Stronghold

 

 

It’s the oldest standing masonry fort in North America, guarding the town of St. Augustine since 1672, telling of the struggle and resourcefulness that characterized the colonial American.

Castillo de San Marcos.

A stronghold.  Impenetrable. Twice besieged, but never taken. Never destroyed by canonfire.  Only 6 lives ever lost within its walls.

A stonghold.

First built by the Spanish to protect their treasure in the new world, traded to the British as spoils for the victors of the Seven Days War, awarded back to Spain after the American Revolutionary War, and ceded to a young nation within the confines of a new state, Florida.

Armed with canons on every side.  A ready defense. Not an offensive weapon, it’s immovable foundations have survived assaults from sea, looting from pirates, and trampling from tourists.  The coquina walls remain with etchings to tell the stories of all its occupants.  Truly, the walls speak.  A reminder of the staying power of human will and ingenuity.

 

It’s nothing compared to the strength of my God.

My stronghold.

Jesus.  May I hide myself in You?  When the enemy lobs mortar fire through friends’ careless words that rip into my flesh, may I remember that I am precious in your eyes.  When the enemy loots me of my confidence and anxiety lodges deep within my belly because my tasks seem so looming, may I remember your promise of my handwritten days all laid out before one of them came to be.  When my future is unknown, and I look to those around me to tell me which way to go, may I remember the constancy of your love for me — never changing, never waning, always sustaining love you died to prove.

One big difference between my God and Castillo de San Marcos: The Castle doesn’t move.  It’s rooted to the ground on the Mantanzas Bay.  It’s a stone monument to the past.

My God is with me wherever I go.  To hide myself in Him isn’t to hunker down in a dark corner shivering at the mortar exploding overhead.

No.

To know He is my stronghold means I can step out into the day He has given me with humble confidence.  Grace-filled surety.  I don’t cower in a crater of fear.  I stand on the ground He has secured for me.  So my life becomes, not only living proof of all He can do with one relinquished, but also a testimony of all He has yet to do with one purchased.

A living monument to the future.

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Ps. 27:1

 

God’s Delight

He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me.” (2 Samuel 22:20)

I know I’ve been on a “David kick” for awhile.  I can’t help it. His story is so compelling, so riveting and real.  David’s humanness jumps off the pages of my Bible and causes me to deal… deal with my giants, my running … my God.

And I think I’m drawn to him because David was a writer.  He fills his psalms with vivid images from battle and natural disaster … and joy.  But, I wonder, how much of this is literal?  Did David actually see the Lord “route the enemy” with lightning bolts like arrows?  Did he honestly witness the “valleys of the sea laid bare” at the “rebuke of the Lord”?  Was David really drowning when the Lord “reached down from on high, took hold of [him] and drew [him] out of the deep waters” (2 Sam. 22.15-17)?

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Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, after the years of running from his renegade, crown-usurping son, David must have felt relieved to be home in Jerusalem, secure from his enemies.  He finally had a place to rest; finally a place to retire his “looking over my shoulder, wondering what lies around the corner” instinct.

So, after all the trials and tragedy, here’s what David knows about this place, Jerusalem, this City of Shalom.

•  David knew it was the Lord’s doing that brought him here.  Everything David enjoyed was a movement of God on his behalf.  God’s strength, God’s victory, God’s help, God’s way… all led him here… to a spacious place of rest and provision.

•  David knew he was rescued.  He knew that he was completely dependent on God to act on his behalf… to draw him out of deep water, to support him when confronted by his enemies, to turn his darkness into light.  David is not passive, but he is dependent.  As one who is rescued, he knows his need.

•  David knew that he was the object of God’s delight.  He’s not God’s duty, not his project, not his anger, but God’s delight.  God’s laughter.  David knows he didn’t earn this position.  It was a gift, grace, unmerited favor.  God, in his joy, brought David to this place.

 

So here we are in a new place, Orlando, this city of Disney magic and palm trees.  Can I truly rest here?  Can I spread my arms, my concerns, my questions before the Lord and know his rescue and his delight?

With all the traffic and busyness, all the demands of school and grocery shopping and apartment living, I know I’ll experience the “spaciousness” metaphorically, not literally.  But, I do sense that this is what he wants to give us … space.

Many times, I think God’s direction would be easier to follow if he would literally lay the seas open bare and breath fire before me… scary, but easier.  Well maybe.  I want to know God’s intention in bringing us here.  I want to increase my dependence on him and experience his delight in me.  I think I will see those things through the eyes of faith.  Eyes that know the conviction of things hoped for and the assurance of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

May I learn to see that way.

O Father, may we enter into the space you have provided, walk the path you’ve laid out before us.  Can you make it clear and well-lit?  But even if it’s not, we will trust you in the darkness.  

And Father, along the way, let us hear your laughter, the song of your delight.

Creation Meditation

I’m inspired by Ps. 104 to write my own “meditation on creation.”

Verse 1 starts with “O Lord, my God, you are very great.” Then the psalmist continues for 31 verses looking at the sky, sun, moon, animals, trees, oceans, mountains, life, death… He concludes with this statement of faith:

“I will sing to the Lord all my life.
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my mediation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.” Ps. 104:33-35

The last sentence surprises me. I almost don’t want to include in in the quote, but it’s there, not willing to be ignored, daring me to wrestle with it. Scripture is surprising sometimes. I wonder, does God want to teach me in the paradox?

Maybe there is a connection between my praise and the salvation of men. Maybe when I acknowledge the greatness of my God, His kingdom is advanced.

Maybe the psalmist isn’t speaking of the extermination of those who stand against God’s way, but the conversion of those who miss His glory? Maybe believers are most compelling when they are praising, not pointing fingers.

So, here’s my attempt at a “Creation Meditation.” May it be pleasing to my God.

•••

Oh, my soul, wake up and recognize the beauty of your God.
The morning beckons you: sing!
The endless expanse of sky drapes the earth dome and speaks of His eternal ways.
Beyond the blue and in the air you breathe, He is here.

The birds, in their joy, greet the morning He has made.
Let your heart join in their sweet melody,
a refrain celebrating the simple things
… food, shelter, light.

The trees shimmer in the breeze, mindful of its whispers.
When the wind blows fierce, they grow stronger from its force.Their roots stretch deep through the layers of Indiana clay.
Tall Beech, petite Red Buds,
strong Catalpa, and White Oaks ringed with age stand proud, branches outstretched, straining upward.

They model for me arms lifted high in praise.

The breeze also stirs wild grasses, heads bobbing,
ruby-colored clover, and smiling daisies growing at will.
They receive the rain and sunlight freely offered by my God, and in turn
offer up their innocent beauty.

Stryder, my faithful walking companion, jogs the path ahead,
follows scents undetected by me.
Futilely, he chases a cottontail startled by our steps.
He gleefully rolls in the dewy, freshly mowed grass.
He drinks in the day, ever confident that his master will meet his needs
with good things to eat and balls to retrieve.

Oh my soul, trust your Master like that.

As joggers, bicyclers, even drivers of cars rush by me,
I wonder do they see, do they hear
nature beckoning them to turn to their Creator?
The trees and birds and wild flowers respond willingly to his ready favor.

Why don’t we?