The view at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Mountains are big, beautiful rocks that don’t really do much.

It’s easy to look up when we’re in trouble. Something about difficult times makes just about everyone eager to talk to God, to tell Him what’s bothering us, to explain how we need His help. And that’s great. That’s what He wants us to do.

But I think some times we forget that God isn’t just waiting to get us out of trouble; He’s there to keep us from getting into trouble in the first place.

The view at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

The view at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s passage is Psalm 121.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

This is brief today, but I don’t know how to say it better than Scripture does. And Psalm 121 is so clear, so concise. There’s not much that needs to be expanded on.

You can look up into the mountains for your help all day long, but it isn’t the mountains or the act of looking up that’s going to save you. God is the One who rescues us from danger, but He doesn’t just rescue us. If we follow Him, He’ll keep us safe no matter where we are.

He never gets tired. He never goes to sleep. He never stops keeping us safe.

Even when it seems like the world is full of danger (it is), as long as we keep looking to God as our help, we can’t fail.

So if you’re feeling vulnerable today, stop looking up at the mountains. Yes, they’re beautiful, and yes they’re a reminder of how strong God is. But if you need to know that everything is going to be okay, remember what God says in the Bible about how He protects us.

That’s where you’re going to find your help. That’s where you’ll find encouragement. Mountains are beautiful, but when you get right down to it, they’re just big rocks. And big rocks don’t really do much.

Our help comes from God, who made the mountains. And He’s standing beside you waiting to help you through your day.

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Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

God will use someone, but it doesn’t have to be you.

Selfless people are heroes. And I find it ironic that the most selfless people I know aren’t wealthy or famous or powerful. Some of them are, but most of them are normal, average people with limited resources. But limited resources don’t stop them from being willing to give everything they have to help someone else.

I was thinking about being selfless this morning, and the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath came to my mind. It’s a relatively long passage, but it’s a good read.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

This poor widow really had nothing. She had herself, she had her son, and she had enough food left for one meal before they starved to death. Put yourself in her shoes. What would you have done if some crazy, wild-eyed preacher walked out of the wilderness into your home and asked that you feed him before you eat your last meal.

I’d like to think my reaction would be as mild as the woman’s, but I don’t think it would be. If I were in her shoes, I think I might have told him to buzz off and let us starve to death in peace. But that’s not what the widow in this story did.

I’ve often wondered why the woman didn’t hesitate. From what I know of Elijah, he wouldn’t have looked clean-cut and appropriate. Actually, when he came to Zarephath, he had just come from living in the wilderness and being fed by ravens. This was at a time of drought and famine in Israel, due to the evil King Ahab. Everyone was starving. And I’m not sure, but I don’t think that the woman would have heard of Elijah. This was before the events on Mt. Caramel.

But something convinced her to listen to him. Maybe she believed him. Maybe she felt like she didn’t have a choice. Maybe she thought it didn’t matter. Personally, I like to think that she was selfless. Why else would God have chosen her to be the one to feed Elijah? Because that’s what happened. God used this poor widow to provide for His prophet, and as a result, the widow and her son had plenty to eat too.

What would have happened if she had refused to do as Elijah asked? Well, she and her son would have starved. And God would have used someone else to provide for Elijah.

And I guess that’s the point I’m making this morning. We all have limited resources (until we start drawing on what God has made available to us), and we all face a choice about what to do with those resources. And it never fails that the less someone has, the more they are willing to share and vice versa. Granted, I know some very wealthy people who are very generous with their finances, but they seem to be the exceptions.

When it comes right down to it, if you are a follower of Christ, you have a calling to help others, not necessarily wild-eyed preacher types but maybe it’s your next door neighbor. Maybe it’s your friend at school. Maybe it’s a coworker who needs a ride to the airport. And it doesn’t have to be a financial need either. Maybe it’s time someone is asking for. Or clothes. Or shelter. Or just a listening ear.

Someone in your life needs something from you. God has put that person in your life for a reason, and you have a choice to help them in spite of the cost to you personally or to ignore them and put yourself first. You can do either. That choice is up to you. But before you make that choice remember the story of this poor widow in Zarephath. She had a choice too, eat her last meal or share it with a crazy preacher who claimed God would provide for them both.

God didn’t have to use her. He could have used anyone. But in taking care of Elijah, God wanted to bless someone else too. And that’s what happens when you use your resources to help someone else. Not only do you help them, but God helps you at the same time.

You can’t out-give God. You can’t give Him so much that He can’t pay you back. Don’t believe me? Try it. This widow did, and she realized the benefit of serving God far outweighs the instant gratification of serving herself.

God will use someone. It doesn’t have to be you. But you’ll be much better off if it is.

Red rocks at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Trusting God enough to accept His help

Do you ever get to that point in life where you just feel stuck? You’ve waited and waited for God to give you permission to move on to something else, and He isn’t saying anything. Or you feel trapped on a ledge that’s too steep to climb down and too treacherous to climb up?

Red rocks at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Red rocks at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Isaiah 33:2.

But Lord, be merciful to us,
    for we have waited for you.
Be our strong arm each day
    and our salvation in times of trouble.

I don’t do much mountain climbing. I have asthma, and I’m generally uncoordinated. Combine both of those qualities, and hiking up a mountain trail is probably not a wise place for me to be. But while I and my friends were at Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, I had planned to do a little mountain hike. Nothing big or scary. Just enough to get some more photos and see some beautiful things.

Well, that morning I started feeling pretty bad, so I bowed out. I was really disappointed, but I made the most of it and got some writing done. And my friends (who are more athletic than I am) were able to go on a little bit more challenging mountain hike. I wouldn’t have gone had I been with them … because I would have died. End of story.

They came back with some pretty amazing stories, though, including some fairly spectacular feats of agility. But there was one part of their climb where they were missing some much-needed upper body strength. My best friend told me later that the last time they’d gone on the hike, they’d had their brother with them, who was able to haul them up over cliff ledges and such when they weren’t strong enough. But on this climb, it was just the three girls.

Fortunately, there was a guy at the place where they needed help, and he pulled them up when they weren’t strong enough to climb up on their own.

When the Bible talks about God being our strong arm, that’s what I think about. He’s the man waiting on the mountain ledge, holding out a hand to help us climb over an obstacle that’s too much for us. The only trouble is, we have to trust Him enough to take His hand when He offers it.

I met this Good Samaritan mountain climbing gentleman before we left Glen Eyrie, and he looked pretty slight. Not that any of my friends are big, it’s just I would have doubted that he had the strength to hoist them up over a mountain ledge.

I think we do that to God sometimes. He’s right there, offering His help, and we hesitate because we don’t trust that He can support our weight. We don’t trust that He’ll catch us if we fall. We don’t trust that He’s stronger than He seems. So we stay on the cliff, frightened and discouraged because we can’t make any forward progress. And we ask God why He put us in such a helpless position. When the whole time, He’s standing right in front of us, trying to help us.

I am constantly trying to find the balance between waiting for God to work and taking the initiative to move ahead. Sometimes we’re supposed to wait. Sometimes we need to stay put and let God do what only He can do. But other times, we need to start climbing and stop waiting. But the one thing we should never do is move forward without holding on to Him.

So if you’re stuck on a proverbial mountain cliff this morning, even though it’s difficult, try not to feel sorry for yourself and start looking for God. Because I guarantee that He’s close at hand offering a way to climb higher. You just have to trust Him enough to take His hand.

And if you’re focused on Him completely and He’s not offering help yet, wait. That just means you have a few more moments to enjoy the view.

White rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Symbols only work if people remember what they mean.

I have a short memory. How about you? I surprise myself with how much important information I can forget and how easily I can forget it. My only consolation is that I don’t think I’m alone.

People need reminders. We need symbols set in front of us to remind us of the important things that have happened in our past so that we won’t forget what we’ve learned and so we won’t forget how God brought us through.

The passage for today is more like a book, but you’ll understand why when you read it.

White rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

White rose at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Joshua 4:4-7, 22-24.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ … Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”

Today is Memorial Day. It’s the day we celebrate being American by throwing our family into the car and driving out to the lake to cook hot dogs and get sunburned. Right?

Well, that’s what a lot of folks will do. But that’s not what Memorial Day is about.

As someone who comes from a military family, Memorial Day is very special to me. My grandfathers and my great uncles are from that generation of men who were willing to give their lives for their country in World War II and Korea. And though the rest of my immediate family is in the age range where they missed either being drafted or they missed many of the major military conflicts, that hasn’t stopped my family from being intensely patriotic.

But Memorial Day isn’t like Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day is a day to thank all of our military service people for what they have done for freedom in our country. Memorial Day is a day to remember the military people who didn’t come home. Memorial Day is a day set aside to thank them for their sacrifices.

And I don’t see that we do that. We’re too busying barbecuing.

Memorial Day is a symbol intended to help us remember, but symbols aren’t much good if the meaning behind them is lost.

This passage in Joshua recounts a time in history when the Israelites were trying to reach the land that God had promised them, and in one conflict, God parted the waters of the Jordan River while they were at flood stage so that the army could cross over.

After the battle, Joshua had the army set up a memorial so that the people would remember, not just what God had done for them that day but so they could remember what God had done for their ancestors too.

I am saddened by what we, as Americans, have forgotten. I’m not going to be specific. If you’re a patriot, you know what I’m talking about. I understand that things happen for a reason, but it is difficult for me to accept that the country my grandfathers and great uncles gave so much for has become a place no one recognizes anymore.

Symbols are only successful as long as people remember what they mean.

So this is my contribution to Memorial Day: whenever you see an American flag waving, think about what it would have been like to grow up in a country bound by religious laws or tyrannical dictatorship. Imagine what it would have been like to grow up in a country where your children can be taken from you and molded to fit a social need whether you or they liked it or not. Imagine what it would have been like to grow up without enough food, clean water, or sufficient shelter to be healthy.

America isn’t what she used to be, but I’d like to think we still have a little bit of hope, even though many of us have forgotten.

So while you’re barbecuing or while you’re working on your suntan or driving your boat (nothing wrong with any of those things, by the way) take a moment to talk to your kids about what men and women have sacrificed through the years to make this country. Take a moment to just be thankful. Take a moment to remember.

Because if we don’t remember, what purpose did their sacrifices serve?

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rest doesn’t equal indolence

I believe in putting my whole heart and soul into everything I do. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well; that’s what I believe. Life is too short to do things half heartedly. So whether I’m working at my job or doing ministry of some kind, I am always doing it 110%.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that people weren’t designed to run at that kind of pace for an extended period of time with no rest. And that’s where I have been for the last six weeks. Maybe even longer than that. Probably since January.

I’m exhausted. And run down. And worn out. But even though I recognize that I need rest, there’s still some part of me that feels guilty for doing it.

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Mark 6:31.

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes that Jesus rested too. And no one believed in ministry more than Jesus did.

Resting is necessary. It’s not being lazy.

That’s what I have to convince myself more often than anything else: that taking a break doesn’t make me lazy. It just makes me human.

In any case, it’s important to remember that you can’t make it through life with your nose to the grindstone constantly. I mean, you can try. But if you deny yourself the rest you need on a regular basis, you’ll lose your perspective.

If you bury yourself in your work, whether it’s job or ministry, pretty soon you’ll be so buried that you can’t dig yourself out. And by then, your work or your ministry will be all that matters to you anyway.

And, yes, it’s important to care about your job. And it’s important to care about your ministry. But not at the expense of your relationship with God.

Even Jesus recognized that He needed a break to reset His relationship with His Father. And He knew that His disciples needed a chance to breathe, where He could spend time with them and encourage them.

So that’s what I’m doing this weekend. I’m resting. I have my camera. I have three of my favorite people in the world in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I have my netbook with a novel I’m working on (which I may or may not work on).

But beyond all of those wonderful things, I’m being quiet. I’m slowing down. And I’m listening. Because I have been so busy for so long that I’ve not taken the time to listen to the things that God is trying to tell me. And I’m excited for what He has to say.

If you are like me and are so overwhelmed with life and work and ministry, do yourself a favor. Take a break. Step back. Do something else for a weekend, and listen to what God is telling you.

You might be surprised at what you hear.

Stone path beside the Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Safe and sound

Just an update. We made it safe and sound to Glen Eyrie, and at the moment we are settled into our room. I just love this place. I may do a post tomorrow.

Stone path beside the Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Stone path beside the Pink House – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

We made it safe and sound. Have a nice evening, everyone! And a safe Memorial Day Weekend!

Hitting the road

Hey, guys! I just wanted to shoot out a quick little blurb. I will try to have a post up tomorrow morning, but I’m going to be on the road to this phenomenal place:

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

I will be going back in June for a writing workshop, but that keeps me so busy I don’t have time to enjoy the awesomeness that is Glen Eyrie. So this year, a bunch of my favorite people and I get to go up a little early.

I will be replenishing my store of photographs too. =)

I fully intend to keep posting, but in case they come a little later over the next few days, now you’ll know why.

Thank you all for reading and for all the encouragement you bring to me!

~ Amy