Is God Our Refuge?

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When my family moved in 2000 for my husband’s dream job, we left behind best friends and a home we loved. This was not a move I wanted and I made life very difficult for my husband and children. In the midst of believing that life was unfair, I took refuge in anger and bitterness. Maybe that sounds odd. We often think of refuge as a place of tranquility, peace, beauty, and protection. A safe place for wild animals or birds. A place to ride out a storm.

But isn’t it possible that sometimes we take refuge – seek shelter – in things or people who we think help us feel protected and safe but actually don’t? { Read More …}

I am honored to be guest posting on my friend Katy Kaufman’s blog. She has a wonderful series going on called “Door Post” verses and invited me to be a part of it, writing on God is our refuge. Is he really?

Key scriptures assure that God wants to be, and will be, our refuge.

I hope you’ll join us over at Lighthouse Bible Studies for the whole conversation.

Blessings,

Denise

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Stones To Stand On

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For the past several years I have witnessed, with some amusement (I admit) and puzzlement, the phenomenon of choosing a word for the year.

A word of the year for what? What purpose? Other than, in my mind, another thing to fail at doing or forget to remember. I didn’t understand how just one word could be meaningful for an entire year. And do you select that word or does it choose you? I obviously and completely missed the point.

Until this year. I think I get it. Maybe.   { Read More Here:  4 Blessings of Selecting a Word for Your Year ~ womensministry.net}

The Lord plunked a word down in my spirit during this past Christmas season and it won’t let go. In this case, I think this word has chosen me. And so, for the first time, 2017 will be a year with a word.

Ponder

In a sea of words like strength, fearless, courage, peace – ponder chooses me. Such an unusual word.

If this is to be a word that weaves itself into the fabric of my life, I need to understand it, maybe even grasp its importance, and hopefully be prepared for how I might encounter it. I don’t want to miss this.

I spent an afternoon looking up all the places where the word ponder is used and I find myself in a very distinguished company of ponderers.

David pondered God’s love, his statues, and declared that all mankind would ponder the mighty acts and works of God.

Daniel pondered the revelations of God.

Isaiah pondered the fate of Israel.

Nehemiah pondered the outcry of the poor.

Solomon pondered the proverbs.

In all of these instances, pondering means to understand; to have wisdom; to be discerning; to consider carefully within oneself; consider with full attention.

All of these leaders of the faith engaged in a practice of seeking a deeper level of understanding and of growing in wisdom. This is certainly important. Paul prays for wisdom and discernment over the church at Ephesus and it is a prayer I make often, even daily.

I cannot shake the impression that there is more to this word, ponder, that I am to experience.ponder

The last time the word ponder is used in the Bible is in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

This is why this word landed on me at Christmas time. Mary, the mother of Jesus, pondered.

Here, pondered means: to exert mental effort in storing information so as to have continual access and use of it—‘to cause oneself to be fully aware of, to keep in mind, to remember.’ [1]

What did Mary ponder? Why is this important for us to know? Why is this a word that I need to pay attention to?

Luke tells us that Mary took things to heart three times:

~ when the shepherds came at the birth of Jesus.

~ at the prophecies of Simeon and Anna.

~ when Mary and Joseph found 12-year-old Jesus sitting with the teachers at the temple.

She did not simply take note and then store these events in her memory. She constantly recalled them, replayed them, until they became part of who she was. They were stones upon which she stood in her faith.

In far too short a time, Mary is at the foot of the cross her son Jesus is hanging on. The son the shepherds came to see, the son Simeon and Anna both spoke prophecies over, the son who declared he knew who his Father was.

Mary, in the most difficult time of her life, in the midst of the doubt and crushing hurt, recalls all that she had pondered over the years:

You will give birth to a son

You are to give him the name Jesus,

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.

Today a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord

For my eyes have seen your salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, glory to your people Israel

This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel

to be a sign that will be spoken against,

the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul too.

Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?

The practice of pondering saw Mary through the darkest of days.

I don’t know what 2017 holds. I certainly pray it does not hold a tragedy. But I know, with God impressing upon me to ponder, that he doesn’t want me to miss his activity, his promises, and his assurances. I must pay better attention this year.

Yes, I need to grow in wisdom and discernment. Yes, I need to consider things carefully. Most importantly, I need to exert the mental exercise to remember and recall how God has worked and spoken into my circumstances. The time will come when those memories will be stones upon which I need to stand.

Ponder ~ build stones of faith upon which to stand. Click To Tweet

I don’t know what that might be. But in the practice of pondering, I will be ready.

Do you have a word for the year? If you do, please comment below and let me know what it is and why. And if not – feel free to adopt ponder along with me!

May your 2017 be full of the wonderfulness of God.

Love and blessings,

Denise

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies.
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Is Christmas Over?

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The nativity scene on my bookcase was there the whole time. I simply missed it.

Plans were made and my hopes were high for our family time at Christmas. As all of my carefully laid plans began to unravel, disappointment set in. Where I’d hoped for laughter and joy, there was silence. As hard as I tried, I could not hold back the tears of heartache throughout the day. Oh, I tossed up prayers asking God to help me hold them back and to give me strength to rise above the circumstances. But I became so focused on what was wrong that I missed the message of the manger that was right in front of me.

Several years ago the Lord impressed upon me that Mary laid Jesus in a manger, and mangers are messy places. Jesus doesn’t ask us, or expect us, to clean up first. He comes into our messy, tear-filled, hurting, chaotic lives. The nativity scene on my bookshelf reminds me of this.

This Christmas, I had a mess. One I had created by trying to create a perfect, idyllic, memory-filled day. I message-of-the-mangerplaced far too much importance and hope in plans that depended on things and people outside of my sphere of control. And when those plans did not materialize, a mess set up residence in my heart.

A mess that overwhelmed my thoughts and my feelings. One I needed to stop and bow down in before the Lord. A mess I needed to extend out with open hands to give to my Savior.

The manger stood silently looking over the circumstances, the silence, the disappointment and the tears. The manger took it all in and waited for me to turn my eyes upon it and invite Jesus into my messy, hard place. But I did not do that. I did not place my hope in Jesus that day. I did not come to him for my peace.

We would have all experienced the miracle of Christmas just a little more if I had lived into the message I know so well and still forgot. The message of the manger.

Christmas, as a holiday, is technically over. And a Christmas themed post is not expected as we look toward the promise of a new year and new beginnings. The temptation is to move on, be glad Christmas is over. I admit I had those same thoughts. I was dangerously close to staying defeated, hopeless, and hurting until my gaze rested on that nativity scene. I was struck by the call to remember that the promise of a new year is rooted in the message of the manger.

The message of the manger is that Jesus comes into our messy every time. Christmas never ends. Click To Tweet

So maybe this is exactly what we need. A reminder that Christmas never ends. The coming year will have its fair share of hard situations. Will we let these hard situations defeat us? Will we stake our hope in our plans or in Jesus? Will we, in the midst of a messy and difficult place, remember to turn the eyes of our heart to focus on the manager and remember its message? Will we let it be our promise for new beginnings?

We don’t ever want to be glad that Christmas is over. It is never “over.” Not if we are living into the promise of tomorrow through the message of the manger.

Christmas blessings,

Denise

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