘dream come true’ for you in regards to your work & life?”

“One friend thought for a moment and responded, “I am kind of done thinking like that. I am learning that God knows my longings and hopes and I can rest in trusting each offering and invitation as they come.”

“This casual defiance of a question has sat with me for a month and has begun to work its way into my being in a shaping way. Over the last few years, I’ve cultivated a way of being which has more often invited me into a place of urgency and confusion than into a place wonder and trust.

“A veracious desire to figure things out, seemed to rob me of the joy of relishing in each step as the path unfolds before me. There is mystery to be uncovered in the life of following Jesus, to be sure, but the mystery becomes a task-master when it becomes a puzzle to solve instead of a wooing to be responded to.

“I had no idea how deeply this misunderstanding had fatigued me over time, and how profoundly I had missed the heart of God in the midst of it. As (my husband) Chase and I prepare to welcome a new little one into the world, and as we, the church, prepare for the season of Advent, I sense that Jesus is inviting us each into a season of rest.

“We can rest, knowing that we can trust Jesus with the things to come, allowing us to be fully present to this Holy moment. We can rest, knowing that our unfulfilled longings and aching questions are held by the kindest love that the world has ever known. We can rest, trusting that the heart of God is for us, preparing our path as we have the courage and faith to keep stepping forward.

“Carla Harding captured this sense of abiding rest in Jesus so well: “Today I rest in the blessing of meekness. I don’t have to fight to make my own way or shout to make my voice heard. Jesus, you go before me. You prepare a place for me. I rest knowing that the earth is my inheritance.”

A photo of Kendra preparing to enjoy some rock climbing.

Hold Me

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus likes a good nap as much as I do.  But nobody wants Jesus taking a nap in the middle of a storm.  Like, Dude, we know you’re God and all, but hello, there’s a storm and we’re probably all gonna die, don’t you think you ought to take a nap later?!  

I get it.  The disciples were scared.  Of course they were.  Because it looked like Jesus didn’t care about their needs, or their lives, or their troubles as much as he cared about his nap.  

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  In those times where you feel like God doesn’t care.  Like He’s too busy taking care of other more important things, or that he’s so far removed from you that He can’t even see the storms you’re facing, what with all the angels and clouds and harps and stuff being all distracting up in Heaven.

But that’s just not God.  

Jesus and I have been talking a lot about this lately.  Storms are such a common part of my life.  If it’s not one thing then it’s another.  Health.  Finances.  Kids.  Jobs.  War.  Famine.  Strife.  Why isn’t God doing something?!  It’s like He’s asleep on the job.

So, the other night, my husband and I were faced with one of those big scary storms. See, we always get a little stressed out when it’s forecasted to rain a lot.  Back in 2016 our basement flooded and it traumatized us a little bit.  We’ve taken steps to keep the basement from flooding, but we still get antsy when the forecast calls for a lot of rain.  

So I went to the Lord and I said, “Jesus.  Please don’t let our basement flood.”  

His response was beautiful.  He said, “Come and cuddle here with me in the boat.  Let’s have a nap together.”

I admit it wasn’t the answer I was looking for.  Not at all, honestly.  But this crazy nonsense peace fell over me.  I told my husband what He said and we literally decided to just go to bed and stop worrying about it.  I slept like a baby.  And in the morning everything was fine.  No flooded basement.

That’s who Jesus is. Getting us through our storms is what He does.

Jesus asked His disciples why they didn’t trust Him.  He’s God.  He doesn’t need to be awake to calm the storm.  He knows it’s raging.  He’s God.  And we are safe in His arms.  So safe.  But the disciples still marveled over Him.

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

So, that’s my question for you today.  Who is this Jesus? The one the winds and waves obey? Will you trust Him to lead you and protect you from the storms in your life? When he offers, will you go and cuddle into a good nap with Him the next time the storm clouds rumble and the waves rock you? 

Who is this Jesus? He is God. He is savior. He is yours to trust. Will you trust Him?

The Persistent Widow

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18:1-8 

I’ve often thought of the parable Jesus taught regarding the widow and the unjust judge.  For years the Lord told me that when I prayed for my husband to be saved that I was like the persistent widow, who refused to take no for an answer.  However, the Lord just now gave me a deeper perspective on that story, and I believe it is for all of us.  

I always assumed that the unjust judge was God in the story, but what if the unjust judge is the lost person and the unfortunate widow is us, and Christ is the ever present “go between”.  

If we consider the story from that perspective I believe we can see how our persistent prayer for the lost person prompts Jesus to act.  After all it is Christ who does the speaking to a man’s heart.  And the more time He spends speaking to that person, the more likely that person will eventually give in, which in turn brings the justice the widow is seeking.  And that justice, of course, is Christ, who carries justice against sin upon his own body for the widow and the unjust judge.  Wow!

I am absolutely blown away by the thought of this.  Our prayers are of paramount importance!  We must indeed be the persistent widow.  Pray pray pray!  Our persistence is powerful in the work of Christ to save the Lost.  We must never give up on seeking justice, even from the unjust judge.  He needs justice so desperately, and only Christ can truly give it.

Our prayers have power, and so do our words.  We must spend our time learning and growing in Christ, through prayer and petition, knowing that our prayers are being answered even if you never see the evidence of it.

I know first hand how hard that is.  But God is so gracious to give us the faith we need to trust Him in these things.  Our secret prayers.  Our audacious requests for the salvation of many, will never go unread or unheard by God.  Instead, our words, spoken in private to Our Daddy, bring about a gathering of angel armies to stand against the forces of evil that keep the Lost from hearing the truth.  We have that power within us by the Spirit of the Living God.  

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Desperately Seeking Jesus

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the craziest years in our lifetime!  Political polarization.  Racial injustice.  Riots.  Murders.  Masks.  Earthquakes.  Fires.  Flooding.  Volcanic eruptions. Zoom meetings.  

In times like this, we are all looking to God for answers.  But how do we hear Him?  What do we even ask him?  And what is His response?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sounds about right.

We desperately seek Him.  We want Him.  We know we need Him.  We cry out to him and yet the air is dry and thick around us.  It doesn’t feel like it’s even possible to hear from God in this mess.

But here’s what David did in Psalm 63:

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:2-4

If I can’t feel God now, I will look for Him where I have seen Him.  I will remind myself of who He is.  I will remember that His Love supersedes all fear, all trials, all division.  I will remember and I will give myself to Him again.  Fresh with praise, I will seek the Lord and the promise of His unfailing love.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

And my praise turns to meditation.  It turns to the recollections of faithfulness that have been the hallmark of my relationship with Christ.  At night my mind stops wondering about the world and rests instead in the peace of God’s unending faithfulness.  

It’s so hard to feel God when we are in the midst of worldly trials.  Pain and conflict or hard to surrender to God because our flesh isn’t going to stop hurting just because we trust God’s faithfulness.  

Yet, in the agony, in the tumult of the storm, God is still with us.  

As David began to reflect on who God was instead of what God could give him, he began to feel a praise-worthy peace in his soul.  God had proven himself faithful to David.  Always faithful.  David could trust that even though his situation was dire and his weary, desperate heart was parched with raw emotion and fear, God would remain ever faithful.

We can trust that, too.  Even with the world falling down around us.

The trials will not stop in this lifetime.  Not until Jesus returns.  So we cling to Him.  We hold onto His promises.  We remember His faithfulness in our own lives.  We look back on our journey and see His provision and salvation.  We see Him.  And we know that in our current struggles he will remain faithful, just as he always has. 

The riots.  The politics.  The fear.  The desolations of this world.  They don’t matter anymore to the one who finds his peace in the shelter of the Almighty.  God’s wings are broad enough to cover all who would seek refuge there.  

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Psalm 63:9-11

And so we can rejoice.  God will have his way.  He is speaking.  He is acting.  He is doing all that He has always done.  He is faithful and His steadfast love is better than life.  So reach out your hands to the ones who are drowning, to the ones who are desperately crying out for salvation, and bring them to the Savior.  

Because at the end of the day, most of our questions to God can be paired down to this simple request: “Will you save me?”

And God’s answer is always, “Yes.”

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

The God of Jacob

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:7

I have put all my trust in the God of Jacob.  But why the God of Jacob?  Why not “The God of Israel”.  That’s the question I can’t stop contemplating.  When you stop and think about it, something very specific is being magnified in that verse.  It’s the God of Jacob who is my fortress.

Jacob came out of the womb holding his twin brother’s heel.  His mother named him Jacob because the name meant to grab the heel of another person, or literally to supplant or trick someone out of something.  And Jacob’s name characterized him from the beginning.

Let’s look at him for a moment.  What is Jacob known for?  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He tricked his father-in-law out of his livestock. He was lied to and treated unfairly.  He was terrified and hid from his brother for years out of fear of retribution.  And then he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing.  

So, to recap: Jacob was a liar, a trickster, a scaredy cat, and a control freak who thought it was perfectly fine to make demands of God, steal from his family, and hide and run away from his enemies.

And it’s the God of Jacob that is our fortress.

Is it sinking in yet?  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  The God of the trickster, liar, coward, narcissist, control freak is our fortress.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with God about how unworthy I am.  I get hard on myself.  I’m overly critical.  I’m a perfectionist that fails at perfection on a daily–no, hourly–basis.  To chase a rabbit for a minute, sometimes I think that the only reason God loves me is because of Jesus.  Seems like a fair statement.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So before Jesus I wasn’t good enough for God.  Right?  Not quite.  

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

So, he died for us while we were his enemies, while we were sinners.  Before He died for us He loved us.  And we know that because of Jacob.  (And a million other people in the Old Testament who were equally awful.)  We know that God loves us before and after our salvation.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress because God made a promise to Abraham and God doesn’t break His promises.  

 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17:1-8

The next time you think God isn’t with you because of what you’ve done, I want you to remember this one simple fact:  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

And who are we?  We are made by God with an offer to accept the rights of God’s promise to Abraham.  God made a way for us (and we know that way to be Jesus) and in that we have salvation from our enemies, even if your enemy is yourself.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress. It’s liberating, isn’t it? 

Be Still

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalms 1:2

I’ve had a season of introspection.  I think a lot of us have.  Isolation in uncertain times does that to a person, I guess.  My thoughts have kept me from some things and for a time I beat myself up over it, but as I talked to others and listened to their struggles I discovered that I wasn’t alone in that either.  

Being alone isn’t as lonely as it seems, I suppose.

I could have gotten lost in my work.  I could have buried myself in a never ending pile of distractifying, unfulfilling, money making.  But I didn’t.  And I kind of hated myself for it.  Being unproductive with no excuse is definitely guilt inducing.

I could have drowned my fear and anxiety in the solace of sweets and baking and endless bottomless glasses of wine.  Let’s be honest, I did that a little bit, and then I felt a guilty about that, too.

I could have plugged my ears and stomped my feet and sang songs really, really loud until everything went back to normal.  Yes, I did that, too, and felt the sorrow of denial in the days that followed.

I started thinking about all the things I had been doing to try and be normal, to try and carry on, to try and adapt and take advantage of my time in lock down.  None of it mattered.  Like the false bravado of a little yapping dog, it had no real power to protect me, or soothe me, or heal me.  

Even the things I thought I could do for God seemed to fall short in my mind.  I wasn’t writing.  I wasn’t reading the Bible enough.  I judged my prayers as selfish and unsatisfying.  I beat myself up for not helping other people better navigate this crazy pandemic.

But I just couldn’t muster up enough of anything to do much.  I just sat there.  In the stillness.  In the nothing.  I didn’t want the fear, the shame, or the guilt.  I didn’t want to be busy.  I just wanted it all to be over! 

I don’t like pandemics, and injustice, and death, and unemployment.  I don’t like any of it. It’s not the Kingdom of God and I want the Kingdom of God more than I want anything, and all I can manage to do is say, “I can’t do anything about this, God!”

But there is value in the stillness.  God is unveiling it bit by bit.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  The treasure comes in surrender.

Beautiful, honest, end of myself surrender.

My meditations have become Jesus focused.  I started reciting Psalm 23 in my head over and over again every night when I went to sleep.  It’s led to better sleep.  It’s led to deeper trust.  Each time I recite it, I pray the words to the Lord.  I meditate on the truth of his love and steadfastness.  

I’m memorizing more scripture.  I just want it all in my head.  I want to breathe it in and live by it.  I know the Word.  I’ve been studying the Bible for years.  But I want more than that.  In my surrender I want to revel in the knowledge that Jesus is my everything.  

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The Word made flesh became the flesh made words, and in those words I have begun to meditate day and night.  

I need my Jesus and I found Him palpably again in the flesh of His Word.  I’m losing my desire to judge my inaction or the inaction or injustice of others.  I just soak Him up in myself.  I let Him be enough.  I let Him be everything.  His Glory, His Fullness, His Might is coming alive in me in a deepness I have yet to fully know.  

It’s hard to believe that such scary times could bring such a deep closeness with the Lord, especially since I honestly kept thinking about how miserably ineffective I had been in regard to my Christian walk.  I was so caught up in judging my inaction and insecurity, and judging my sporadic moments of faith and action as not near enough to prove my love to my Savior.  And yet His answer all along has been, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m working on memorizing Psalm 46 right now.  I’d gotten the first part down a couple years ago and then gave up because, well, memorizing is hard.  I’m back at it now, though, with renewed trust that the meditations of my heart are now drawing me closer and closer to the Lord of Hosts.  He truly is my fortress and my strength.  I don’t need to do anything else.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:10-11