November 30, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 30}: Worship and Rest and ... Giveaway Winner!

This is the final post in a month-long series.  Catch up on the whole series here.

Since I have given you a song each Sunday, I can't pass on doing that this week.  This hymn is a perfect match for a Refuge study, don't you think?  The first verse of this version is classic with an organ, then it gets a little jazzy.  Lyrics below, for your edification and to make you scroll a little further to find out if YOU are the winner of this month's giveaway!

A Mighty Fortress is Our God
by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Now about that giveaway ...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of this series, readers.  I appreciate you and pray for you.

Would you like to know who our winner is?!  I have to confess that I am very excited for a couple of reasons.

1. I don't personally know this reader, and I think this is the first time someone I don't know in real life has won a giveaway.  Woo-hoo!

2. She had a wonderful testimony to how God used this series to encourage and sustain her (check it out in the comments on this post.

Without further ado ....

This is our highly sophisticated system, names on paper in a bowl.

Making her selection.

And AMY is our winner!

Shoot me an email with your mailing address by clicking the 'contact me' button under my picture on the right,
and I'll get your gift on its way asap.

November 29, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 29}: Refuge Wrap-up

Hi, friends!  Welcome to the end of the Running to the Refuge series.  This is the place where I feel I am supposed to say something profound to leave you thinking for days.  Not sure I have that, but I can give you a summary of the series and trust the Lord will give you something good to chew on.

First thing: Running to the Refuge is simply trusting in the Lord.  We run to the Refuge when we acknowledge that God is what we need and all we need.  We run to the Refuge when we turn to God and forsake all other gods.

Now, let's take a tour of where we have been over the past four weeks!  Each week had its own special theme with sub-topics:

  • Week one, God is a Refuge of God is the best refuge because He is eternal, He saves, He loves us, He is strong, He delivers, and He is faithful.  I began with this theme, because running to the Refuge is easier when we know the Refuge is trustworthy and able to protect and shelter us.  God is!

  • Week two, God is a Refuge from enemies, trouble, danger, judgment, death, and shame.  This week's theme brought me to the conclusion that "God is a refuge from all that might assail us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally."  (quote from Day 17)
  • Week three, God is a Refuge in weariness, uncertainty, grief, loneliness, the mundane, and sin.  When we are in the depths of the realities of life this side of heaven, God is our Refuge in every circumstance.  I only hit on a few, but hoped that this week of posts got you thinking about how God is a Refuge in every imaginable situation.
  • Week four, God is a Refuge unto praise, blessing, testimony, thanksgiving, and growth.  We don't run to the Refuge and hunker down until heaven.  Nope!  God has great things for us to be and do under His care.  Our sure and safe position with our Refuge frees us to worship, grow, and minister.

I wish I could say reading through this four-week study means we've all been able to master running to the Refuge!  I can't.  But I can say this, as I did on day 20:

If anything has been strengthening my faith from this study, it is a broader view of how complete a refuge God is because of how richly, deeply, tenderly, and abundantly He loves me.  Loves you.  Loves all who trust Him.

God is a complete refuge.  He hems us in before and behind, above and below, and He trains and equips us to live as restored refugees!  In running to the Refuge we receive more than we could ask for or imagine, so we can give more than we ever thought we could.

My hope and prayer is that these four weeks have strengthened your faith and intensified your resolve to run to the Refuge from start to finish of every day.  May God bless and keep you as you do.  He is able!

*     *     *     *     *

Don't neglect to get your name in to win these two lovely Refuge-reminders
by leaving a comment on today's post or this one!

November 28, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 28}: Refuge unto Growth

Today is my final single-topic day in the Running to the Refuge series.  Tomorrow I will write a conclusion post and Sunday announce the giveaway winner.  Don't forget to throw your name in the hat before tomorrow night!  Click here to read the details and leave a comment.  I cannot believe how fast November has come and gone, nor can I believe how much I have enjoyed writing this series.  Thinking about running to the Refuge has actually led me to more running to the Refuge!  I would love to hear about whether it has done the same for you.

You know, reflecting on how this series, i.e. on how God has used His Word and Truth about who He is to challenge and shape me this month, gives me a great idea for today's topic.  Thank you, Lord! Not only will it make for a good post, but it is also a subject near and dear to my heart: Spiritual Growth.

Did you know you can go to church your whole life, do many dutiful Christian things, and know lots of Bible stories, but not grow a bit in your faith?  I'll bet some of you have life stories that attest to that.  Parts of my life story do.

When I was young what I heard was, Believe in Jesus; He'll forgive your sins.  Then get your act together and live like a good Christian.  I don't think this is what was being said, but it is what my proud heart heard.  The first part is certainly true!  The second part was what my sinful heart believed and clung to, that I could work hard to make myself a good person.  But that is not how our Refuge works!

The Lord invites us to run to Him for Refuge, and under His wings He protects us and trains us.  We don't pop in for a short visit, we take up residence in our Refuge.  Forever.  In His mighty fortress we find Refuge from sin and death and from this world's challenges and ills.  In His presence we learn how to live here by faith, not by sight.  He transforms us from darkness lovers to light embracers!

When the Lord got a hold of me and got through my thick skull with the full truth that I need Him for both salvation and growth, my life started to change, really change, for the first time in my life.  I am still amazed at His goodness.

Would you like to look more like God and be a better reflection of Christ in the world?  Stay close to the Refuge!  Don't try to make yourself look more like Him; instead, spend more time being with Him and thinking about Him, especially your daily, hourly, minutely desperate need for Him.  Remember that His Spirit lives in you!  You have access to God at any moment because of Christ's blood and the presence of the Spirit in your heart.  Let your mind be blown by this truth and let your soul be at rest because of this truth.

Jesus talked about this comparing our relationship to Him as that of a branch to a vine and God as the vinedresser, John 15:1-5.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

Do you want to grow in your faith?  Run to the Refuge and stay put!  A broken-off branch cannot bear fruit, but a grafted branch can thrive when connected to a healthy, well-tended vine.  What goodness, kindness, gentleness, and patience we encounter when we run to the Refuge!  How our Lord wants to see us grow and bear fruit!

I have some ideas for you of how to get started/keep growing on this page, or maybe you would enjoy the series on the spiritual disciplines.  Run to the Refuge, set up camp, and keep asking the Lord to speak to you and transform you as you walk with Him through all your days.  He will shape you by His grace and in His time, giving you more reasons to love, praise, thank, and live for Him!

***Don't forget to get your name in for the giveaway here!***

November 27, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 27}: Refuge unto Thanksgiving

I am nearing the end of this month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

In America today we celebrate Thanksgiving, a national day to give thanks.  It stems from celebration that the Pilgrims shared with Native Americans long before America became a nation.  God had provided miraculous help for the Pilgrims through Squanto and the Wampanoag tribe.  The harvest was plentiful.  They wanted to celebrate.  They invited Squanto and chief Massasoit and ninety of the tribe came for the three-day celebration!  There was so much to be thankful for.  They had food to eat.  Babies had been born.  Houses were standing.  They were worshiping as they desired.  God had sustained them through their first year in New Plymouth, a year that ended bountifully but was also marked with sorrow.  They had buried half of those who came across the ocean seeking freedom.  Half.  Yet they gave thanks on that first Thanksgiving celebration.

I admire those Pilgrims and the strength of their faith, bodies, and spirits.  I learn from them about enduring and trusting God, running to the Refuge, when it seems like all hope is lost.  I am grateful for the many accounts of their story.

Did you know that God was preparing Squanto to be able to help them years before they hit the shores of modern-day Massachusetts?  He had two journeys across the ocean to Europe and learned English.  The second time he returned home, his tribe had been wiped out by sickness, but the Wampanoag took him in.  I find the story astounding, and a testimony to the ways God is preparing to take care of us long before we know how desperately we might need specific care!

So here are today's questions.  Are you giving thanks today?  If yes, fantastic!  All kinds of psychological studies attest to the value of the practice of thanks giving.  Second question, to whom are you giving thanks today?  Scripture teaches us that there is an Object of our thanksgiving.  We give thanks to God.  We take refuge in Him and he provides for us, not only materially, but, more importantly, spiritually.

On Sunday, our pastor reminded us not only to give thanks for good things in our lives, but to remember what God has done for us in Christ.  You see, the Bible teaches us that our biggest problem is not what we will eat or what we will wear.  Our most dire need is not external; it's internal.  Our hearts are a mess.  We are separated from our Creator.  Sin rules our lives whether we know it or not.

But God!

The Creator made the way for reconciliation so that we could again have a relationship with Him and have LIFE!  (Hebrews 10:19-25) If we have Jesus, we have reason to be thankful every minute of every day.

As I have shared here on this blog many a time, we do not always live thankful.  We're not in paradise with our Lord yet.  But no matter what is happening around us, if we are in Christ we are new creations and nothing can separate us from our God.  We are loved, beyond our wildest dreams.  Indeed, we can give thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
His love endures forever.

to the One who remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies,
His love endures forever.
and who gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

Psalm 136: 1, 23-26

Running Orders:
  • Read Psalm 136 today, maybe at your Thanksgiving table!
  • Direct all of your Thanksgiving to God today.  He is the Giver.  Don't just say, "I am thankful for ..."  Practice saying, "I am thankful to God for ...."
  • Have a happy Thanksgiving!

**Don't forget to toss your name into the hat for the giveaway
by leaving a comment here!**

November 26, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 26}: Refuge unto Testimony

This is day 26 of a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by your right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

These are words of Asaph from the end of Psalm 73.  I love how he describes God's relationship to him in the middle stanza.  He had found himself jealous of the wicked who seemed to be prospering all around him.  Then he enters the sanctuary of God (v. 17) and was reminded of the big picture and the sweetness of dwelling in the Refuge.  Then, he closes his song with the words, I will tell of all your deeds.

If you have run to the Refuge, or better said, if the Refuge has enabled you to run to Him in faith, you have a story to tell!  You have a testimony to the goodness, greatness, and majesty of God's saving love.  Asaph knew the stories of God's work on behalf of Israel, whether or not she deserved it.  He also knew the stories of God's work in his own life.  And he wanted to tell of God's deeds because it was so very good to be near God.

When we tell of God's deeds we extol Him and we extend an invitation to our hearers.  Hey, I've got this safe place and He's a person and here's what He has done in the world and in my life.  This hope is for you, too!  Look at God; He is amazing!!  And he loves YOU!!!

Testimony declares the glory of God and points others to Him.

But it does something else too, which was highlighted to me this morning when I read a friend's lament about the state of the world and her desire to get away from it, (a feeling to which I can often relate).  Here it is:

Testimony declares the glory of God and points us to Him.

We forget too easily the power of God to effect change in our hearts, in the hearts of others, and in the world.  Remembering and testifying to His deeds keeps our eyes pointed in the right direction, our minds meditating on truth, and our hearts at peace.

Testimony gives hope.
Testimony restores hope.

My friends, run to the Refuge this Thanksgiving weekend.  Our hearts and our flesh may fail, but God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever.

Running Orders:

  • You know what I'm going to suggest, right?  Testify today!  Tell someone, your spouse, a friends, your kid(s), your parents, your neighbor, etc., about God's deeds.
  • Meditate on the verses above, Psalm 73:21-28, and ask God to speak to you from His Word.

**Don't forget to toss your name into the hat for the giveaway
by leaving a comment here!**

November 25, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 25}: Refuge unto Blessing

This is day 25 in a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

When I think about running to the refuge, I think primarily of the relief of the refuge, getting away from whatever it is from which I need protection.  This week, as we wrap up the series, I am moving us away from thinking only of our Refuge in that way, to meditating on what God has for us to do when we know Him as our Refuge.  What is He a refuge unto?

Yesterday, I shared about praising God.  He rescues, protects, shelters, and saves us.  We respond in praise and with rejoicing.  God has been so good to us!  Today, it's blessing.  God is our refuge unto blessing.  The blessing flows from God to us and from us to others.

Repeatedly the Psalmists talk about how good it is to take Refuge in the Lord, using the metaphors of being in the shelter of God's wings, on the rock that is their refuge, or in the walls of His strong fortress.   Trusting in the Lord, i.e. taking refuge in Him, is a safe place.  God has got not only our back, but our front, top, and bottom, too!

What is beautiful to me is that God not only provides protection, but Scripture gives the impression that He wants us to thrive and grow, prosper and flourish in His care.  As a parent to a child, God wants to bless us with good gifts.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23:5-6

God is our Refuge who meets far more than our basic needs.  He blesses us abundantly!

Talk with any Christian you know and I guarantee they have stories of undeserved goodness and love that have followed them as they have run to the refuge over the years.  The Lord is generous with His children.  He takes care of us, often in surprisingly delightful ways!

If I wanted to, I could quit this post here.  I say, "Isn't it great that the Lord blesses us when we take refuge in Him?"  You respond, "Yes,  It is so wonderful."  But let us not stop there.  Let us look at those outside the windows of our fortress-Refuge and at our fellow refugees inside our fortress-Refuge.  Then let us look at the ways God has blessed us as we have trusted in Him - could be with material things or wisdom gained, could be with healing or spiritual transformation.  Look back to the people; look again at your gifts from God.

Now, start building bridges between the two.

God blesses us because He loves us and wants to express that to those who have taken refuge in Him.  He also equips us with those blessings to share with those around us.

What good works does God have in store for you because you have run to Him as your refuge?  I don't know.  But I am sure that He has even more joy, hope, and peace for you that will come from drawing near to others and sharing with them the many gifts He has given you, because He is your Refuge.

Be a builder of blessing-bridges!
Share out of the abundance of your Refuge-God!

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise -- the fruit of lips that confess His name.  And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Hebrews 13:15-16

**Don't forget to toss your name into the hat for the giveaway by leaving a comment here!**

November 24, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 24}: Refuge unto Praise (and don't miss the giveaway!)

This is the final week in a month-long series.  You can catch up on other posts here.

This is it, the final stretch!  Over the last three weeks, I have shared with you about three themes: what God is refuge of, what God is a refuge from, and what God is a refuge in.  Throughout this week I will be concluding the series with post about what God is a refuge unto.  For I find as I read the Bible that when people run to the refuge, their experience doesn't stop there.  Always, there is a response!  God is not only a refuge of, a refuge from, and a refuge in everything, He also refuges us unto new things.  That, my friends, is where were are going this week.

One of the primary responses we see, in the Psalms particularly, is praise.  God's people run to the refuge, and under the shelter of His wings there is much rejoicing!

But let all who take refuge in you be glad
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread you protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11-12

What is the nature of that praise?  It is praise and worship of the Refuge.  He is adored and honored, for who He is and what He has done.  And He fills His people with joy.

Our rejoicing comes not from circumstances magically altered the minute we run to the refuge, but rather from knowing the shelter, protection, love, and presence of our Refuge.  In the Psalm above, David is crying out to God, begging Him to listen.  He is confident the Lord will hear and that his enemies won't prevail, even though it sure feels like they will.  He declares the differences between the wicked and the righteous; he proclaims truth about the nature of his God.  Then He concludes by reminding himself that gladness and joy come from running to the refuge.

Running to the refuge frees us to worship, no matter the circumstances.  Everything around us may be changing, but our Refuge is constant and unchanging.  Our complaining, fear, and doubt can be replaced with praise!

Let those of us who run to the Refuge be glad, sing for joy, and rejoice in Him!  Oh Lord, teach us to praise you.  You are our Refuge and Friend.  We stand in awe.

Running Orders:
  • Make some time today to praise, just praise.  Don't ask for anything, don't confess any sins, just praise.  Praise God for how He has been a refuge for you in the past and how He is a refuge for you right now.
  • If you feel inspired, write your own Psalm of praise to God!

*     *     *


Here are the treats I have for the winner of this series' giveaway: a mug and a pen and notepad combo, both with refuge verses on them to remind you to run to the refuge long after the series is over.

If you would like a chance, or three, to win, here is what you have to do.  I can put in  your name once for each of these things:

  • Comment on this post to say you want in.
  • 'Like' my Facebook page for the first time this month or subscribe to receive posts by email.  (Some of you have done this, but please tell me in your comment, because I don't know how to see the new "likers" or who is subscribed.)
  • Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or with a friend.
Make sure to tell me how many times I should enter your name.  I can't wait to see who wins!  Maybe it will be YOU!!

Oh yes, one more thing.  Get your entries in before midnight EST on Saturday, November 29.  I'll announce the winner in Sunday's post.  Yay!  So fun!!

(Gift photos taken from

November 22, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 22}: Refuge in Sin

You have found yourself on day 22 of a month-long series.  You can catch up on previous posts here.

Early on in my preparations for this study, I wrote down a list of things God is a refuge in.  First on my list is hardship, second is sin.  That is what we'll be talking about today.  Doesn't that sound fun?!

All joking aside, however, the truth is that we need a refuge when we have sinned.  Knowing we have done wrong against our brother or our God is such an uncomfortable place.  I am excessively proud, so I really hate it when I know that I have to apologize because I've been a class A jerk.  I also get so frustrated by not being able to be perfect, an I-should-know-better-by-now mentality.  I hem and haw about saying I am sorry and asking forgiveness.  After a while, a heaviness settles in on me as I drag my feet trying to rationalize how things weren't that bad or try to believe that time will heal all wounds.

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Yeah, it's like that.  Thanks, King David, for giving me words.

We all know what it is like to carry around the burden of sin on our shoulders.  What do we do, then?

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord" --
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

Wait, what?  How do we get that burden lifted?  We run to the refuge and open our lips to confess our sin to the Lord.  And He?  He forgives the guilt of our sin!

People, God is a refuge in sin because He is the forgiver of sin!  There is no other name under heaven and earth by which we can be saved.  Against God alone do we sin, even when it seems like our being a class A jerk has nothing to do with Him.  But it is His holiness we violate, so it is His call what He will do with us.

The Truth: When we run by faith to the Refuge we have offended, He doesn't shake His head, say 'I told you so', or tell us to do penance.  He forgives.

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy!

David concludes Psalm 32:
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Who are the godly?  Who are the righteous?  Those who run to the Refuge!

In our sin, we are most desperate for the healing and transforming touch of our Refuge.  He alone can forgive, protect, and surround us.  He also, then, instructs and counsels us about what to do next, which is usually to go make amends with the humans we have offended!  When I have to ask someone to forgive me, I draw such strength from knowing my forgiven place in the shelter of my Refuge.  Class A proud jerks like me sure don't deserve that position; grace really is amazing!

I want to close with the opening two verses of the Psalm that is the backbone of today's post.

Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Blessed is the man who runs to the Refuge.

November 21, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 21}: Refuge in the Mundane

You're on day 21 of a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Today's topic is near and dear to me, because I live most of my life in the mundane.  Laundry, dishes, baths, shopping, educating, reading, playing, picking up, and answering most questions with, I don't know, we'll have to look it up or ask Dad, pretty much sum up my life.  What I do on a day to day basis is of no grand importance to peoples or nations, but make a profound difference in the lives of the humans who live with me under this roof.  Nevertheless, the mundane can get me down.

Does the routine hum-drum of life ever leave you looking for a refuge?

If you've caught on to the idea of this series, then you know the next thing I'm going to say is that God is our refuge in the mundane routines of life that could suck the life out of us if not for His grace and mercy.  There is hope in our Refuge, even in the mundane.  That is good news, because I know for many of us most of life is lived there.

What makes us want a refuge from the mundane?  Hm.  Good question.  I'm going to try to answer it right now off the top of my head!  One thing I alluded to above is that the mundane does not appear to "make a difference in the world."  And all through high school and college we're fed the lie that our lives only matter if we go out and change the world.

News flash: The only One who can change the world did, by sending His Son to save His people from their sins.  And that world-changer is our refuge when we start to wonder if what we're doing is of any significance.  So, run to the refuge!  Belonging to the Lord is what gives us significance.  Living for Him is what gives your life meaning.  If you are loving Him and loving your neighbor, you are right in the center of His will.  He will guide you in the details and is molding you in the mundane!

Another thing about the mundane is its relentlessness.  It never ends!  The weeks cycle by with work, activities, and conversations, people, places, and things.  We are fed the lie that we deserve a break as commercials for cruises flit across our TV screens and AAA mailings arrive in our mailboxes.  We quickly settle into discontent.

News flash: Vacations are amazing, but the mundane always eagerly awaits us when we get home.*   The only One who can give us true rest is the Lord, our refuge.  We need rest not necessarily a vacation, and the Lord provides a refuge of rest.  So, run to the refuge!  Turning to God when our hearts get unsettled and bitter about our mundane circumstances changes our perspective.  We can ask the Lord to give us new eyes to see how and where we can love Him and others more right in our mundane little lives!

My dear little boy needs my attention now; I have been putting him off to get this done before diving into today's mundane. <wink>  So it is time to summarize.  These are the verses that come to mind as I think about these things, Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The secret to contentment in the mundane?  Running to the refuge!  The Psalmist speak over and over about the strength of the Refuge.  The Good Lord places us where we are in life and calls us to love and live for Him right there.  When our hearts get restless, we need to run to our Rest, our Refuge.  He strengthens us, fills us with hope, and changes our perspective so we can keep on keeping on, with joy!

God bless you in your mundane today.

*I am not anti-vacation or suggesting you should never take a physical break!  I have dreams of seeing amazing places with our family that I one day want to realize.  I also love a good getaway and take time each day to "just sit."  I want to point out that those things alone cannot provide the deep feeling of refuge and rest our hearts really need and were created for.

November 20, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 20}: Refuge in Loneliness

This is day 20 in a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Wow, look at that!  Day 20 already!  As in previous years, I'm enjoying this November tradition of writing daily about a topic.  I am praying for you, that God is meeting you with His presence and through His Word.  Thank you for being here to learn with me.

On with the show here, then!  How about we talk a little about loneliness?  Is is not perplexing how we can be connected to so many people with all of the modern means of communications, yet we can feel so totally alone?  Been there lately?

I believe a big part of the issue is that, despite the communication and the contact, connection is lacking.  Deep in our hearts, no matter how hard they may be, we all want to be known.  We feel alone when we feel unknown.

If you find yourself in that unknown, alone place, I have good news for you!  No matter how unknown and alone you feel, you are known and you are not alone.  If anything has been strengthening my faith from this study, it is a broader view of how complete a refuge God is because of how richly, deeply, tenderly, and abundantly He loves me.  Loves you.  Loves all who trust Him.

You feel lonely, but praise God - you are not alone!

In one of David's rescue-me-from-my-enemies Psalms (142) he says:
I look to my right and see:
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.

Then immediately He says,
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."

I love how David talks to God.  He is honest with Him and He trusts Him.  There were probably people concerned for David's life, but when you're alone in a cave hiding from a dishonored king who wants to kill you, I suppose it can be easy to feel utterly abandoned!  But David is in the habit of communicating with Almighty God and knows His connection to Him.  So he pours out His heart to the Lord.

God is our portion in the land of the living!

Are you feeling like David?  Does it feel like no one cares for your life?  Oh, my dear friend, God does.  I think about Jesus walking this earth on His mission to save His people from their sins.  I can only imagine how many times loneliness must have crept in.  Lord, no one understands me; I am so alone.  But you are here with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.  Our Savior understands loneliness and is accessible to us at all times.  Run to the Refuge!

David's words here also remind me of the blessing times of helplessness and loneliness can be.  He looks around him and concludes, I have no refuge!  Times of desperation remind us that all earthly things will pass away.  Seeking refuge in temporal amusements or solutions is futile; times of loneliness remind us we need more than the things and people around us.  We need the Lord.   I cry to you, O Lord; I say, You are my refuge.  On earth below and heaven above, God is our matchless refuge.  Run to the Refuge!

You are loved.  You are known.  You are not alone.
Run to the refuge, stat!

Running Orders!
  • Are you feeling lonely today and/or do you remember times of intense loneliness?  Copy David's prayer and talk it out with the Lord and/or spend time praising Him for how He has met you in loneliness in the past.
  • Read Psalm 23 and write down what God speaks to you through those words.

November 19, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 19}: Refuge in Grief

This is the third week in a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Throughout this week, I'm rolling with my gut, letting the Lord speak to me and writing about situations in which He is a Refuge.  I believe the short story is that God is our Refuge in all circumstances and situations!  I will only hit on six possibilities this week, but please roll with this theme; think about areas of your life where you really need to know God as a Refuge and seek out Scriptures to strengthen your resolve to run to the Refuge, rather than to the many false refuges the world offers.

The odd thing about today, is that I feel led to write about something with which I don't yet have much experience, grief.  Some of you have lost parents, siblings, spouses, children, or best friends.  You know grief in a way I have yet to.  I am sure you also have stories to tell of how God was a refuge in those times of heartache and sorrow.  I can only write this today, because I know that when the time comes in my life, I want to be ready to walk through those days in the refuge of my Lord.

This is the verse God brought to mind as my mind returned to consciousness from deep sleep this morning.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
Psalm 34:18

In times of loss, grief, and heartache, when it feels like we have been forsaken, God is close.  God is always near, He is always with us.  The God of the universe, Creator of all we see and the galaxies we cannot, is close to us when our hearts are breaking.  What comfort!  We can grieve in our Refuge, share our hearts with Him, and let ourselves be enveloped by His presence.  God's very presence is with us when grief overwhelms us.

Grief implies loss.  When I think of grief, I usually think of losing someone dear to me.  But you may also find yourself in situations where you're grieving a loss of other things.  Perhaps a sickness or accident means you grieve for what could have been, because you have lost strength or abilities that are no longer yours.  Or maybe there has been an unexpected life change and you grieve the loss of a town you loved, a larger salary you enjoyed, or proximity to dear family and friends.  Whatever the situation, God is close.

As a Refuge in grief, God provides a place for us to mourn freely with one who understands.  We won't scare Him away with our anger or our questions.  He won't abandon us to walk the road of heartache alone.  God, our Refuge in grief, loves us as a parent does a child.  He is our Comforter and Friend.  He is near!

One final thought about running to our Refuge in times of grief:  He understands.  Jesus walked the roads of this earth, loved people, and wept when they died.  Jesus knows human sorrow.  He understands.  And further, God the Father had to turn His back while the sins of the world were placed on the shoulders of His son.  The plan was right and good; redemption was coming!  But how the Father must have grieved to see His son suffer and to turn away as He died.  God understands.

The one who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins knows what it is to grieve and is near when we are grieving.  We have a sure, strong, comforting refuge to run to in grief.

Run to the Refuge, dear friend.

Running Orders:
  • I don't know the aches and grieves of your heart, but the Lord does.  Sit a spell and pour those out to Him today.  Run to the refuge and rest there, letting the Lord be a refuge and comfort to you.
  • Ask the God who is close to the brokenhearted for all you need in the midst of your grief.  Write these things down so you can go back later and give testimony to how He provided for you.

November 18, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 18}: Refuge in Uncertainty

This is day 18 in a month-long series.  You can catch up on previous posts here.

Last night as I was putzing around before bed, I was thinking about times in life when we really crave a refuge.  One thing that came to mind is uncertainty.

How is God a refuge when life feels uncertain?

Good Christian answers come quickly to my mind, Well, God is trustworthy.  God loves me and won't forsake me.  God holds the future in His hands, so I don't need to worry.  And so on.

Many of you know all of those things.  I do, too.  But resting and taking refuge in those truths can be so challenging when we feel the pinch of uncertainty:  Will I get the job?  Will my baby be born healthy?  Will I be healed of this disease?  Will I be able to provide for my family?  Will we find a place to live we can afford?  Will I get into the college of my choice? Will my kids turn out 'okay'?

We all know some of those questions, don't we?  We are familiar with the uneasiness that settles into our minds and hearts as we await answers.  It is hard for our sinful natures to run to the refuge and actually take refuge in the midst of uncertainty.

But we must!  Must!!

God our Refuge is our only hope for comfort and security in uncertainty.  We can learn to run to Him, combating tendencies to worry and fear with confidence in our Refuge.

Three Ways to Run to the Refuge in Uncertainty

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 5:31-34
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by remembering how able God is to provide for your needs.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by remembering how God has provided for your needs.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:7-11
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by asking for all that you need.

Running to the Refuge requires that we move!  We must hurry our minds to truth about who God is and what He is able to do. We must remember His love by reflecting on His track record of care for us.  We must ask the Lord for what we need, and leave the responsibility to Him.

Uncertainty can strangle us in its grip of worry and fear.  Our Refuge frees us from our captor, because He loves us, won't leave us or forsake us, and He holds the future in His omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, not to mention, big and strong, hands!

Running Orders:
  • I imagine some things came to mind as you were reading this.  Now, take those thoughts captive by reading the passages above and intentionally running to the refuge with all of your uncertainty.
  • Memorize Matthew 7:11  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

You not only have a refuge, you are loved by your Refuge.
Walk in His way today!

November 17, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 17}: Refuge in Weariness

I wonder, now that life has put me a bit behind, if I'll ever catch up and get back to posting the morning of rather than the evening!  For now I will write when I can and see how things shake out.  Thanks for standing by; I am grateful for you stopping by to read.

The first week of this series I spent the days writing about what God is a Refuge of.  In those posts I explored what kind of refuge God is for us.  The short summary is to say He is the best and most complete Refuge man can find, in this world and the next.  Then last week, I spent time on topics concerning God as a Refuge from.  I would summarize those posts this way: God is a refuge from all that might assail us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

This week I have another theme for you - Refuge in.  How is God a refuge in certain situations?

Right now, because I am feeling pretty tired, I'm going to go with running to the refuge when we are weary.  We  had a full weekend here with some unexpected illness and I was away from home most of time.  The Good Lord provided so well for us in friends and family taking care of the kids and the kids rolling with the punches.  I am feeling so thankful!

Nevertheless, I am tired because I am human, I can only do so much in a day, and managing a changed schedule is somehow tiring.  This post will be short for those reasons; I need to get to bed soon!

The verses that come to mind right now that I feel I am supposed to share with you are these:

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31

God is a refuge in weariness because He knows our "cause" and has not disregarded us.  He is a refuge in weariness because though we wear out and languish, He does not tire, does not weaken, and does not change.  In our weariness, by taking refuge in Him we can be strengthened by His strength and empowered by His power.

Man grows weary, stumbles, and falls.  God renews his strength.  How does that happen?  Man simply hopes in the Lord.

I picture letting my tired body fall limp into the strong, uplifting hands of Almighty God, and being carried up to new heights in His hands - no longer trying to fly, run, or walk on my own, but rather being carried along by His strength and power.

I am excited to sleep tonight.  I am more enlivened by the thought that my God is a refuge in weariness because He understands my need and strengthens my feeble being, mind, body, and soul.

Running Orders:
  • Keeping it simple tonight, tell the Lord areas of life that are making you weary and run to Him as your refuge in those things.

November 16, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 16}: Worship and Rest

We used to sing this one sometimes at our church in Cambridge.  I love Fernando Ortega's music, so deep, rich, and true.  Be blessed by Our Great God through this song!  :)

Fernando Ortega

Eternal God, unchanging
Mysterious, and unknown
Your boundless love, unfailing
In grace and mercy shown
Bright seraphim in endless flight
Around Your glorious throne
They raise their voices day and night
In praise to You alone

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Lord, we are weak and frail
Helpless in the storm
Surround us with Your angels
Hold us in Your arms
Our cold and ruthless enemy
His pleasure is our harm
Rise up, O Lord, and he will flee
Before our sovereign God

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Let every creature in the sea
And every flying bird
Let every mountain, every field
And valley of the earth
Let all the moons and all the stars
In all the universe
Sing praises to the living God
Who rules them by His Word

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Lyrics taken from <a href="">this page</a>