Sunday, January 25, 2009

I finally know that I belong....

For those of you who started your stint year in August or September, you're finally reaching that time of year where you might find that you're starting to "normalize" in your new culture. Maybe you hit bottom around the holidays and now you're discovering that you have good and bad days... just like... like, uh... like home.

What's more, as the end of the (stint) year rapidly approaches you'll start realizing that there are things about this culture that are YOURS and you want to take it home with you. Or maybe you realize that this is home more than the good Ol' US of A.

As for me, I like songs that put a smile on my face and remind me of how I'm feeling today. And so, allow me to introduce you to Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele and "Oh, Paris!"

Friday, January 2, 2009


At this time of year, I typically find myself thinking about what I would like for the next year to look like. I long ago gave up New Year's resolutions, not being able to make most of them last past about 2 weeks. But I'm still a future thinker more than a reflective one. I look down the road far easier and more often than reflect upon where I've come from. But in that, I am missing something important.

I was reading a few days ago from a devotional book by Charles Spurgeon, where he mentions 1 Samuel 7:12, "Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us".

Maybe you've sung the phrase before from the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and wondered about that phrase, "Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I've come." There are 2 words we don't often use anymore - "Ebenezer" and "hither".

The Ebenezer is literally "a stone of help".
It's Samuel's version of the more familiar memorial stones that Joshua pulled from the Red Sea to celebrate God's faithful provision to Israel as they made it through the 40 year journey and crossed into the Promised Land to a new life, a new beginning. Samuel raises the stone and says to all Israel, remember how God has worked in your midst up until this very moment.

As you start the New Year, before you think about what you want 2009 to look like, take some time by yourself and with your team, and raise your own Ebenezer. Like a giant road marker/monument, recount to yourself and one another all the various ways that God has shown Himself to be your provider, shepherd, warrior, lover, redeemer, and more.

While there is always much to anticipate and plan for in the future - goals to achieve, trips to take, decisions to make - these markers, this "stone of help", will provide the spiritual context you and I need to move forward with gratitude and hope in our hearts for the journey God has us for us in the days ahead. Stopping in our present, to remember our past, helps us make more sense out of our future. It forces us to hear and learn from God where He fits in this picture, and how He is the one who is watches over our ways.

There, now you can add "Ebenezer" to your vocabulary. I still wouldn't use "hither". Just leave it alone.

May the road for 2009 bring you a richer experience of the mercy and grace of God.