Posts Tagged ‘safety’


Art by Chris Maynard

Art by Chris Maynard

God will protect you with his pinions [feathers];
    you’ll find refuge under his wings.
    His faithfulness is a protective shield.
Don’t be afraid . . . [Psalm 91:4-5a]

I just moved from a very large to a very small one. The moving process is awful, no matter how you cut it unless you know from the beginning that you’re simply packing everything and taking it along.

In my case, I had to divest myself of at least 2/3’s of my “things.” Every day for six weeks, I was having to decide yes or no, take or store or let go. Exhausting. The longer I did this, the more rash I became. Just take it. I even gave away a $1500 bedroom suite. I couldn’t use it. I couldn’t sell it. What was the point?

But there were odd things I couldn’t seem to part with. One small item I packed and unpacked several times: a feather. So odd. It’s a big feather, almost the size of a writing feather. And yet, it’s just a feather. I found it on a beach somewhere, Cape May I think. feathers

I also like feather pillows and I just indulged myself with a feather bed topper.

Forrest Gump, the movie, had a feather symbolically float in and out of the film.

In Native American culture, feathers symbolize the thunder gods as well as the power of air and wind. Other cultures, like the Celtic Druids also wore feathers as symbols of the “sky god.” Some say that back in the day, even Christians took on three feathers as symbols for charity, hope, and faith. That’s a new one on me.

The bird probably thinks differently of his feathers as they are his sole protection, from heat and cold and precipitation. Every bird has feathers and everything that has feathers is a bird. Of course, feathers enable a bird to fly. And lastly, give each bird a unique appearance.

feathers2But what does this have to do with me and God? Nothing much except, this scripture verse has always stayed with me, the picture of safety under a bird’s wing, the feathers covering softly but with strength. When I sorrow, this image is a comfort place for me and has key elements to the Secret Place.

A friend of mine told me a story of a woman who was being sexually assaulted and the only part of this psalm she could remember was “feathers, feathers, feathers.” The attacker let her go.

Read Full Post »

Under His Wings

Sometimes I just need to know that I am safe.

He will cover you with his feathers,  and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. [Psalm 91:4, NIV]

under wingsI remember a story about a woman who loved this psalm in particular and memorized it but when the time came, when she was grabbed by a man who wanted to hurt her, all she could think of and imagine were the feathers of God as a great bird protecting her young. And so this woman cried out, “feathers, feathers, feathers.” But God knew and the man, inexplicably, let her go, almost as though a force field was drawn about her.

This is my cry today, my prayer.

Read Full Post »

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

Read Full Post »

It’s an environment. Love is a space, a presence. It’s surround sound. And, like a boat, love has its own rules, it’s own buoyancy, it’s own culture. We can either choose to be in it or not: on the boat or watch the boat go by. God is love. God is the environment.

I John 4:16
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Unlike the story of Noah and the Ark, there are no limitations to this particular boat, this domain. There is plenty of room for anyone who wants to come aboard.

Sometimes, I think of it as an aura or bubble. I say this because I know I have stepped out of its safety. I’ve jumped ship. I have gotten on bigger boats and smaller boats, thinking, like Pinocchio that my life could be better elsewhere, being lured by the world.

Forgive me Lord. Thanks for the life ring. Again and again and again.

Read Full Post »

Artwork by Jo Smith

My mother used to tell me that my name, Irmgarde, meant “guardian of the hearth,” which didn’t do much for me as I didn’t imagine myself a homemaker. In later years, I discovered, my name actually means “guardian of a small enclosure.” This is what God does for my heart too.

II Timothy 1:12b
. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

Truthfully, I always think of that small enclosure around my set of close friends and family. I imagine a corral and I am standing at the gate, protecting them from harm, from predators. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit is standing just so at the entrance to my deepest places. This is my warrior King.

It’s part of our agreement. As I turn over my stuff and give God access to my closed places within, I am promised Presence.

We have a triune God (at minimum) to help us get a handle on the work that each entity might play: God, omnipotent and sovereign, manages the big picture (the life maps) while Jesus, the Redeemer, became human to empathize and experience life within the context of time and space and to create a Way to unite us with God by endowing us with the Holy Spirit who indwells any who will accept this arrangement, this gift, this promise, this mystery.

We are understood in all those arenas. . . . and probably more.

God embraces the surrendered soul. Jesus modeled surrender.

My challenge? To accept the paradox that surrender is security; surrender is strength; surrender is safety.

Read Full Post »

Apparently, Jesus earned the right to become exalted and the result will be worldwide acknowledgment. I know, non-believers find all this very hard to accept or even contemplate; but, after all, don’t we all like it when the “big guys” come down and mingle with the front line?

Philippians 2:8, 9a, 10a
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place . . . that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . .

It’s one of the reasons the latest television show, Undercover Boss, is so popular. Working people don’t believe administrators get it. The ivory tower doesn’t know what it’s really like to do the actual work anymore. They don’t appreciate the headaches or the challenges. But, once a person like that has actually experienced the “job,” respect goes up and faith in a leader’s ability to make a difference in their work lives goes up.

Just recently, I participated in a staff panel interview for an administrative position. Once I answered all their set questions, I was given the opportunity to ask them a few. My first question was about their expectations for someone new in the job. And sure enough, one of their first mandates was that a new administrator spend time on the front line, to work with the rank and file, and to take a turn at the more menial jobs. They basically reiterated what I’ve been saying: “earn our respect by working with us side by side.”

Jesus did that. How else could we grasp the idea of a God, particularly the “God of Gods” [Deut 10:17], choosing to come out to the battlefront and face the same stuff we face every day? And in that particular era of “Caesar Augustus” it was even worse than it is now. The gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” was much wider, the poverty more dramatic, the oppression by a foreign government more volatile than anything we have today. But the Christ came down as “undercover boss” and lived a life from beginning to end, from birth to death.

The difference? Oh yeah, the God part, and so he got up again. In fact, he’s back in the home office and we’re invited to visit. Not only is he in the home office with an open door policy, he left us a Spirit version of himself and is willing to enter into a direct partnership with each and every one of us. The connection is better than a blue tooth but we still have to learn how to use that “app.”

I’m being a little silly on purpose. But the premise is still solid. The Christ earned his place as promised. The Christ is our safety net in a life beleaguered with sin and evil. The Christ is our mother, our brother, our sister. The Christ is real enough. And there will be a day when everyone sees the truth of God’s plan and the reality of Christ’s global leadership.

Read Full Post »

The right words at the right moment touch the heart and something happens. It can be a moment in a play or a movie, a speech or a book, even a casual conversation or in the midst of instruction. And when that word pierces the inner self, we are changed.

I Corinthians 14:24-25a
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.

I saw this happen some years ago while in a church service. I had a friend who had been struggling with lifestyle decisions. He was like a feather being tossed about, looking for a safe place to land. I invited him to a Vineyard church service in Atlanta (back then, such services were cutting edge and specifically geared for the younger set). After the service, one of the guys asked my friend if a small group could pray for him and my friend agreed. It was during this prayer that someone in the group spoke a “prophecy” over my friend about an impending choice in his life. She told him of his past and his fears. She spoke specifics about his life and my friend’s heart was laid bare. It was the most amazing thing to observe. He knew, in that moment, beyond any doubt, that he had been touched by the divine.

That day is seared into my own memory, not only because of the time in church, but the deep soul searching my friend had the rest of the afternoon. He would go through periods of shaking and crying and even laughing. He would sit silently and then he would talk, deeply and honestly, about his life, his future, his mistakes, his losses, his hopes and his disappointments. He turned a corner that day and for many years, he followed a new dream because of that day.

I remember a different experience, also in my late twenties, when my own heart was ripped wide open. It is not a particularly pleasant memory as it was a searing, rending of emotions that brought me to my knees. I had only been a follower of Christ for about two years when I had a terrible row with a creative, yet highly volatile man, with whom I was trying to build a dance/theater company in New York. His harsh words stripped me bare of any illusions about my craft, my direction, my role. I left our rehearsal and walked the parking lot, sobbing, crying out to God, stripping myself of assumptions, and casting myself at the feet of Christ. That day changed my path forever.

When the heart is truly laid bare, it can happen gently with love or it can happen with wrenching pain. Often, the pain comes from our own efforts to keep the heart’s shield up, to attempt to protect ourselves.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” [Psalm 24:7] For me, this verse refers to the gates and ancient doors of my heart that must be open to allow the King of glory to come in. I have to trust God will not hurt me. I have to permit entry. And only when my heart is laid bare, the doors open, can I be renewed.

I would like to report that my heart has been open the whole time since that fateful day, but it has not. In fact, each time my heart has been trashed by someone, I tend to add locks and bars to those doors. God forgive me.

Today, I am being called to begin this process once more: the unlocking of doors, the lifting up of gates, the laying bare of my inner heart again. It’s a risk. It’s always a risk. It’s another paradox: to find safety, I must be more vulnerable. So be it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: