My Strong Tower

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I’ve always loved Proverbs 18:10,

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.”

What is a tower anyway? I mean, I have visions of Rapunzel letting down her hair from the tower which her adopted (albeit, B.A.D.) mother, an evil enchantress,  locked her up in with no means of escape so that her prince charming (oh, the depths of undying love) could climb up her beautiful, strong locks (so jealous) to meet secretly with her.

For real? A tower made of stone or brick so tall with no doors to enter in or out and one lone window at the very tip top. A window in which poor trapped-and-unable-to-escape Rapunzel could only look out upon the beautiful world that surrounded her prison and dream about what life was like…out there…in the magical forests and mystical woodlands.

Hmmmmmm. I think I’m missing something.

It’s just so obvious that the enchantress misused the true purpose of a tower.

A tower was built to be a place of safety and protection. A tower was a place of gazing and watching. A tower was built high so one could see far and wide. A tower was strong and built to last.

But a tower wasn’t meant to hold people captive. A tower was meant to hold them close. To give them comfort. To keep them safe. A tower wasn’t meant to keep all of life out as much as it was meant to preserve the life inside.

And God is just so very good and wonderful about preserving lives.

A tower was built to be a defensive weapon. Watchmen in the tower kept watchful eyes on the horizon to distinguish between friend and foe approaching the city behind the safety of the walls. Towers were sometimes part of a huge complex called fortresses. Friends and allies were allowed inside, but enemies were fought and fired upon. It was hard to get inside a city so well protected. Those on the inside felt a measure of peace and assurance that the guards in the tower were ever alert, always awake, always armed.

No wonder David, the great psalmist, acknowledged God as his Fortress, Rock, Refuge, Shield, Deliverer and Stronghold all in three verses of one psalm!

” ‘I love You, O Lord, my Strength.’  The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge; my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”  Psalm 18:1-3

How can anyone sing a song like that and not be strengthened in his inner man?!?

But what I love most about Proverbs 18:10 is that God’s name alone has great power, ‘the name of the Lord is a strong tower…”

There is power in the name of the Lord. (I think we forget that sometimes.)

There is strength in the name of the Lord. (I think we neglect that sometimes.)

There hope in the name of the Lord. (I think we ignore that sometimes.)

The thing is…we can’t dethrone God. He’s always going to be mighty. And strong. And powerful.

He’s always going to be above all things. And in control of all things. And working out His plan in all things.

He’s always going to be ever watchful. Ever armed. Ever awake.

Even when we think He’s not. He is.

Even when we think He’s forgotten us, He really hasn’t, “Can a mother forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

Even when we think He’s lost sight of us, He really hasn’t, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:6

Even when we think He’s uncaring or unmindful of us, He really isn’t, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26

We can try all we want to strip God of His character and believe He’s something other than what He says He is, but it’s only a matter of personal belief. God can’t be dethroned. We can’t take away His Sovereignty. Over and over again in Scripture He tells us things like, “I am The Lord, and there is no other…besides Me there is no God…there is no one besides Me…for I am The Lord, and there is none else…”

Sometimes, I think we miss something.

Something that looks a lot like belief. ‘Cause we don’t always act like we believe He is….well…above all!

Because sometimes, instead of finding safety in The Strong Tower, we let down our hair and let the enemy climb up. Instead of using the tower as a defensive weapon, we let the foe climb right in.

Lord, have mercy.

What if, when we start disbelieving, we start calling upon His name? What if, when we start doubting, we start standing upon the Rock, holding up our Shield, blowing our Horn, and trusting our Deliverer to save?

What if we stood tall in our Strong Tower like true watchmen?!? What if?!?

Well, maybe…just maybe…instead of an evil enchantress we might get a prince. And instead of a prison we might get freedom. And instead of fear we might have peace.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me so instead of trying to escape from the tower I think I’ll try running to it. As fast as my little legs will carry me.

‘Cause in my heart I truly believe,    

“No one is like you, Lord; You are great, and Your name is mighty in power.” Jeremiah 10:6

Antics Of A Church Deaconess

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I have just completed the first year of my role as a church deaconess.

Before you shut me out because you don’t believe that women should serve as deacons in the church, let me just say, if God appointed Phoebe in biblical Cenchrea, then I believe He can still appoint women to serve in this role today. Phoebe was a woman of means who helped support Paul in his mission work and served the early church near Rome. Women had important roles in the early church and, just so you know, the word deacon in the biblical Greek means a waiter, servant; an administrator or minister.

It’s a ministry role, people! And I just happen to like serving people.

I found out years ago when I gave up my self-employment as a decorative artist back in the nineties (that’s the 1990s, f.y.i.) and took a job working in a very historic old-fashioned soda fountain-slash-pharmacy that God has gifted me for service. I loved all that preparing food and making milk shakes and having a laugh-a-day with the customers. I knew the regulars by the sandwiches they ordered. There she is (big smile), my Egg-Salad-Sandwich-On-Toasted-Rye-With-A-Slice-Of-Tomato-And-Don’t-Forget-The-Pickle-And-Chips! Coming right up. How ya doin’ today?

Yes, I happen to love serving. Call me crazy. I don’t care. The service role suits me.

Being a deacon is more than just serving a meal, though. Sometimes the need is more spiritual or emotional. Anyone, really, can be a deacon at heart. I admit I feel very inadequate at times and I tend to berate myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough but remembering that the heart of a deacon is really ministry I only need to look to Christ to show me how to minister.

Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ Matthew 21:25-28

One of the things I enjoy about ministering is visiting the families placed under my care. When at all possible, my husband and I like to do this together. After all, I’m hearing impaired so someone’s gotta be my ears. Lucky Wayne. The man is a saint.

Before accepting this role, Wayne and I talked and prayed and agreed that we would serve together whenever possible. He makes all my phone calls since I don’t hear well on the phone. He’s actually quite fun to have around. Like when he calls a friend down the street on my cell phone for me and pretends to be me by talking in a high-pitched twiny voice, “Debbie, this is Nina. Are you home? I want to bring you something.”  This is the man I married. I’ll love him forever and ever. Amen.

So we were visiting one of my families a couple of months ago. About 20 minutes into the visit, the battery went dead in one of my hearing aids. This was the one and only time I left my purse at home. I always carry extra batteries with me for this very reason. No purse. No batteries. All I could do was remove the hearing aid and stick it in my pocket. In the process of taking it out of my ear, though, the mold fell off the tube and rolled under the couch.

As Wayne was in the middle of sharing a story or joke, whatever…he likes to do both…I got down on my hands and knees searching for the runaway mold. Upon retrieving it I got back up and realized by the looks on everyone’s faces that an explanation was needed. I think my husband said something like, “I can’t take her anywhere.”

I prayed for the family before we left, but I was thinking someone needed to pray for me.

We then walked across the lawn to this family’s parents’ house who lived right next door. Hey, let’s just keep this ministry-thing going like an Energizer battery! ‘Cause we’re still on charge. Just because I was down one hearing aid due to a dead battery was no reason to quit, right?

No sooner had we begun listening-sharing-and-all-that-other-good-stuff, my other hearing aid battery died. I’m telling you, that pink bunny stopped playing the drums right in mid-strike and left me in complete silence. The nerve. Move over you worthless rabbit, I’m switching to the copper-top.

As I took my last hearing source out of my ear and stuck it in my pocket my husband looked at me and, when he realized what had happened, a very Grinch-y smile spread across his face. He proclaimed intentionally loud enough for me to hear,

“OH GOOD! Now we can talk about Nina!”

We didn’t stay long after that. I was afraid that all my dirty secrets would be laid bare before God and everybody by a husband who claimed it was payback time.

You know, the funny thing is, I almost used my hearing disability as an excuse not to be a deaconess. In some ways, I thought it would be a hindrance. How can I effectively minister to the needs of others if I can’t always hear what they’re saying? If I can’t talk on the phone? If I can’t listen and respond appropriately?

But then, I thought about how much I enjoy serving people. I couldn’t always hear the customers when I worked at the soda fountain, either, but I like to think I made up for it with good service. I think the customers liked me as much as I liked them. I did what I could and I always tried to give my best. Isn’t that all our Lord requires of us?

Serving others isn’t about doing it right as much as it’s about doing it well. And what is right, anyway? How I serve may not be how you serve. God uses my gifts differently than He uses yours, but He’ll use us all if we have hearts willing to serve. All He wants is our best. And I can give Him that.

Like Phoebe. I can serve like Phoebe.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” Romans 16:1

A Simple Faith

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Okay. So I’m going to regale you with a story.

When I was a little girl I remember getting my panties all in a wad when I went to the grocery store with my mom and watched the grocery store people stuffing bags of chips on the shelf, mercilessly reducing the chips in those bags to rubble.

I wanted to poise my little-girl self with hands on my hips and cry out, “Don’t crush the chips!!!”

If looks could kill.

No wonder there are so many tiny broken pieces of chips in the bottom of the bag. When I was little I didn’t like the crumbs. I wanted my chips completely whole and unspoiled. I wanted them all in one divine piece when I put them in my mouth (never mind the fact they were immediately crushed between my teeth),  but n0-o-O-o-o…the Chip-Crusher had to push and shove and smash. (they’re chips, people! not sardines!!)

I just could NOT understand why it was necessary to shove so many bags of chips onto one measly shelf. Couldn’t the grocery store people be a little gentler? Kinder? After all, chips are fragile. It doesn’t take much to crush one.

Well. I have a bit of irony for you.

I am now the Chip-Crusher. Don’t hate.

Yes. I stock chips at a local Piggly Wiggly.

And yes. I push and shove and smash every single one of my chip bags. Sometimes I think I hear Taps playing as I push my cart from the stockroom to the floor, loaded with boxes of Original, Ripple, and BBQ potato chips.

Breaks my heart to pack ’em in and reduce ’em to rubble like that. Sometimes I still hear my little-girl self, “Don’t crush the chips!” I even feel an urge to tell them I’m sorry.

It’s such an unglamorous job. Stocking shelves and sweatin’ like a pig at The Pig. But seriously, we sell a lot of chips. There’s the ever-so-popular sour cream and onion chips. The green onion chips. The no-salt chips. The jalapeño chips. The hot chips. The dill pickle chips. Then there’s the pretzels in all shapes and sizes, cheese balls, potato sticks, onion rings, and pork rinds (picture me sticking my finger in mouth and gagging. can i say, disgusting? but hey, i think it’s a southern-thang. can you believe there’s actually at least 6 different varieties of pork rinds? Pul-EE-ze).

And I pack ’em ALL in. The more the merrier. ‘Cause chips sell.

Here’s the thing, though. I do a lot of thinking when I work. Except when my stomach is rumbling and I need to feed it. That’s the only thing about working in a grocery store. You can’t get away from the food. Usually my stomach rumbles right on time. I’m very good about packing my lunch because, No, I do not eat the chips.

I like to think of ways to make my work more spiritual. I don’t know. I can’t help it. God is on my mind a lot. So I was thinking how it grieved me as a little girl to see the stockers crushing the chips and how I’m now the one doing the crushing. For some strange reason this bothered me even more.

My little girl’s mind was so simple and basic and pure back then. Not perfect, mind you. But pure in the sense that I didn’t know a whole lot about a whole lot, but I knew a lot about what I knew and I knew  chips were fragile. They were easily broken. In my simpleness it seemed so unnecessary to treat them like they weren’t. What was so hard about stocking bags of chips without crushing them? All that was needed was a softer touch. A gentler hand.

It wasn’t really practical, though, but sometimes practical is good. Simple can be a good thing. Not foolish simple. Or dumb. Or even boring. But simple…easy. Or easier.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t make things so complicated.

Adult-ing is hard work. Sometimes I don’t want to adult. Sometimes I just want to think simple. Like a child. ‘Cause children have a purer faith. Whole and unspoiled.

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, 

‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’

And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.'” Mark 10:13-16

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Coming to Jesus for salvation was a no-brainer for me. I still remember walking down the church aisle at the age of 8 and taking my father’s hand. He actually got down on his knee to receive me. It wasn’t long after that he baptized me in the river. Things were simpler then. I still believe in my salvation, but I have trouble sometimes in the trusting department. And faith requires trust.

Faith doesn’t have to be hard, but sometimes I make it hard. 

I push in doubt. Smash in fear. And shove in worry.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to crush me. I’m kinda fragile like that.

It’s in this weakness that I feel most like a little girl again. Because I can’t even tell you how much I love it when Jesus places His hands on me and tells me to “Come.”  It’s the thrill of my heart to know I can go to Him when I feel I’ve been packed in like too many chips and there’s all these tiny pieces at the bottom of my heart. That’s when He takes me in His arms and blesses me good.

This is the simple child-like faith I strive for every day of my life. Whole and unspoiled. Because it’s uncomplicated. And, truthfully, I like simple things.

So this is my story, but it’s not over, yet. God is still writing it. It’s a good thing, too, ’cause crushing chips isn’t who I am. Deep down I’m not a crusher. I’m a builder,

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7