Friday, March 31, 2006

One of my many Ebenezers

You’re looking at a picture of one of my Ebenezers. In fact, his name is Ebenezer. This is my grandson, born in July, 2004, to my daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Scott. Let me tell you why Ebenezer is a fitting name for this special little boy (and I’m not prejudiced).

Little did my daughter know when she went into the delivery room to give birth to Eben, that he was not where he was supposed to be. You probably knew this: Unborn babies live for nine months in this place inside their mommies called a “uterus.” But Eben (and his placenta) chose to develop inside his mommy’s abdominal cavity. That’s right, my daughter had what is called an abdominal pregnancy. Not until Rebecca was lying on the delivery table did the doctors and nurses find this out.

Now, you need to know a few things about abdominal pregnancies. They are, says one expert, “an exceedingly rare occurrence.” The incidence of abdominal pregnancy is 1 in 10,000 live births. At least 20-40% of the babies who survive are malformed, and only 50% survive for longer than a week. Abdominal pregnancies are also life threatening for the mother, due to massive hemorrhaging. Maternal mortality rates as high as 18% have been reported in the literature. In short, it is a miracle that Eben is a perfectly healthy, bouncing baby boy today, and that my daughter Rebecca is alive and well.

Now do you understand why my daughter and her husband named their miracle child “Ebenezer”? See, “Ebenezer” is a proper name found in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 7). The people of Israel were about to be attacked by a powerful army of Philistines. They begged the prophet Samuel to pray to God on their behalf. So Samuel presented an offering and asked God to protect them from the Philistines. Sure enough, “the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines” (1 Sam. 7:10) and the Israelites won a dramatic victory. After the battle, Samuel found a large stone and set it up near Mizpah as a memorial to God’s faithfulness. Samuel named the stone “Ebenezer” (Hebrew for “stone of help”), and said, “Thus far has the Lord helped us." If ever the people of Israel doubted God’s love and power, all they needed to do was travel to Mizpah and look at the stone called Ebenezer. That “stone of help” would erase their doubts and fears, and help them regain confidence in the grace of God.

So when I look at my grandson, I know God is faithful.

What's your Ebenezer? Like me, you probably have a lot of Ebenezers. They are special reminders that God brought you this far, and will make sure you get all the way home.

You might know the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." The second stanza says,

Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.

That's what the lonely is for

I love this song by David Wilcox. If you don't know his music, you should. He's a great songwriter and guitar player. This is "That's What the Lonely Is For," from the CD Big Horizon.

The depth of your dreams, the height of your wishes
The length of your vision to see, the hope of your heart
Is much bigger than this
For it's made out of what might be

Now picture your hope, your heart's desire -
As a castle that you must keep
In all of its splendor, it's drafty with lonely
This heart is too hard to heat

When I get lonely ah, that's only a sign
Some room is empty, and that room is there by design
If I feel hollow - that's just my proof that there's more
For me to follow - that's what the lonely is for

Is it a curse or a blessing this palace of promise
When the empty chill makes you weep
With only the thin fire of romance to warm you
These halls are too tall and deep

But, you can seal up the pain, build walls in the hallways
Close off a small room to live in
But those walls will remain, and keep you there always
And you'll never know why you were given... why you were given the lonely

Some room is empty
If I feel hollow that's just my proof that there's more
For me to follow - that's what the lonely is for

From the deep of your dreams, the height of your wishes
The length of your vision to see, the hope of your heart
Is much bigger than this
For it's made out of what might be

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The fight for contentment

This is a great illustration of the battle we face to find contentment right where we are. When I saw this picture I thought it captured well the human dissatisfaction with present blessings and our yearning for whatever it is we think will satisfy us.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Getting Better

I'm feeling much better today, thanks to a restful weekend. Sickness has a way of revealing that my values are often in the wrong place. I find, when I am away from the office and not motivated to work, that I suddenly feel unimportant, unwanted. Which tells me that I have been looking to ministry -- instead of to Christ -- for a sense of completeness, wholeness, & significance. I also find, when I have spent a couple days in a row doing absolutely nothing, that I need to do that more often!

It's so easy to let ministry replace people (not to mention God), and to be busy without doing anything of real importance.

Contentment means not requiring activity and recognition for inner well-being. A contented person lives out of a deep well of grace, fed by the springs of God's unconditional love.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sick of being sick

What a way to start my blog, talking about how sick I've been. It all started the day after vacation ended. My wife & I (that's me in the back, the tallest) spent last week in NY skiing with my two oldest kids and their spouses. Oh, and the greatest little grandchildren in the world! We had a great time but were glad to be home...until the next day I woke up with a cough that wouldn't quit. Here it is a week later and I'm coughing non-stop. That's why I'm writing this at 12:35 in the morning. When I lie down I start coughing. It's driving my wife crazy, and me too.

So I've been thinking this IS the greener grass...I'm in it, by faith. It's not out there somewhere in someone else's yard. I can be content here and now.

A prayer of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) helps me find contentment in sickness. He prayed, "Lord, whose spirit is so good and so gentle in all things, and who art so compassionate that not only all prosperity but even all afflictions that come to Thine elect are the results of Thy compassion: grant me grace that I may not do as the pagans do in the condition to which Thy justice has reduced me. Grant that as a true Christian I may recognize Thee as my Father and as my God, in whatever estate I find myself, since the change in my condition brings no change in Thine own. For Thou art the same, though I be subject to change, and Thou art God no less when Thou dost afflict and when Thou dost punish, than when Thou dost console and when Thou dost manifest indulgence. Grant then, Lord, that I may conform to Thy will, just as I am, that, being sick as I am, I may glorify thee in my sufferings. Without them I cannot attain to glory; without them, my Saviour, even thou wouldst not have risen to glory. Amen."

I don't think Pascal means that all sickness is a punishment from God...I mean, what could I have done to merit punishment? (Ha!) The point is, I can choose to be content in my sickness by seeing this time as a gift...a time to rest, to stop doing all the stuff I usually do, and to glorify God with an attitude of worship.