Finding Refuge in the Deluge


“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory[a] will be a canopy.  It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”  Isaiah 4:5-6 (NIV)

The other morning, I took my daughter out into our backyard after pleas of “House? Please, house?” I had a plan, too. I was going to plant my chair underneath our mulberry tree and, from there, I would have a good view of her whether she was playing in her playhouse or climbing up the ladder to go down her slide. While I sat in this shady refuge, I was going to continue reading and journaling and had plans to write a short devotional on the refuge of peaceful spaces. It was going to be a lovely time outside.

Unfortunately, the insects had other ideas. It has been hot and muggy and raining off and on the past few days, and the dew was still on the grass when we went out so the bugs were out in force.  My backyard, which is usually a beautifully cool refuge in the morning hours, had turned into a torture zone for me. I am notorious for being bitten by insects. So much so that there are times that I just about flat-out refuse to leave the house. If there are bugs about, I will get bitten, buzzed, and, really, just all-out bugged.

How like life, isn’t it? We sit down and determine that this will be our sacred time, our time with God, when we absorb His Word and listen for that still, sweet voice. This will be our time to center ourselves in the midst of everything, to find silence and calm and peace. And then the thoughts creep in. Or, rather, they pop in, buzzing about our mind while we are trying to be still. Grocery lists, dinner ingredients, errands that need to be run, appointments needing to be kept. They buzz and bite at our concentration, threatening to draw our minds away from God, away from quiet.

Sometimes these thoughts are like annoying insects, interrupting us. Other times, it can be our emotions that interrupt, suddenly washing over us like a sudden storm. I can personally attest to this. Thoughts lead to emotions and those emotions lead to more thoughts and, before I know it, I am lost in the storm. I have no idea what I was thinking or praying about in the first place, or even what I was reading or journaling. Something that I tend to forget, however, is that, even in that deluge, God can still be my refuge. Our refuge. We can still call out to Him, call out His name, and He will meet us in that place. That place of trying and failing, that place of frustration or overwhelm. He will meet us there.

As it says in our key verse, “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” The “it” refers to the presence of God. It is there to cut through it all and draw us back. Back to a place of quiet, a place of reflection, a place where we meet God, where He can speak to us, and where we can hear Him with our whole heart.

So, while my backyard might not have been the shelter and refuge I had hoped for of a morning, it served as a great reminder of the God Who is, no matter what.

Refuge

The Quiet Christian


I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that he came to earth, lived a life as a human being, spoke unapologetically of God, loved others, gave strength and help and forgiveness where it was most needed, and then gave his life, submitting to a gruesome death as a man whose innocence even the highest authority of the day did not and could not dispute.  I also believe that Jesus did not stay dead but rose up three days after his burial. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to love others, to do good to them, and be as much of a help and a blessing as I can. I do not believe that it is my job to judge others, to tear them down, or destroy their hearts. That flies in the face everything that Christ stands for, in my mind and my heart.

What I realized this weekend is that I am a quiet Christian. As I was in worship service with others, I found myself focusing on the woman who was playing the piano and leading the singing. She was amazingly talented – beautiful voice, wonderful playing, and a passionate love for what she was doing. There was something in her personality that shone through that made me shrink back. In that instant, coupled with other thoughts I have had this weekend, I realized that I am a “quiet” Christian. I do not mean that I am embarrassed by or ashamed of my beliefs. What I mean is that I will rarely be found up front. When I was younger, in college, I sang on the worship team at church, as well as led the drama team. But that is not my forte anymore, at least I do not feel so. The older I get, the less I like to be in the “spotlight” of ministry. I like the behind-the-scenes, the quiet aspects and form of ministry. I’d rather be tidying the nursery, writing the script for the Christmas pageant, or sending cards and notes than being up front leading the congregation. That is where my grace lies

I am an introvert. I am a quiet person. I thrive in the things I can do that no one else but maybe one other person sees. In college, my favorite ministry was Secret Encouragers. We would encourage our student leaders in Student Christian Fellowship – our Servant Family – in secret – with cards, notes, email, and gifts. And we would help each other do so. I loved sneaking around leaving gifts and sending notes that no one would ever know were from me. I ran around campus in the early hours of the morning – fog still rolling off the flagstones – leaving cookies that I had just baked at the doors of professors, ministers, and counselors who deserved my thanks and some encouragement as finals week was about to commence. And I carried a warm heart with me all the day long afterward.

Maybe telling you this is counter-intuitive for a “quiet” person, but this blog is about honestly telling about my life. I enjoy the quiet things of ministry, which, sometimes, can take as much courage and vulnerability as getting up front and leading publicly. And I remember that my faith is one based on love and that any time I do one of these “little” things, even if God is never mentioned, it is a ministry of love. I am here to do good to and for others, to give hearts a boost, and souls some encouragement and soothing if I can. I never know if or when something I may write or text or say may connect with someone and grasp them out of a downward spiral. I cannot tell you how many times a note or card out of the blue has lifted my heart and stopped a downward path cold, nor can I ever say thank you enough for that little bit of love that was sent my way.

So while I may step out into the light every now and again, I know where my work of faith, my grace, my gift lies. It’s in the little things, the quiet things, the things that I may never know just how much they mean but that I want to do anyway just because I believe in it.

October 31, 2010 – The Proverbs 31 Woman


Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; – Proverbs 31:30a

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. – Proverbs 31:27

She is clothed in strength and dignity; – Proverbs 31:25a

 

When I was in high school, our teacher would take us through Proverbs for devotion time every few months. Since there were 31 chapters, it was perfect to look at one chapter each day. I really enjoyed it because no one would pull life lessons and applicable ideas from the Bible like Mrs. Profitt could. It became true and real and a source of inspiration to me for the first time, really, in her class.

In any case, this chapter is still one of the blueprints that I wish to follow for being a good woman and wife. These verses really struck me today but especially the first one I listed.

I know that I have grown, at best, moderately attractive over the past few years. A late bloomer, some would say. Not trying to be modest, just honest here. I do not want to forget, however, that outer beauty does not last forever, nor will always seem charming, witty, or cute to those I meet and speak to. I will not deny, though, that it feels good and gratifying to be thought of as beautiful, attractive, or desirable by Ben and others. It’s something that I never really felt growing up and to feel it now is, still, a bit surreal. But, more important than that, I need to be a woman who lives what she says she believes, works hard, loves her spouse (and children whenever they come along), treats others with respect and love, and cultivates true relationships with people.

I do think, however, that I have grown lonely-lazy lately. I miss the facet of college that involved having quite a few friends fairly close at hand. I do not have many close friends nearby and I do get lonely at times. Often, I react to loneliness by withdrawing into myself and letting my introverted side have sway. I know that this is, often, not the right response and I need to work on it. I need to cultivate true friendships and relationships with others but sometimes the work and risk it requires scares me. I’ve been burned by stretching out my hand once already this year, and I’m a little gun-shy now, I think. I am trying to forgive and move on, though it’s taking time. I know how important friendships are, true friendships without the ceiling of mere hobbies and similar interests. Friendships and relationships where you learn about each other and are interested and invested in each other’s lives. I have several friends like that and am developing a few more, I hope. Such relationships are precious to me, and so I need to work on them.

I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I want to be “clothed in strength and dignity”. I want to do what’s best for my family, for my husband, for our lives together. I want to be strong for the days ahead, take care of our home, work together to care for our lives, and work hard to make it what we want. I want to always have a dignity that makes Ben (and whomever I am with) proud to be with me, to be seen with me. To carry myself like the woman I want to be. As I tell my students, if you want to be treated like an adult, you have to act like it. I need to act like the woman I want to be, I know that.

There is still so much for me to become. I cannot afford to rest on my laurels now and sometimes I just need that reminder. I am not a finished product yet; there are parts of me that still need refinishing as other parts continue to develop. I would ask you to be patient with, but please don’t give up on me yet. I may be 27 but I am still growing up.