My Rampart

Have you ever come across a verse that was difficult to shake?  By that I mean, unable to stop pondering, thinking or unpacking?  Indeed, these verses are the hidden jewels of the wealth of treasure throughout God’s Word, and once discovered — they radiate like diamonds on the soul.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.   Psalm 91:4

For some time now this verse has conjured up all sorts of images . . . wings, protection, safety, shelter and the list goes on.  But it was the latter part of this verse that stirred in my heart for more than a week.  His faithfulness?  Mentioned in the same breath as feathers and wings?  My shield and rampart . . . what in the world is rampart?  My only reference to this word in my everyday life was from my childhood, watching one of my favorite shows in the early 80’s called Emergency One!  It was a syndicated TV series focused on the world of two paramedics at Station 51 and their close working relationship with Rampart General Hospital. The paramedics would arrive on an emergency scene, care for the wounded and call into “Rampart” to alert them of injuries in need of immediate care.  And like the heroes they were, they whisked the injured to the hospital.  Upon arrival, “Rampart” became the place for healing, recovery, care — where peace conquered chaos, and disasters became stories of miracles.

A place of fortification — rampart serves as a place, a broad place, raised to an elevation to serve as a defense.  Now it’s starting to become more than feathers!  My God serves as a broad, expansive defense for me.  And not just Him, but through His faithfulness this shield and rampart protects.  Can anyone else see the radiant diamonds glistening in this discovery?

My God, my Rampart!

Holidays That Hurt

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

I’ve been reminded quite often during this holiday season of the hurt that surrounds me.  Not my own, while also deep, but rather the hurt of friends and family . . . and strangers alike.  I used to think and believe, without compassion, the hurt of those around me were more of their business than my own.  With this attitude it is simple and easy to think about yourself more highly than one ought and arrogantly disregard the pain of others.  After all, that’s not my problem . . . right?  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Pain and hurt during the holidays is incredibly heightened.  With every turn, almost unavoidably, the joys of the season in family, and friends and fellowship spring from every corner.  To the hurting, it’s like rubbing alcohol on an opened wound.  There may be healing in it, but it hurts like the dickens . . . more than usual.

The loss of a family member or a very dear friend conjures up an absence, a change in routine and a reflection of what once was.  The grief associated with such loss can be immense.  The heaviness of sadness and loneliness can sink what was once unsinkable.  How one stays afloat in such times is somewhat of a mystery . . . but not really.

The God of this universe has promised you comfort in the midst of loss, grief and pain.  His comfort alone is sustaining and the “mystery” is truly by the grace of God!  He is the author of all that is and He alone orchestrates the healing power of the Holy Spirit in and through you.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus my friend and everything that belongs to Him has been freely given to you!  While things are not the same in your world, Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Experiencing the fullness of joy in the holiday season is indeed a precious gift.  Enjoy, celebrate and give thanks for those moments . . . but do not forget nor neglect the fact, there are those who experience far less joy in this season.  Share God’s precious gift with those who may be hurting.  It may be the only gift they receive.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.     II Peter 1:3-7

Getting Used To It

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:15-16

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last couple of years more than anything is that with grief, with loss — comes change.  And in the face of such change there is the temptation to force myself through the briar patch despite the snags and pain with all of its’ lasting wounds and scars.  At times, it feels like it would be more comfortable if I simply stopped and settled in place.  However, the problem with sitting in the briar patch are those pesky thorns starring me in the face and their scratch at every move I make.  Those painful briars tell me it’s safer and hurts less if I just sit still.  And when I do, everyone hears me say things like — “I’m over here . . . do you mind if I just talk from here?  It hurts too much to come to you!”  “That’s ok, it’s just where I am . . . just getting used to it, I hope you don’t mind.”  “I’m doing well, no I’m great, really.  I’m just going to . . . ouch! That hurt!”

But, God didn’t call me to live my life in the briar patch.  Briar patches are places to hide and sulk.  God called me to live life in the abundance of Him without exception.  He calls me to live in His holiness and run into His arms instead places that lie about their safety and comfort.  The hurtful den of that patch is a place where the healing bed of His salvation can also be found.  The mere idea of stepping out of the briars without hurt, without pain . . . with healing and the assurance of His abundant love is the essence of joy, comfort, peace and hope.

There is no peace in the heart of those in the patch, but there is healing in the heart of the one who takes refuge in Him. He has called me to be holy as He is holy — to live in the truth of who I am, regardless of my circumstances.  That is joy unspeakable.

When change comes because of grief and loss, remember there is no getting used to that!   God called me to rest in the knowledge of who I am in Christ, not in getting used to the briar patch — that’s not who I am!

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

Because You Know

“Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”  She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.   I Samuel 16-18

The story of Hannah is quite crazy in sadness, heartbrokenness, a search for answers, anguish, grief . . . surrender, expression, faithfulness, trust, obedience, worship . . . great love, honor, answers, blessings,  peace and assurance.  It’s a story of rescue!

Hannah sought the answers to the many questions in life she faced from those around her and not once did she find a solution.  Isn’t it just like any one of us to search for the answers we long to find in others — friends, family and sometimes strangers.  But never will I find true peace in the midst of brokenness unless I seek the Prince of Peace.

Hannah fell to her knees in great despair . . . the Bible describes it as anguish and grief, two things that the wrath of true crisis brings upon anyone who experiences such pain.  It further describes her in prayer, in such deep grief, words were unable to leave her lips while her mouth continued to move.  The priest thought sure she was drunk — but no, she was declaring, expressing, worshipping in prayer the depth of her own heart, the brokenness of her own spirit to the One she knew could heal.

And in this moment of honesty, she then went on her way — in peace!  How could this be?  Not only on her way did she go, but she actually ate something!  In crisis, in true heartbrokenness, the appetite is so small.  This is evidence of her in essence saying — believing — “I have shared my heart with my Lord and He knows all things — my hurt, my longing, my desires, my brokenness — whatever comes of this will clearly be of Him because He knows!”

Wow!  Because HE knows!

Lord Jesus, may I have the courage to stand from my own knees and no longer worry, no longer allow my circumstances to bring my face downcast BECAUSE YOU KNOW!

Something Beautiful

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Jeremiah 18:1-4

If I were most honest, this morning I woke up not feeling the most beautiful.  Clearly, when I wake up, there is nothing beautiful about that look, but I’m not referring to the beauty on the outside . . . I felt not so beautiful on the inside.  I felt broken.  And in my brokenness, the pieces of my life seemed scattered.  Like a favorite vase on the shelf that had fallen and shattered to the floor, I saw my life in a million pieces and the impossible task of cleaning it up and even more, the impossible ability to put it all back together.

It’s important to know that there was nothing that occurred to cause me to wake in this state except the fact that I know the evil one is in the business of deceiving me in what I think about me, what others think about me and in what and whom I trust.

But in my brokenness, I collect the pieces . . . big, small, tiny and seemingly insignificant and pile them at the foot of His cross!  Why would I even want to do this?  There is a very good reason why!  Because my God is the Potter!  He is my (and your) Restorer!  He makes ALL things NEW!  He takes my brokenness and makes something beautiful.  When you understand the grace that is ever so sufficient for even me, you will see Him.  You will see this beauty, not without the seams from healing, the scars from the process, the marring.  But praise Him — He didn’t stop there!  He kept shaping, kept molding, kept forming — and He continues to make beauty!

Lord Jesus, you have made all things well!  Today you have shown me the sufficiency of your grace for me in all things.  Remind me of my brokenness every day!  May I never live a moment without recognizing the position of your hands upon the sides of my life as it spins on the wheel.  You’ve never let go, you’ve never stopped, you’ve never tossed the clay and started over!  Thank you for the beauty of ashes that only comes from the refining fire of your Spirit!

by Mark Cruver

Circle of Life

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  I Corinthians 1:9

Years ago I was introduced to the idea of spending time with God on a daily basis.  Intentional moments carved out of my already busy schedule to focus on the God who sustains me — talk with Him, pray with Him, laugh and cry with Him.  So I pursued these moments with fervor, but the well of time quickly ran dry as life happened.  Projects, deadlines and many other things crowded the once designated time with Him.  It wasn’t long before I was no longer mentioning a quiet time with my Lord, but instead making excuses why I couldn’t afford that time.

And then I heard a dear friend and colleague speak to a group of college students.  I was one of them.  It turned my scripted idea of carving out a time with God each morning on it’s end.  He went on to invite us to explore the meaning of fellowship with our King.  As we are called into fellowship with Christ Himself, what then would that fellowship look like?  We were then encouraged to draw a circle around ourselves and regardless of where we are, invite Him into our circle.  True fellowship with the Savior!

So, no matter the place, no matter the moment, no matter the victory or crisis, no matter the emotion or experience, my circle includes the God of the universe who not only lives within, but does so in full fellowship with me!  As I exercise, He’s there to fellowship.  As I shop, He’s there to fellowship.  As I eat the blessings of this earth, He’s there to dine.  As I pay my bills, He’s there.  As I commute, He’s along for the ride.  As I worship, He rejoices in my joy of Him.  As I stress, He’s there to comfort and relieve.  As I heal, He is there to touch.  As I study, He is there to instruct.  As I doubt, He’s there to remind me of His promises.  As I question, He shows me in His Word an answer.  As I sit and wonder, He sits and loves.

When I draw a circle around me and invite the God of the universe to join me there — wherever that may be — I invite and unlock the very gift of life, love and the power of God to reside and rest within me.  It’s not a circle that excludes the fellowship of others, but the circle of life creates a light that shines and causes others to see Jesus in my circle!

Lord Jesus, may I continue to invite you into my circle — fellowship with me not just in the morning, but noon, day and night.  Now that’s a “circle of LIFE.”

by:  Mark Cruver

Righteousness Rises

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.  And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.  Malachi 4:2

Mornings when the sun shines bright and firm is a morning when I tend to feel refreshed by the warmth of it’s rays.  It’s almost magical, but the truth of those rays, the refreshment and comfort all come from the Creator.  What seemingly exists as another day, the “repeat event” that happens over and over is actually shaped into existence, designed for me, uniquely adorned and set to display the glory of the Lord!

And on those unique mornings when in the field the cattle even turn into the rays of the sun, something happens.  They frolic.  Frolic?  They dance in the sunshine, play in the warmth of the sun and in their youth play in the spirit of who they are!

Does my heart see that sun?  Does my spirit taste and see that the Lord is good and dance in the rays of His healing?  I say yes, but is it not dependent on if I see that sun?  What happens on an overcast day when the sun does not touch the ground?  Will my heart sing?  Will I frolic?

God shines with healing in His rays regardless of the circumstances that bring a dense fog to my world.  Knowing this is one thing, but believing this is believing that God is exactly who He says He is.  Further, it’s having faith in that which cannot be seen and knowing in that faith that His healing comes in trusting throughout life — not just when the sun shines bright!  Clouds pass, but the sun shines forever!

Lord Jesus, I praise you not because of who I am, but because of who you are!  You are the everlasting truth and healing in all things.  You have come each morning to kiss the breath of this earth with the healing power of your righteousness.  Through this I dance . . . I dance knowing my spirit is well-fed!

by:  Mark Cruver

Hurt and Healing

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

How do you respond to hurt?  Our nature is to protect our hearts from pain and avoid the object that causes hurt.  If it hurts bad enough, we will find a way to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  I remember once when I lifted a lid off a tote in the garden while doing some work and as I gripped the lid a wasp tagged my finger in defense.  Never did I think a wasp would ever be hiding under that lid, but mind you, I never put my hand under something without rattling it first!  That hurt!

But what about in relationships when it seems we get hurt over and over again?  It hurts too, but somehow vulnerable or not, we find ourselves in places where we always experience hurt.  Getting dumped for a date, a casual comment made in passing by another, an action taken toward or against you, a blatant disregard.  It all hurts and done over and over becomes a rather large wound.

How do we find healing when life brings hurt?  Where do we turn when some of our relationships continually beat us in the head with a virtual two-by-four?  Healing comes even in the midst of the bruises.  God has given us the assurance and promise of His presence in the middle of brokenness and goes a step further!  Just when we feel as though all is lost and nothing is left because of the mighty blows, He saves us . . . He saves the crushed spirit!

Lord Jesus, when I am brokenhearted, crushed in spirit and hurting, it is you in which I can trust!  Remind me of your longing to save me, renew my heart and complete me!  Fill within me those gaps that appear from not trusting in you in all things!  You are my joy, my crown, my everlasting — you are my Comfort in times of hurt and my great Physician in healing my broken heart!

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.  Psalm 34:19-20

by: Mark Cruver

Praise In Pain Means More Than An Ox

I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Psalm 69:29-33

As I both reflect and experience the depth of my own hurt and continual pain, I’m dumbfounded by the salve. As I encounter hurt by others, I’ve learned how quickly my demeanor is squeezed of what one might conclude to be the essence of happiness. But while rejection produces hurt and hurt, pain, I cry to my Lord for comfort. Not a bad idea actually, it seems like the right thing to do for deliverance. But in the depth of my own outcries what do I bring? Certainly no ox!

When the wounds of rejection present themselves in portion, my heart drips with self and desperate pleas for God to rescue my heart from bleeding out. And while turning my eyes, cries, and broken heart toward the Savior for comfort, He tells me of the tone, expression and essence of me He most desires and in which, delights.

God’s salve to the pain and hurt from rejection and isolation comes through His salvation! Call this a moment of discovery, but I’ve never seen the word, nor meaning, of salve in the word salvation — until now! And while an ox is a bit bulky to bring before the Lord, but would most definitely please Him, the inward and outward expression of praise and glory through song from the depths of my soul brings Him far more pleasure in fellowship with me than any ox with horns and hoofs. Makes me smile a bit to think of that!

Lord Jesus, I’m listening to your gentle voice. You are showing me what to do in my pain, hurt and rejection and it is not what I expected. While it hurts beyond description to be unwanted by fellow man, you want and invite me daily to be in close fellowship with you! And with my hurt, you heal through your salvation! May I continue to sing your praises through the pain – despite no ox! 😉