God – My Tower of Safety

God – My Tower of Safety

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

Psalm 18:2

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.

Holding Onto Hope When it Seems Too Costly

Holding Onto Hope When it Seems Too Costly

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 Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Six)

I Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Six)

If you missed the previous blog, click here!

I was given bag after bag after bag of gorgeous, mint-condition clothes, coats and accessories from an acquaintance I made.

I tell you just writing all of this and editing it, now that there is a little more time and distance from these scenarios,  I’m even more amazed at all God did for me and also that I survived! Part of me is in awe and part of me still feels slightly traumatized from some of the experiences. Times with the Lord can be like a roller coaster with highs and lows!

And there were many, many times that I didn’t know where my rent was coming from. That Friday night when I came home to a phone call before the long Fourth of July weekend to be told that my work assignment was over, I responded by walking into my unfurnished living room, lifting my arms and my voice to praise God.

I didn’t praise God because I was happy, but to show my confidence in His supply and to stand in defiance to the negative emotions that stood eager to consume me.

My friend treated me to two new outfits for my brother’s wedding and rehearsal dinner. Prior to getting on the plane, she handed me a cash gift that helped with incidental travel expenses.

The rent during those times came through differently, but it was only the last time that I asked my parents for help.  Every other time, it worked out different ways, different people offered me help without me asking. It usually moved me to ugly cry when loving friends stepped in to help me out as I did my best. I prayed and praised and wept a lot – before and AFTER the answers came. I actually wailed with joy when I received my food benefit for the first time. It was so much more than I had been living on for a long time. It was so abundant compared to what I’d been getting by on.  I realized then that wailing in joy sounds the same as wailing for sorrow!

My father treated me to a trip to the salon for a trim, highlight and style for my brother’s wedding.

Provision has come a lot of different ways, and they aren’t always obviously supernatural, but I see the hand of God often in helping me. Then there are other times, I never have it on paper or in the bank and I get through. And sometimes I’m eating ramen noodles, but I tell you, often in those places, it’s like the Lord does a work for me on those inexpensive noodles! I have wondered if he did something like that to make manna taste good for the Israelites after so many years and so many meals. Or maybe manna doesn’t need that kind of help.

I used to cry, “God, if you don’t provision me, people will think you didn’t commission me. That was honestly one of my biggest fears coming here to Albuquerque. I felt like I’d flopped so many times before in my life. I believed this time was different, and it has been. It has been gloriously hard and filled with wonderment and weeping in both frustration and jubilation.

Gifted a crock pot with liners.

God has been so glorious and so generous to inspire people to be kind and loving to me. I endeavor to always bring my requests to God. I ask him for help. I do the best I know to do. I endeavor to be wise with my money and my health and seek the Lord’s aid and he inspires people to express goodness to me. I can’t even show it all here. I can’t show all the meals, the concerts, the events, the conferences, the gifts I’ve been showered with by good and giving people.

As I was pulling all these pictures to put into this blog, I kept thinking how I would end the blog by pointing out that the greater gift has been the gifts of friendship. And I do believe that. But then I realized, the greatest gift has been the depth of friendship found with God through all this. Discovering how truly good and faithful God is to his character and his word and his promises to be my supply and my sufficiency. The greatest supply, the greatest provision through these times has been the supply of relationship with the Godhead, the provision of comfort and friendship that I have found in the company of my Father, my Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Praise God, hallelujah, amen.

My first shopping trip with the food benefit. I went a little crazy in the chip aisle! If you look, you can see how I don’t have furniture in the background. Just a lamp on the floor.

 

I Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Five)

I Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Five)

The next to last day of the assignment I wrote about in part four, I went to an interview after work. The next morning I was offered the job. I still look back on that interview in a strange wonder. Ultimately, the job did not work out, but it sustained me through a point where I was about to give up.

From the time I asked my friend to help me with toilet paper and she went grocery shopping for me and also gave me this Uber gift card.

The following Monday, a friend gave me a ride to the bank as I had received a three-day eviction notice. It was the first day of the new job and I was too embarrassed to explain why I needed to come in late on my very first day.  I had received a little bit of unemployment that was put on a credit card and as I was trying to get cash off of that card, I gave the dollar amount wrong by one dollar and so the bank couldn’t give me the cash. The bank teller advised that I needed to go to another branch to get the money off of this card, because he was only allowed to try to pull cash off of it once a day, and because I said the wrong dollar amount it locked the card for that branch for the rest of the day.

I was rocked. I had thought I would  get my money order for my past due rent, drop it off at the apartment office, and then head to my first day of the new job. I sat in the lobby trying to control my sobs while I reached out to see if another friend could drive me, but realized I was better to catch the next bus.

Gift of fresh peaches from a colleague’s tree.

When I got on that bus there was a man pouring out an endless stream of insults on everybody on the bus. He wasn’t cursing, but it was vile and filthy and horrible. None of the comments were even directed at me, still it was chaotic and unsettling to my system. I prayed in my mind for God to shut him down – but God didn’t stop the man and the man’s words continued. Feeling deeply afflicted by his offensive digs and barbs I got off the bus and began walking to the next stop. The man got off at the same stop.

Gifted a ticket to the sold out women’s Christmas Gala dinner with special guest speaker.

“You have got to be kidding me, God.” I groused in my heart. Sure enough the guy followed me to the next bus stop. Honestly, by that point, I heavily suspected God was not only not stopping the man, but was actually using the man to intentionally move me to a certain point.

Furious at the whole situation, I plugged my earbuds in and rocked my Christian praise music loud as it would go and determinedly stormed down the road to the next bank. It’s really rather comic with a couple years space between now and then.

“Necessities” that I purchased with an Amazon gift card. 🙂

As I crossed in front of the bright, green grass of Lovelace women’s hospital, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned to see a girl I met at a one-week work assignment nine months earlier. She had chased me down after seeing me walk past her in front of the hospital where she was leaving from a check up. She shared how she had decided at the last minute to take an appointment that day and how pleased she was by the prime parking spot she landed—right by the sidewalk where I was marching past to get to the bank and my first day of a new job.

This was coming home from a day trip to Jemez Springs. I realize I count those day trips as a gift as I don’t have a car or the means to rent one.

The money order process ended up being still more complicated as it turned out what the bank teller meant was not just that I needed to go to another branch of the same bank, but I needed to actually go to a completely different bank. So, this sweet gal drove me to two different banks, then to a gas station for the money order, my apartment complex to make the payment in time to avoid eviction and finally to my new job.

I still remember our conversation about our learning on the path of recovery. We concluded our time with a prayer for each other.

 

To read part six, click here!

Gift of a trip to the volcanoes west of town. Every time I look at them, i get to think how I went there with my sweet friend.

I Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Four)

I Trust You God – But Where’s My Rent? (Part Four)

If you missed the previous blog, click here!

The summer of 2016 I ran into so many roadblocks financially! I had been working a temporary assignment that began in February and was supposed to become a permanent position. However, so much craziness occurred and the assignment ended after only three months, at the end of May.

Gift of groceries when I was sick. I had just run out of applesauce that I used for my breakfast muffin recipe at the time.

I was relieved to find another assignment only a few days later, though it was $2 less per hour. Then to my shock and despair, barely a month into the assignment, after coming home on a Friday, I received a call from the agency telling me I didn’t need to come back. No explanation as to what I had done or why the assignment ended, just that I didn’t need to come back.

Gift of ice cream – and possibly the best choco ice cream I’ve ever had!

I had only moved into my own apartment not even two months before the second assignment ended, and I didn’t know how I was going to make it. All that month of July I searched for work, for temporary assignments. I got a one and a half day assignment. I trekked to the library by bus in the heat of the July sun in Albuquerque, applying to jobs online because I couldn’t afford internet in my apartment.

Free ticket to see for King and Country

I prayed and praised and cried my eyes out. But it was also during that month that a friend took me to the Human Services department and helped me get signed up for assistance which I really needed, but had no idea how to access. I was approved for food and medical assistance that were so extraordinarily helpful in those troublesome times.

I have often looked back on that very, very difficult month where I got not only connected with assistance that helped me for many more months, but it’s also the point when Destinee and I connected to begin seriously discussing merging our then defunct blogs together.

Gift of coffee & creamer.

I did get a two-week work assignment at the end of July into the start of August through a temporary agency to help out a department in a local university. I was so desperately broke at the time. I’d really been broke before my last assignment ended unexpectedly and I’d gone weeks with almost no work. I had no idea how I was going to make rent and for the first time in many desperate moments since I moved to Albuquerque, I began to seriously doubt if I could make it here. I began to question if I would have to give up, turn around, return to Ohio and call my venture to New Mexico quits. I was so tired and exhausted emotionally. I was frightened and so very scared.

The new backpack that I’m still carrying years later.

The two week assignment was to help an administrative assistant get caught up with overflow work, like filing and new hire packets. This woman was a wonderful Christian woman. I don’t know what God said to her, but she was such a source of encouragement to me at a point when I felt so lost and broken in my understanding of what was going on in my life and where God was in my circumstances.  Have any of you experienced somebody like that?

Gift of cash & encouragement.

She began to bring in gifts for me day after day after day. She provided me a wonderful new backpack when mine had gone kaput some months back. I was using a couple shoulder bags to carry my lunch, purse, whatever I needed for the day as I walked and rode public transportation. She had purchased the backpack for her middle school son, but it was too large for him.

It was also a laptop backpack and at the time I had just received my laptop as a gift from my father – another story of another blessing! I didn’t have internet in my apartment and had been carting my laptop awkwardly in bags not made to carry laptops to the library to work on job applications.

She also asked me what was my favorite flavor of creamer and she bought me good coffee with the biggest bottle of flavored creamer as well as some books by one of my favorite Christian authors.

Gift of Silk Almond Milk after I came home from being out of state for 10 days.

At the end of the two-week temporary office assignment the women I’d been helping, who I never actually told the details of my financial straits to, gave me an envelope with $200 that helped me make rent (this was not my pay for the work, but a personal gift she gave me).

Words can’t fully express how deeply this woman encouraged and helped me at the difficult point of my journey. I’m reminded of Elijah after he had the showdown with all the prophets of Baal, but the next day when the evil Jezebel threatened his life, he was so exhausted he told God he was ready to die. And God sent the angel to make him some food and have him get some rest.

Some parts of our journey we can become so worn out, so exhausted, some encouragement and help is what we desperately need to pick up and carry on.

There was also a friend who sent me a large portion of my rent. With the help of several friends and this relative stranger, I had enough to pay my rent with a late fee.

 

To read part five, click here!

The time I asked my friend if she would buy me toilet paper…and she bought me a whole lot extra.

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