One of my favorite Christmas decorations is an altar. You probably have one, too, although you might call it a nativity set.
Tragedy. An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress.
This summer, I received the shocking news that my good friend’s husband had passed away from a sudden heart attack. Physically fit and healthy-looking on the outside did not reveal any health concerns nor any imaginable heart problems. A young wife suddenly a widow and two beautiful girls fatherless. What do you do?
...curled up on the uncomfortable couch in our room, I prayed something like, “God help me; I’m such an idiot!” Seriously. Not only did I have an excruciating sunburn, but I also realized that I didn’t build sandcastles with my girls for one second because I was focused on getting a week’s worth of tan in that one glorious day.
The Creator kneels in the fertile soil of the new land, the dense loam clinging to His bare knees. He lifts a heaping handful of the rich earth to His face and inhales its moist, dark fragrance. He places it on the ground, making a small, seemingly insignificant mound in that broad, bare plain. He grabs another handful and adds it to the first, then another and another. Eventually, He begins to pack and smooth the rough pile.
David and Goliath.
Moses and the Red Sea.
Joshua and Jericho.
The Bible contains some of the greatest stories ever told. Even non-Christians know these stories and have been impressed by the drama and characters. It’s easy to think of the people in the stories as heroic, larger than life -- even super-human. Their stories can become fairytales without recognizing how human each person in the Bible actually was.
We are told that the great prophet Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17), but do we really believe that? Wasn’t there just something special about him that allowed him to do all the great and astonishing things he did? Something that we don’t have?
It was springtime and the women from our church in Connecticut were heading out to our annual retreat by the sea. The speaker, a dear friend of mine, wanted to teach the women how to listen to God’s voice by waiting before Him in silence. This would be new territory for many of the women, including me. Oh sure, I had heard the voice of God before, but it usually came as an interjection in the midst of my incessant self-talk. External silence was easy enough. Internal silence? Nearly impossible.
When my children were young, and I was more than a little bit overwhelmed with being their mom, people used to say to me, “Enjoy it! It will be over before you know it.” On my worst days, the thought in the back of my head was, “Yeah? It can’t be over soon enough!” Of course I didn’t mean that, but in those early stages of motherhood I was often so exhausted and full of self-doubt that I had trouble accessing “enjoyment” in the moment. I got better at it and eventually found being a mom one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my life.
Now the “home phase” of parenting is over...
God’s plan seemed clear and simple: if Abraham left everyone and everything he knew and went where God directed, then He would bless him with a “nation” of descendants (Gen. 12:1-2 NIV). Without much delay, Abraham quickly went “as the Lord told him” (v. 4). Perhaps too quickly. For with just as little consideration,“…Lot went with him” (v. 4).
Psalm 91 is a favorite for many of us. In the second portion, the psalmist talks about making the Most High our dwelling place. If we do so, he promises us protection, at the hands of angels, from disaster and from those malevolent forces (here described as a lion and a cobra) that come against us. But how do we make God our dwelling place? In what sense will this make us "disaster-proof"? How will the angels lift us up? And what does the psalmist actually mean when he says we will trample on both the lion and the cobra? These questions intrigued me as I meditated on the passage recently ...