Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there.” ~ Exodus 20:24b

As I started to think about what I might begin writing here, my mind became flooded with ideas and they started to form into an A-Z order of topics. I quickly formed that list, but soon even more thoughts and ideas came and so my list of topics has grown. I think that may well be a sign that God has some things for me to learn and share and it seems to reinforce the idea that this is a word from the Lord. Not that I doubted Shauna and Marcus's words to me, but I asked for a sign. Something that would confirm the truth. First it came from my husband who reminded me that he's told me many times that I needed to share what was in my heart and thoughts. Then the confirmation came from the flood of ideas and the beginnings of excitement that started to overwhelm the fears. So, here I am again attempting to be real and vulnerable and share some of the things God is teaching me.

The title of this post is a verse that has some meaning for me. Of course, biblically this was a direct message to the Israelites to build physical altars in specific places where God met them and their needs to be set as permanent reminders. I assure you that I am not in the habit of forming physical altars or monuments. :) This is simply a reminder to me to not forget the many ways God has blessed me throughout my life.

You know I like to keep quotes and I like to send cards. What I also like to do is save things. I am what some might call a pack rat, but I prefer to think of it as being a memory keeper. I have boxes and notebooks and folders and drawers full of things. Some may not be vastly important and definitely not all relate specifically to God. But they are reminders of the past - who I used to be, what I used to think and feel and while they can sometimes be embarrassing (like way too many forlorn love letters to a junior high crush...eek ;) they are a part of me and my life. Another way I save things is by writing them down - sometimes its in letters, sometimes in emails, sometimes in notes in my Bible.

One of the notes in my Bible is a thank you card. It was sent to my parents from Marcus and Shauna as a thank you for their wedding gift. On the back was a note to me encouraging me to take heart and know that God has a special plan for my life. This note has been in my Bible for 15 years and it is like an altar to me because it represents God's provision in my life - in the things He's planned for me and the people He's provided as spiritual mentors for me. Just seeing that note reminds me that Shauna and Marcus love and support me and mixed with that knowledge is the even more important knowledge that God loves me and is always there for me. It's a tangible symbol of God's provision and presence.

During the summers of 1996 and 1998, I went on mission trips around the United States with a group called Royal Servants. This was an amazing/awful/wonderful/terrible/life-changing experience that I plan to share further about in later posts. We spent 8 weeks traveling the country, sharing the gospel, and learning a lot about God. Throughout those summers, there were teaching times and one of those lessons was about anchors and we were given an anchor pin as a reminder. The basic idea being that as we go through our lives, we will have experiences with God that we can cling to in the future as anchors to remind us of God's presence.

Anchors are something we can cling to when the storms and stresses of life and its struggles seem to overwhelm us. They are strong reminders that God cares and provides.

“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us.” ~ Jerry Bridges in Trusting God

To me, anchors are like altars - meaning they are places to hold onto, or look back on where we can see with clarity that God has provided and sustained us. Our past is more easily seen with 20/20 vision and if we can remember that God was there, it can be easier to know He still is there.

“I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. . . . The Lord your God is with you wherever you go” ~ Joshua 1:5, 9
My mother is wonderful and she is such an example to me of true faith. Actually, both my parents are, but for now this is about my mom. :) My whole life she has drilled into us the importance of trusting God and honestly I could probably give hundreds of examples of ways she has impacted my faith and life. One of these is how she has instilled in me the desire to build altars/have anchors to remember God's provision. She writes down and tells the stories again and again of how God has provided and so many of my early anchors are really remembering the stories she has told. I am so thankful for this and so many other things about my mom.
This is one of my anchors:
  • When I was around 5 or 6, I desperately wanted a stuffed unicorn. Most Saturday mornings, my dad would take my sister and I out of the house so that my mom could sleep in. We often went to the mall to wander around and we always included a visit to the pet store and the toy store. At the toy store was a giant stuffed unicorn and I wanted it sooooo badly. But, it was expensive and my parents were in seminary and we didn't have a lot of money. However, instead of simply telling me to get over it, they suggested that I pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed...hoping for a Christmas miracle. Our next door neighbor was an older man we called Grandpa Bill and he spent much time in the wealthier part of town looking through their garbage (what we might call a dumpster diver today) and as time passed they became aware that he did this and started to leave out nicer things away from the actual garbage. He shared many things from his discoveries with us and others in our neighborhood - almost brand new suits for my Dad, Barbie's for my sister and I, furniture, etc. A few nights before Christmas, he came to our door and let my parents know he'd found something and wondered if we might be interested. From behind his back, he pulled a giant stuffed unicorn! My parents cried and told him the story of my wish and my prayers...and not only did he find one unicorn, but there was also a second one for my sister.
Isn't God amazing!? It still makes me cry to be reminded of God's provision for the simple, seemingly insignificant prayer of a child for a stuffed unicorn. Sometimes I think that it is the simple things and basic ways that God provides for us that seem to make the biggest impact. It reminds us that we are known and that what is important to us is important to God. Not that it means we get every wish or desire (I definitely didn't get every single stuffed animal or gift I ever wanted), but sometimes those wishes do come true...those prayers do get answered.
Here is one more anchor:
  • On my mission trip in the summer of 1996, the first week or so included training camp with my team (the 10:10 team) as well as all the other Reign Ministries Royal Servants teams who were heading off all over the world. During this time, we lived in tents in the middle of a cornfield, we used port-o-potties, we ran everywhere in groups of three, we woke up early and went to bed soon after dark, we had daily quiet times, worship times and teaching times, we had to cook or clean for one meal a day, we had to memorize Scriptures, we had work projects to help clean up the area we were in and we got to know our teammates. We got our water from a hose connected to a long plastic pipe that was attached to wood beams. There was no inside, no ice, no chairs with backs - only camp stools, no escape from the bugs and we had Illinois summer weather to deal with. I desperately wished for a chair with a back and a cup of ice, but this was something I didn't mention or even necessarily pray for because it seemed unlikely to happen until we left for the rest of our summer travels. But one night, there was a special event for all kids whose parents were pastors or missionaries. It was a surprise and a secret gathering and a way to thank us for the ways in which our lives might be challenged by having parents in ministry. We got ice cream (which was delicious), we got appreciation and prayers (which were a blessing), and best of all (to me) we got to sit in chairs that had backs  and there was ice available for our drinks! I'm sure those were not the things that others got excited about and I'm sure that the leaders didn't consider them a special treat - but to me it was a miracle and such a pleasure! And I knew it was God...He knew my inner thoughts and desires and provided something I didn't even think to ask for. And that is something that I cling to and will always remember.
“The God who created, names and numbers the stars in the heavens also numbers
the hairs of my head. He pays attention to very big things and to very small ones.
What matters to me matters to Him, and that changes my life.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Isn't it amazing how much God loves us? Isn't it amazing how much He knows about us and cares about us? These kinds of things just make me so happy and thankful to have a heavenly Father who cares about the simple things and the important things in my life - and in your life. He does care about you...He does love you...He does provide for you. I hope that you can remember to cling to those build those altars...keep them in your memory...hold them in your heart.

“Let [God's] love and faithfulness never leave you: bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart…” ~ Proverbs 3:3
These words from Ephesians 3:16-19 are my prayer for you and for me...
"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this reminder of the many altars/anchors we've had in our lives. Love you, Sis. Love You, Lord!