In This Place (wherever you are)

So I’ll just admit this right up front: My head is not organized today. There’s a lot swirling around in there that I just can’t seem to file in neat and orderly form, so I hope you’re up to spending a little more effort in reading my thoughts today. You may need to sort things out more than usual.

Or, hey, maybe we’ll both just depend on the Spirit’s teaching here. That might be the most reliable plan. I’ll type and you read and — Lord, open our eyes and ears to whatever You’re saying to us today.

Genesis is difficult reading, did you know that? There’s story after story of God’s interaction with the people He’s created, but there’s also so many things set in the culture of those times that I just do not understand. And as I read, all these questions pop into my head that currently have no answers. But then there are also those gems that grab me, shake me, and say, “Pay attention. This is you!”

There’s the story of Jacob. Sometimes he’s the good guy, sometimes the bad guy. In Chapter 28, he’s on the run because he’s cheated his brother and his brother is now scheming to kill him. (No, this is not yet the part that applies to me.)

He’s on his way back to his mother’s country where he hopes to stay until his brother cools off. One night he has a dream. He sees a stairway that reaches up to heaven, and angels are going up and down the stairs. The Lord stands at the top of the stairway and He speaks to Jacob, confirming the same promise He had given to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17)

Now that is the verse I cannot forget. The Lord is in this place — and I was not even aware of it! How many days do we slog through, failing to see God right there with us?

Jacob thought he stood at the gateway to heaven. We stand IN heaven now, through Christ ushering us into God’s very presence. We are living in that kingdom. In my 24 hours, or 1440 minutes, or 86400 seconds today, how many of those are soaked with an awareness of the Lord being present in this place in my life? How often we miss the awesomeness of His presence!

The second thing that I must write about today (because if I don’t write these things now, I cannot concentrate on anything else) is Mr. Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. Sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers. All alone in a foreign land. He has no contact with his family. Even when things do seem to be turning around for him and he lands a great job with a boss who likes and trusts him, he ends up in jail as a result of doing the right thing. He sits in jail for over two years. Again, because he did the right thing. One man could have saved him, but he forgot Joseph. I wonder what young Joseph is thinking during those years in jail.

Fast forward a number of years, after Joseph is finally released and has become second in command to Pharaoh himself. He has a wife and children. And he named one son Ephraim, saying, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief” (Genesis 41:52).

Fruitful in a land of grief. Ah, Lord, may I have the grace to say that. May I have the open eyes to see that. To see Your presence at every step of my journey, in every land through which I travel, in lands of grief, lands of pain, and lands of laughter and joy. May I see Your gifts bestowed every day because You are here in whatever place I am in right now — I am living right here in Your kingdom.

And that is tied to the third thing I must share with you, a recent blog from an Everyday Servant. He begins with a plea that I’ll bet you’ve prayed yourself: “Please God, save me from today!” It will take you less than a minute to read, but I hope all these jumbled thoughts come together today and remind us all that the Lord is in whatever place we are today.

Blessings on your day in His awesome presence.


Chariots of fire surrounding you

Let us imagine what that morning must have been like.

They wake up in the hill country of Samaria, in the small town of Dothan. The servant, out on an early morning errand, is stunned by the sight of chariots and foot soldiers everywhere. The enemy has moved into place under the cover of darkness. These are the troops of the king of Aram, who has been attempting raids on towns in Samaria, trying to break the country bit by bit.

The servant runs back home to report the situation to Elisha. “Sir, what will we do?” Dothan is under siege. It is not clear if Elisha and his servant know that these soldiers are here to capture Elisha, or if they simply assume that the enemy is attacking the town, as it has tried to do with other towns. They do know, though, that the enemy forces are powerful, they are everywhere, and there is no apparent way of escape. It looks like they’re doomed to capture or destruction.

“What will we do?”

Elisha is not afraid. “We have more on our side than they have!” he declares.

And then he prays. Not for God to come and help them. No, he prays for the young man. He asks God to open the young servant’s eyes to see the truth of their situation. “And let him see!”

The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17 NLT).

Oh, Lord, open our eyes and let us see!

Let us see your constant watch over us. Scripture holds so many reassurances that the eyes of the Lord are constantly on those who rely on His love and His ears are always open to our prayers. I just discovered another one recently; 2 Chronicles 16:9 says the Lord is continually looking throughout the earth, looking for hearts devoted to Him so that He can strengthen them. He is there, constantly.

Let us see the power with which you protect us and provide for us. Chariots of fire? Who knows? Are there angels fighting for us in the spiritual realm? We have Scriptures that would indicate this is happening. But God also sends his “angels” in human form—people sent into our lives at just the right time for the purpose of strengthening, encouraging, teaching, and supporting us. They are—just like heavenly angels—special representatives sent by God for a certain purpose. Prayer warriors might very well be, in God’s eyes, driving chariots of fire into the thick of the battle. (I like that image.)

Psalm 18 is a great picture of God tearing open the heavens and coming down Himself to rescue one who depended on His help. God has done that for you and me! He has torn open heaven, and He not only came down to rescue us but He comes to live with us. God comes to abide with us. We abide in Him. He comes and makes His home with us and we share a life together. He tore the heavens open one night in Bethlehem, coming to rescue us and to share His life and kingdom and power with us.

We cannot despair, even when the situation looks grim to our blind eyes. We cannot feel helpless or hopeless when faced with enemies so strong they seem unbeatable. We cannot, because Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of any trouble you face in the world. Trust me.”

What would this day look like if we could see clearly the chariots of fire surrounding us? What if we could have just a taste, one wee sip, of the might of His power at work in our lives?

Today, I pray for you and for me—not for His help in what we face or victory in our battles, but I pray: Lord, open our eyes and let us see!

Right here, all the time.

It was obviously a special date. He wore khakis and a dress shirt; she was in a dress well accessorized with jewelry, makeup, and heels. Hand in hand, they walked down the sidewalk toward me… both of them oblivious to the other, since each was lost in animated conversation on their cell phone. But holding hands, at least! What a romantic date, I thought to myself (somewhat sarcastically, I admit).

This morning, that memory from years ago popped up in my prayers. Odd thing to remember during prayer, right? On my morning walk, I’d started as I often do these days, with Psalm 63, O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you…

About that time, the image of the cell-phone date popped into my head…and I see that I’m the oblivious one walking along. Yes, I’m the one wanting to hold hands and forge a relationship with my God; but most of the time, I’m distracted by and feel compelled to answer everything else that comes along and clamors for my attention. And I forget that the One I say I thirst for, long for, and love above all else … is right there with me all the time. I forget.

The book of Psalms is a favorite for many people, and I believe it’s because those writers knew all about the ups and downs, triumphs and failures, of our walk with God.  The entire range of our pilgrimage experience is included in that book: rebellious sin and the misery that follows; helplessness in the face of enemies; fear; unspeakable awe in the presence of the Almighty; exultation in His goodness and power; disappointment and discouragement; absolute trust in God’s care; anger at circumstances. The list goes on and on.

Yet in everything, everywhere, the psalmist says in Psalm 139, God holds our hands. He is there. He never leaves us. No matter where we go, what we do,

… even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me.

I want to walk today, every day, much more aware that He is right here with me, holding my hand. All the time.