Which Ebenezer?

Several years ago I "thanked" a friend of mine for ruining my music-listening experience.  He did so by encouraging me to pay attention to the lyrics rather than merely the tune.  Songs that once earned my turn-the-dial-up interest soon faced rejection.  It became difficult to sing along with lyrics with which I disagreed.  As a result, my Jeep stereo and my WalkMan (remember those?) blared different tunes than before. 

I also began to give more attention to the songs I sang along with the rest of our church as we turned to various page numbers in the Baptist Hymnal. 
Do you know . . .
     "God of Earth and Outerspace"?
Does it seem odd to you to sing that we should go . . .
     "Onward, [as] Christian Soldiers"?
Or that "the joy we share as we tarry [in the garden] . . .
     ". . . none other has every known"?    

Other lyrics confused me.
For years I sang verse two of "Come, Thou Fount . . ." having zero idea what I declared when I loudly proclaimed, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither."  For two reasons:
(1) I didn't know (still not sure) the word "hither."
(2) I thought Ebenezer was only the first name created by Charles Dickens.

I'll leave "hither" for some day yonder and will not tarry there.  Rather, I will continue with a word about Ebenezer.  Someone (I fail to remember who and, therefore, cannot express proper gratitude) finally explained that word to me as they spoke of 1 Samuel 7.  Ebenezer is the Hebrew name with which Samuel deemed a stone.  The word means "stone of help."  It recalled the help the Hebrew people received from the LORD as they conquered a Philistine army at Mizpah. 

If one is familiar with the Ebenezer of 1 Samuel 7, they may still be unaware of its previous mention in 1 Samuel 4.

And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.  Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek.
1 Samuel 4:1 (NIV)

Note what happened there.

The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield.
1 Samuel 4:2 (NIV)

The first mention of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4) recalls pain; the second mention (1 Samuel 7) urges gratitude.

Yesterday people across America took time to remember - specifically, by giving tribute to the memory of all the Americans who died while serving in our military. 

The interesting thing about memories is that they can inspire gratitude or drag one into misery and/or anger.  During times of remembering, which Ebenezer do you raise? 
- One that recalls failure / defeat / betrayal / sorrow?
- One that recalls success / victory / God's grace / joy?

We have a choice.  Choose wisely as you raise an Ebenezer.


A Queen's Trifles

Alaskans grow weary convincing (correctly) sales representatives in the "Lower 48" that "free shipping anywhere in the continental United States" applies to our state.  We actually do live on the same continent.  In tribute to our other continent-sharers, I dedicate this post to our friends living in the land between the 49th state and the lower 48 states.


Yesterday, many of our Canadian friends celebrated Victoria Day, a federal holiday named for Queen Victoria.  She reigned over the United Kingdom for sixty-three years, surviving assassination attempts by four men.  Two years into her reign, she married Prince Albert with whom she had nine children. 

During her reign, Britain experienced great lows such as the Great Famine of 1845 as well as great highs such as important advancements in technology and quickly-rising literacy rates.  Personally, she also experienced great lows such as the death of her husband in 1861.  She remained a widow until she died in 1901.  

I find a certain quote attributed to Queen Victoria as particularly apt to life as a whole, a quote worth remembering as we strive to live the Ordinary Life.
"Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only the trifles that irritate my nerves."

Whether or not you possess resilience during the "great things" (as in the Great Flood or Great War), you know the irritation of the "little things" in life.
- Tired of traffic?
- Frustrated with un-capped toothpaste?
- Fed up with neglectfully-left-up toilet seats?
- Paying too much attention to your office mate's annoying habit?

If "yes" to any of the above, then you know the surprisingly powerful effect of "little things."

"In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus promised.  He referred to more than the devastating events of life.  So when the "little things" start (or continue) to bother you, keep reading. 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”

Jesus will help you through it all.
Pay attention to Jesus.

His words are enough.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to add another word of advice.  Seriously, one word.  RELAX!


Jubal's Gift

Jubal started it all.  I am so thankful that he did.  Genesis, chapter four, describes Jubal as "the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes." 

With the exception of two piano songs and a few guitar chords, I don't play music.  However, I greatly enjoy listening to music.  It moves me. 


I love to hear my wife play piano, my daughter play piano and violin, my oldest son play guitar and violin, and my youngest son play piano and cello.  (I'm the oddball in the bunch.)

Imagining a world without music is not a pleasant task.  My Ordinary Life is filled with music.  Most of the music that I enjoy falls into three main categories.
1. Music that celebrates my love for God.
2. Music that celebrates my love for my wife.
3. Instrumental music that moves my heart and soul.

As I reflect on the first category, I recall with joy the sunrise my wife and I shared while on a pier by the Sea of Galilee worshiping God through "Be Enthroned" by Bethel Music.

The second category of music draws my mind to the honest and heartfelt words of Andrew Peterson in "Dancing in the Minefields."  Vonda Kay, let's keep dancing!

Now to the third category.  Here's where I invite you to listen in with me.  Let me suggest three songs to which you should expose your ears.  As you listen, close your eyes (unless you're driving) as you enjoy the images that your mind creates.

- "Gabriel's Oboe" by Solis
- "I Give Up" by Elijah Bossenbroek
- "The Red Aspens" by Jennifer Thomas



For What Reason?

A couple of weeks ago, while in Cambodia, I met a man named Tom.  For nearly two decades, Tom has served the people of Cambodia through practicing medicine as a physician and through sharing the love and gospel of Jesus as a Christian.  For various reasons, people leave home to live in another - a heart for people and a willingness to serve as God leads provide Tom with his reasons. 

Reasons lead to choices.  They motivate us to act, to respond, to change.  Reasons vary . . .
- Due to the reason of love, one chooses to protect another.
- Due to the reason of fear, one chooses to hide.
- Due to the reason of gratitude, one says "thank you."
- Due to the reason of anger, one holds a grudge.

Checking one's reasons proves to be an important part of living one's everyday, ordinary life for Christ.  Sure, assessing actions is beneficial; yet, focusing on actions alone fails to complete the task.  

- We need not only to love; we need to know why we love.  
- We need to hold our tongues.  We do even better by discovering why the words willing their way toward our lips are forming - for what reasons are we angry?

Ponder, won't you, the reasons you love your spouse. 
Now tell him / her.

Consider, won't you, the reasons you lack patience or compassion. 
It's time to confess them.

Let's live intentionally.  Get to know your reasons.