Monday, July 15, 2013

My Solid Rock

My friend Jan has a stone named Ebenezer. She picked up the rock during a hard trial as a reminder that God is her help. You can read about it on her blog Jewels of Encouragement.

Jan challenges her readers to get their own Ebenezers. She suggests we each find a rock and put it in a place where we’ll run across it occasionally to remind us that God is our help. I might do that, but I already have an Ebenezer. Mine’s not a physical stone; it’s an emotional one.

When I go through trials, I feel like I’m swimming in rough waters. I can swim, but fighting the storm wears me out. I get tired and need help to keep from sinking. That’s when I put my feet down and feel the Rock beneath me. When I stand on the Rock, the waters don’t necessarily calm down, but I’m on a solid surface that keeps me from being swept away.

I first pictured this Rock under my feet when Neal was diagnosed with leukemia and the doctors offered no hope. Through the days of waiting in the hospital while he was in a coma, I was overwhelmed, but I frequently put my feet down to stand on the Rock. Afterward, some people told me I was so strong because I survived the trial with my faith intact. 

I wasn’t strong, the Rock was.

I thank God that I haven’t experienced any more trials that overwhelming. But there have still been many times when I’ve needed to put my feet down and stand on the Rock.

It’s always there.
He’s always there.
Jesus is always there.

Like Jan, I love a hymn that reminds me of this precious truth.

The Solid Rock (by Edward Mote)

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil. 

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

My Ebenezer is named Jesus and He is indeed my help.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Praying the Scripture

My mother taught me to say my prayers when I was just old enough to talk. I learned to say:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray Thee Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray Thee Lord my soul to take.

When I was a little older the big kids taught me this one (which we never used in the presence of adults):

Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat.

I also learned to pray by repeating the words my mother said at bedtime, words which were usually the same basic, “Thank you for the day and for my blessings” prayers. And of course I learned the Lord’s Prayer. So my early prayers were repetitions of other people's words. As I grew older, learning to “make up” prayers using my own words was a challenge, but by the time I was a teenager, I was having long conversations with God. I used to go for walks and tell Him all about my life – out loud.

Now, in some ways, I've returned to repeating other's prayers. As I read the prayers that people in the scriptures prayed, I wonder why I bother using my own words. They say it so much better.

Miriam’s song of deliverance: Exodus 15:1-18
     The Lord is my strength and my song;
         he has given me victory.

David’s prayer of confession: Psalm 51
      Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
         I have done what is evil in your sight.

 David’s prayer of praise: I Chronicles 29:10-13
     Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.

Of course there are so many more. I could spend days praying the Psalms. And what about the non-stop praises in Revelation? But I am particularly drawn to prayers for others. When God puts people on my heart, I am finding that He also leads me to the right prayer for them. I can and do ask God to bless, comfort and heal, and to give them peace and patience, as needed. But the scripture is so much deeper.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Colossians 1:9-14

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:9-11

Now, when I run across a prayer in the scripture, I stop and pray it. It’s such a blessing to be given the words by the Author and Recipient of my prayers.

**All the scriptures are from the NLT.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Beggar, A Miracle, and Gold Nuggets

This story was inspired by the first Marketplace VBS I was involved with. My daughter, Eryn, who produced this year's Marketplace, thoughtfully pointed out that the first one was 20 years ago.

A Beggar, a Miracle, and Gold Nuggets

The beggar put down the stick he used for a crutch and walked through the marketplace to the bucket of gold nuggets.  He untied the burlap pouch from his rope belt and emptied it into the full bucket.  The children had been very generous tonight.  He wondered how he would fare tomorrow after Peter and John healed him.  Turning to a table behind him, he started folding the chairs that lined it.  Nearby, merchants packed up supplies to take into the church as excited children ran to parents who waited by their cars.  Caleb smiled, remembering how much he had loved Vacation Bible School as a child.  He couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

The next night, after eating a bowl of ramen, he rode his bicycle to the church, grateful that it wasn’t raining.  Since he had been laid off, he had been riding as much as he could, to avoid using gas.  Calling “Hello” to the merchants setting up under the big tent, he went inside to don his rags and find his crutch.  He carefully rubbed dirt on his face and arms and smiled at the effect in the mirror.  He was a pretty good beggar; the nightly gifts of gold nuggets proved that.  When the kids started arriving he limped out to the marketplace and took up his favorite post near the baker’s stall.  Not all the kids were inclined to share one of their three nuggets with the beggar, but he would have more than enough for honey cakes and hamantashen to supplement his meager supper.  He spotted a group of little girls watching him from a distance and he limped over to them, his hand out, pleading pathetically for alms.  They giggled and reached into their pouches while a ten year old boy yelled, “Get a job.”

While he settled back down on his small patch of grass, a commotion started under the tent.  Two men dressed in striped robes walked past the merchant tables, inviting the children to come with them to the temple to pray.

“Look, it’s Peter and John.” 

The children had seen them in the marketplace before and eagerly followed them.  Last night Peter had been thrown in prison and an angel had opened the doors and led him out.  Now they walked toward the beggar and he reached out his hand, getting ready for his big moment.

“Alms, alms for the poor,” he whined.

They stopped and he looked up at them hopefully. But instead of reaching for a money pouch, Peter touched the beggar’s hand.

“We don’t have any silver or gold,” he said.  “But we’ll give you what we do have.  In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.”

He grasped both of the beggar’s hands so that he had to drop his crutch, and pulled him to his feet.  Then Peter let go.  He stood still for a moment, then jumped in the air and laughed. 

“I’m cured,” he shouted, running through the marketplace.  “Look, I’m cured.”  He ran back to the disciples and thanked them, still laughing.

“It was Jesus who healed you.  Be sure to follow him from now on,” John warned. 

After that he couldn’t beg anymore, so he apprenticed himself to the sandal maker.  He told the children that Jesus had healed him.  His pouch was no longer full, but he had a respectable robe to wear instead of rags.

The last night, during closing exercises, an offering was taken for the church’s food pantry.  Caleb sat in the back row watching the children put coins and bills, not gold painted rocks, into the offering plate.  He took out his wallet and looked at the single twenty dollar bill in it.  He had managed to keep it there in spite of his empty gas tank, but his unemployment check wasn’t due until Monday.  Slowly he took it out and placed it on top of the children’s offering, then shoved the empty wallet back in his pocket.  Maybe someone else needed it more than he did.  After all, since Jesus had healed this beggar, he had to believe he’d take care of his finances.