I’ve come to cherish God as a tower of refuge to his children, to me, his daughter. I’ve fallen in love with the discovery that God is my tower of safety during times of trial, difficulty or confusion.
Psalm 18:2 NLT
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
Let’s look at it in The Passion Translation
You’re as real to me as bedrock beneath my feet, like a castle on a cliff, my forever firm fortress, my mountain of hiding, my pathway of escape, my tower of rescue where none can reach me. My secret strength and shield around me, you are salvation’s ray of brightness shining on the hillside, always the champion of my cause.
Psalm 61:2-3 NLT
From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Psalm 144:2a NLT
He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield and I take refuge in him.
This reference first came alive for me when I was dealing with a cantankerous coworker my first summer in
Albuquerque. I had just moved across the country with little more than hope and chutzpah. The first job I got was cold calling people over the telephone to persuade them to volunteer to fundraise for a charity.
We’ll call that bawdy broad who spiked my ire, Betsy. She was grey haired and disheveled, with eyes keen as a hawk and a voice like a trumpet blasting orders. She lugged her oxygen tank outside for cigarette breaks, coming to rest in the driver’s seat of her worn, tired automobile, as the car, groaning in duress, sunk down under her weight. To me her car always felt like it was going to fall apart at any second. I was always halfway trying to find the hidden duct tape and wire that I thought must be holding her vehicle together.
She was an overbearing, boorish bully. I heard tales of her previous political incorrectness. The only one I can remember right now is that she called a Native American coworker, Pocahontas and sincerely couldn’t understand why that wasn’t acceptable. Then I came along, fresh into my new lay-it-all-down-for-Jesus life and honestly, I wasn’t sure anymore how to act.
I’d worked decades in corporate America, but then I felt radically redeemed, and I was worried if I wasn’t fanatical, I might be betraying my new found love for Christ. Sometimes I’m still not sure how to act. I’d left the only ministry I knew at 39 years of age. Then a couple years later I felt like God asked me to give away practically all my belongings. Six months later I flew across the country from Columbus, Ohio to Albuquerque, New Mexico on a one-way plane ticket with no savings and no job – just grit, determination and fierce hope.
I landed at the Albuquerque International Sunport late on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. The Fourth of July was on a Saturday that year and I began this short-term position the following week. Betsy was curious about me. She had worked for this charity previous summers and winters and I was a new face among the summer workers. I made my passion for Jesus known, and she seemed to zero in on how to behave contrary to that. She would begin to loudly praise the goddess of the working woman when she successfully recruited a volunteer. She would take over the morning staff meeting to explain how she had reached out to the powers of the universe to enlist their aid.
Honestly, at that point, I was rigid for Jesus. Every time Betsy spoke like that I was fit to be tied. It’s rather humorous looking back. And Father God used the opportunity to teach me some about how to relax.
She sat directly across from me and the thin cube wall did little to muffle her booming voice. I would silently bind and rebuke her most of the day. I felt locked in an epic spiritual battle with her, although most of my warfare was under my breath. I was constantly wound up and tense, full of contention and conflict. I thought that was the appropriate approach to spiritual warfare at that stage of my walk with God.
But one day I clearly understood God impress upon me that I was not to engage with Betsy that day, not even by silently rebuking and binding the spirits I believed to be operating through her. To obey the Father’s direction, I mentally placed myself inside the tower of God. That is the first time I remember doing that. I don’t recall how I had the idea, but once I visualized myself inside the tower that is God, I was surprised and delighted to see Jesus inside with me! We were sitting cross-legged on the floor playing Uno!!
This mental vision tickled and fascinated my heart, helping me keep myself out of feeling the need to control the situation with Betsy through prayer and rebuking like I usually did. To my surprise when I stopped trying to combat her inside my spirit, things were much calmer. I realized all my effort was not necessarily God’s will for how I should behave in that and similar situations. I realized that my attitude and stance toward Betsy was really making things worse, not better.
I have continued to utilize the tool of placing myself in the tower in the years since. Usually the times that I place myself in the tower of God are when I feel my mind under a relentless attack from the enemy. I’ve talked to enough people to imagine you will recognize the scene I’m about to describe.
I don’t always recognize right away that it is an attack of the enemy. The thoughts feel like my own. I will begin to feel that I am unholy or less than or, feel accused. I will defend myself against these thoughts. Well, yes, that was a bad thought, I’ll concede, then explain but I love that person and I enjoy their presence, but I did have this bad thought about them…more than once….I’m not perfect…and while I’m still defending myself, another thought arrives fast and furious attacking my character, my motive of heart, my discipline of life.
These accusations come at me and I defend myself – again and again, not even realizing these thoughts are not my own, they are our common enemy whose name satan means accuser, adversary. That’s who he is. That is what he does. He comes to steal, kill and destroy as it tells us in John 10:10.
Back and forth it goes, a volley of attack and defense and I am worn out by it. Then I will realize this is a wearying tactic of the enemy, the devil. However, even recognizing what is happening doesn’t seem to stop the volley for me. What has worked for me at times is to declare in my spirit that I am going into the tower. I don’t understand exactly how it works, but it seems that God honors that statement and in my mind I see myself in this tower and my mind quiets and I find relief.
The tower has looked different in these visions at different times. One day as I walked to work, I put myself in the tower and I noticed a window in the tower that I had never seen before. I went to the window and looked out. To my surprise and delight I saw Jesus carrying a flame thrower. He was burning up all the lies and accusations Satan made against me. I found so much comfort and encouragement in that visual! All day long while at work as I walked to get a cup of coffee, or go to the bathroom, in my mind, I would look out the tower window and see Jesus Christ hard at work defending me against the ceaseless attacks of the enemy.
Revelations 12:10-11 NLT
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last – salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth – the one who accuses them before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Another time, there was an interior courtyard with a lush, blooming garden in the tower vision. That occurred in January or February when blooming gardens were not yet, even in Albuquerque which does experience winter. Sometimes the tower has been small, sometimes it has been vast, with wandering wings left for exploration. I don’t know what new details God will place for me in the tower, but it’s always a pleasant surprise to discover.
I want to follow up on Betsy. Months after the summer work session ended she would call and quiz me about what I knew about future work at the charity, about my life and what I was doing. One time she confessed to me her loneliness. And I encouraged her. I came to feel compassion for Betsy and was moved to tears as I prayed for her on my walks to work. I don’t know where she is now, but she gave me a real gift. Her combative behavior drove me to discover the tower of God that has become a place of rest and refuge for me.
I hope my story can inspire you to find that same sweet relief, whether it’s the vision of the tower, or a different, yet personal and perfect for you experience of the sanctuary of our God. He is a rest to his people.
Have you ever stood there in the deepest place of your heart and called the dreams God would have you to dream utter foolishness?
Maybe you’re better than me. Maybe you don’t doubt. Maybe you can embrace all he calls to you. I’ve dreamed and I’ve chased dreams with boldness and enthusiastic fervor. I’ve lost my dream more than once and felt left with nothing, least of all understanding or compassion from others. I’ve stood in the barren places trying to make sense of what’s happened. And God calls me to let him strip the callous cynicism that has wrapped around my heart as a pretense of protection that really only shields me from the tender massage of God’s love.
God calls me to trust his goodness over my experience.
I remember worshiping heartily in loving abandonment at a beautiful, praising church. The leaders urged us to dream with the Lord and I began to dream what I considered lavish, extravagant dreams. I felt the Lord capture me by the tails of my envisioned garment as my mind’s eye was soaring upward in elaborate, sweeping imaginations. He confronted me at the very core of my deepest desires. He brought me to the edge of an internal chasm where I had tossed away long-ago hopes and desires.
God dared me to dream truly dangerous dreams that had nothing to do with far off nations or evangelistic endeavors that could win me acclaim and honor. He asked me to dream again for the things I gave up on; to come back to the dreams I considered dead and allow him to breathe his life into them again.
A lesson in dreaming.
I think of the Shunamite woman who declared she had no need when Elisha asked how he could repay her kindness to him. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant gave insight to the question of what they could do for her.
2 Kings 4:14-17 NLT
Later, Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”
Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”
“Call her back again.” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”
“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”
But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.
Several versions translate it as “Don’t lie to me.” Don’t you lie to me – don’t you dare give me hope that I can ill afford.
Some things seem too costly to care for, to long for, to nurture hope for. Desires so profound, that to allow ourselves to desire them feels it will break us and we think in self-preservation we must cast them aside to be able to bear daily life.
Sometimes I must give these desires to the Lord to hold til I feel the strength to carry them in my own heart. There is an area I have felt him consistently beckoning to my heart to have courage to hope in. A place he seems to keep sending tidbits of hope and encouragement through words of people who do not even necessarily know what they speak of.
One point where I again felt disheartened and ready to lay those dreams down, I felt the Lord asking me to keep holding on. A friend and pastor, unaware of the conversation I’d had with God, shared that he felt there was an area I wanted to give up in that he felt the Lord wanted to give me and to not quit hoping. These are sometimes almost intangible wisps and bits and I think I must be imagining all of this. Since then I have had dreams and other signs regarding this thing.
I first felt hope resurrected in this area some years ago when a pastor broached the topic. But here it is, many years later and the desire not yet fulfilled. I come to Jesus and say, “Weren’t you the one who told me to reconsider this dream? Why did you ask me not to pass so quickly on this thing? Why did you say to me it was better to hope for this thing that I have yet to hold?”
I’ve heard women speaking out about a promise God made to them, to their lives, and they are holding on eight years, ten years, twelve years past the promise made, ever more in conviction. And I confess that I have been offended in moments by their passionate profession of confidence. I confess that I have been angered, and scorned them as foolish, BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN CONVICTED BY THEIR FAITH when my own faith has felt too fragile.
I have to guard myself from things that would weaken me. I have to recognize my vulnerability especially before going on social media where the everyday lives of ordinary people can seem far more extraordinary than mine.
I have to come against the temptation to not rejoice for people who have received their miracle, who are living out the answer to their prayer while I still stay in a pattern of holding; while I still wait. I am not always strong enough to view their happy pictures of answered prayers and feel joy for them. But I make myself declare gratitude for their victory as an act of rebellion against lurking bitterness. Me too, I whisper.
Let me rest in a holding pattern of hope. I declare my soul anchored to hope even when it all seems a wisp of a cloud. That’s what Elijah held onto – just a wisp of a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, just a puff of smoke that became a victory deluge. I declare it despite not feeling it. That is sometimes the definition of faith, is it not? To declare it true, before we feel it or believe it yet, just to declare it true because truth isn’t found in our feelings.
There’s a sound of rain. I believe God is calling us to hope again. I feel him asking us to allow this groundswell of dreams to rise up within, these desires not born merely of selfish intent. I think God is saying, hold on to hope because it is a hope God would give to us, it is a desire he desires to give us.
I feel that so many of us are like the Shunamite woman, it seems far too painful to allow the seed of hope to swell inside us to grow the dream, to hold the child, to see the dream of many decades fulfilled in our heart, in our arms, in our lives. But I hear his urging, don’t let go of hope, hold on. It’s coming yet. Hold onto hope. Dare to hope. We will not be disappointed when we pour our hope into our God who is a stalwart bulwark.
I don’t have any children of my own, but I notice that God seems to like to impart lessons to me by way of children.
This blog has two lessons I learned just moments apart. It was last summer after a full day celebrating the Fourth of July with several Christian musical artists at a packed stadium followed by fireworks. I joined my friend and blogging partner Destinee and her family for a meal before heading home.
It was very late and we were all getting tired, but were hungry and I think the parents concluded that stopping for a meal was simpler at that point than feeding the kids at home. We settled on the International House of Pancakes as our eatery of choice for that late evening.
We were seated around three sets of tables against a wall. One side had booth seats with the opposite side housing chairs. Three adults and four children went to work poring through the menu selecting the most decadent pancakes possible.
“I want a ‘Funny Face’ pancake.” Shayla declared.
Funny Face Pancake
There were so many delectable selections such as Belgian Dark Chocolate Mousse pancakes, Cupcake pancakes, even New York Cheesecake pancakes. The funny thing is I can’t remember for sure what I got, but Desi’s husband, Chris got the Mexican Tres Leches pancakes. I remember because he let me taste them and they were amazing – better than my selection, which I think was the Vanilla Spice pancakes.
Destinee helped the younger two children make their picks from the kid’s menu. Nehemiah, the youngest and just over 2 years old at the time, was infatuated with all the syrups and had to be constantly pulled back from the syrup caddies containing a multitude of flavored syrups – blueberry, strawberry, plain, butter, etc.
The restaurant was especially cold with the air conditioning blasting frigid air. Even I felt cold and I’m almost always warmer than everyone else. The children all complained of the cold and their father was able to retrieve extra tee shirts from his car that he passed out. The kids bundled up in the oversized tees seeking warmth. The server got the A.C. reduced and we began to warm up as we tucked into our meals. After our appetites were satisfied fatigue began to hit the children harder as we were in the process of getting checked out with the server.
It was about this time that Shayla loudly declared, “I’M COLD!”
Destinee replied, “We know.”
Her complaint grated against the comfort and satiation of full bellies. It was still cool in the restaurant, but we were preparing to leave and there was nothing more to do. We all knew it was cool, but extra layers had been provided, the air conditioning lessened and the time in the restaurant almost over.
And it hit me. I do this with God. When I have a problem and God doesn’t remove it, this is what I do. He has lessened the pain and provided comfort, but the problem, the discomfort remains, and I come to him to say –
“HEY!! I still have this problem and I’M UNCOMFORTABLE! I’M UNHAPPY THAT YOU HAVEN’T REMOVED MY DISCOMFORT!!!”
It made me think how I keep complaining to God sometimes because I think he must not have heard me or understood me since he has not removed my trouble. But the scripture promises that he hears our cries.
Psalm 116:2 Amplified
Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
Psalm 18:6 NIV
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
And it made me wonder if the tone of my complaint to Father God was as sour seeming and as discordant as Shayla’s gripe about the cold. I want to make sure that I also note that Shayla has many sweet moments where she expresses a tender, sensitive heart. I don’t want to make her out to be the bad guy, but it was a moment the Lord used to catch my attention about the attitude I can get with him. And it helped remind me that even when I feel like God must not have truly heard me or fully understood me, that how I feel isn’t as true as what God’s word promises.
Just as that happened Destinee had the two youngest children, one balanced on each knee. Honestly, her ability to carry/hold two children while directing the others and carrying on conversation is quite impressive to me. It’s a mom-thing I definitely don’t have.
She held Eli and Nehemiah, each on a knee. Sitting across from them I saw Eli’s face melt into woe and despair as he cried out in fear and concern, “I’m FALLING!”
Destinee barely skipped a beat, wasn’t frightened, wasn’t fearful as she confidently replied, “I’ve got you.”
Again, it was one of those moments I felt the Lord pull me out of time as he nudged me in the ribs with his elbow.
“Did you get that?” I hear the Holy Spirit prompt me.
All the times I feel out of control and spiraling downward, sure that I am plummeting to my demise and final failure, and the Father, sure and confident, says, “I’ve got you.”
But it doesn’t feel like it to me!
John 10:27-29 NIV
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Isaiah 43:11-13 NLT
I, yes I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.
First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world. No foreign god has ever done this. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the Lord.
“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
Hebrews 13:5 b Amplified
For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
And I imagine my distress is as real as little Eli’s and Papa God’s confidence greater than Destinee’s. Destinee had no fear or concern that Eli was slipping. She was absolutely sure he wasn’t and that her grip on him was firm. I think maybe the key for me to remember is it isn’t always about how tightly I can hold onto God or feel his grip or sense his hold. It’s about how firmly he has me in his hand. It’s about the truth that he is not a man and he is incapable of lying. [Numbers 23:19] It’s about his promise to never let me go or let me slip out of his hold.
God’s got me. God’s got you.