Raise my Ebenezer... my what?

Christmas is coming ... 65 days from today to be exact.  I mentioned Ebenezer at a Bible study this week, and my friend asked with concern... Scrooge is in the Bible???  Well, not exactly.  She accepted Jesus as her Savior just a couple of months ago and hadn't yet hung out much in the Old Testament... she is learning every day!

Do you have one?  An official ebenezer?  When our family experienced the most challenging time of our lives, Frank was struggling with chronic back pain... there seemed to be no solution and no option to "manage" his pain.  Along with physical pain, there were numerous other painful factors... a seeming insurmountable loss of a place and ability to work, a place for our family to live, a place of identity, a place of financial rest... you understand.  We have all faced painful factors, haven't we?

Our "place to live" journey became clearly and totally dependent on God's provision and direction.  We could never have imagined how HE would offer to lead us - only God would provide for us to move 7 times in 3 1/2 years.  That is still unimaginable... in human terms.  I often lean to Isaiah 55 - "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord."

We knew He was directing... because the thoughts certainly weren't ours... and didn't make any sense in my thoughts.  Thus, creating one of my Ebenezers.

1 Samuel 7 is where you find the story.  I'll condense it a bit.  (I know many of you are giggling right out loud at the thought of me "condensing"  anything with words!?

So, our Israelites had gathered with fear.  The mighty Philistines were upon them.  Samuel prayed earnestly for the Lord to intervene.. and HE did.  The NIV Bible says, "But that day the LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines."  So the battle was won, and Samuel (and the Israelites) knew Who was responsible.

 Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, “The Lord has helped us every step of the way.”

Samuel asked the Lord for help, the Lord helped, Samuel thanked the Lord and set a BIG stone... to remember HIS help.

So, at the end of our 3 1/2 year journey through seven houses, we needed a "stone" for which to remember and acknowledge the Lord's help... every step of the way.  My stone hangs on my wall, it is a big stone... I need "big" reminders... It measures about 4' by 5' and hangs in a conspicuous place in our home.  A picture of each house and the verse that God reminded me with over and over again. 

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

I have other Ebenezers - one is a stone with a date written on it... a date I hold to as a specific answer to a question that I needed to be answered - that one wasn't what I planned... most of them aren't ... in my experience.  One is a very small silver bell - reminding me of a specific time and direction from the Lord.

What about you?  The Lord helps us every day... no doubt, but I believe we need those tangible reminders, don't you?  Many of us love the song, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", that speaks of raising our Ebenezer.  Chris Rice sings a gentle version of this hymn, 

Take a listen and thank Him for helping you thus far.  If you don't have one in place, would you consider what that physical reminder of your Ebenezer might look like?  

Would you share it with me... I would love to praise Him with you through your Ebenezer.  HE is worthy of all praise, glory and honor!!  And then, we have the privilege of sharing with others what a Great God we serve.  He is trustworthy... always!


 Thank you Father, 
"This marks the place where YOU helped us.” (The Message)

Am I "stiff-necked"? What about you?

Not the most popular question posed on a lazy Sunday afternoon...  and probably not the first, or even second question I might ask you if we grab a cup of coffee... I promise!

I've been studying through the Old Testament books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy... and the word continues to pop up.  Those wandering Israelites. defines stiff-necked as having a stiff neck and also stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed.

Can you relate to having a stiff neck?  I sure can.  After my collision on the softball field with the ball, then the ground, my experience was intense.  Moving my neck even to the slightest degree seemed impossible, and at the very least - extremely painful.

So, let's move to the stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed...  my mind went immediately to a specific day and time.  We were visiting a pediatric endocrinologist.  Clay was extremely sick during his first year of life - we spent much time in and out of the hospital.  He was eighteen months old and wasn't growing, so we were again discussing with a doctor the next step for him.  In six months, according to the measurement just taken, he had gained less than 2 pounds, and his height had not changed.  I just kept shaking my head in disbelief... "I know the pants he has on right now are shorter than they were just a few weeks ago."  The discussion continued, and so did my certainty that the measurement must be incorrect.  The doctor assured me that the nurses were well-trained (and they were) and were aware of the gravity of the situation.  I relented, and the specifics of the coming process of daily shots for the next 15+ years resumed.  "No," I began again, "this can't be right.  Please could someone just measure again."  With gentle patience, the doctor agreed and simply grabbed the tape - I helped to be sure his legs were totally straight! :)  Looking back at his chart, her elation showed, he was measuring an inch and a half growth - still barely on the "official growth chart", but enough to table the discussion.   As many of you know with much prayer and nutritional advice, Clay finally resumed the path to health.  No shots... and many more of you that now, at 19, he measures about 73 1/2 inches... 6'1 1/2'.  That stubborn, stiff-necked momma (and dad) were right to be a bit pig-headed.

So back to my study in Exodus.  I looked up stiff-necked in a Bible dictionary and saw the definition a bit more intense... the word used is impenitent - meaning "not feeling regret about one's sin or sins; obdurate" - which means unmoved by persuasion...

As I studied the Israelites, I believe I realized something important about stiff necks.... they are always looking aside... or back - behind where they are, or just to the side... not focused on what (and WHO) is leading.
Maybe they didn't fully trust GOD... I get that.  
Maybe they didn't know HIM very well... I get that.  
Maybe they didn't want to go the way HE was leading... I get that.
Maybe they thought their plan was better or even made more sense... and I get that.

So if I "get" it, what do I do with "that"?  I'm in the midst of the study of Hosea, and Jennifer Rothschild has led us through a series of questions and thoughts relating ourselves to Gomer - you know the wandering wife of Hosea.  He continued to "go get her, to redeem her, to love her as the Lord loves the Israelites..."  One commentator notes that Gomer was 'clearly a high risk for a lasting relationship'.

Jennifer points out that the words, lie, pride, and sin have one letter in common... right in the center... "I".  So does the word, stIff...

So, how do you get "I" out of the middle?  I'm wishing there was a magic button here like the "easy" button for the office supply store.  Haven't found that yet.  What I have found is simply this.  

Ask for HIS help. 
 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2
Read HIS word.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 
Psalm 119:11
Choose HIS way over my own.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33
Turn my stiff necked heart and mind toward HIM.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Psalm 119:36

Our Father,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.