Going Out and Coming In

*This post originally written for Cobblestone Ladies’ Newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, follow this link.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Our teenage son drives a pickup truck a couple years older than he is. It looks like him, too–strong and sturdy, a little rugged, and very dependable. When he started driving, our family installed an app on each of our phones to share our location, record our driving habits, and reduce our car insurance cost. The app notifies our phones when one of us is coming or going.  

When he drives home, Austin passes up our house and turns around in the cul-de-sac so he can park his truck on the street in front of the house. This ritual confuses the app, which sends a triple-chime-notice to my phone: Ding. Austin has arrived home. (He drove past the house.) Ding. Austin has left home. (He’s turning around in the cul-de-sac.) And, finally, Ding. Austin has arrived home. It’s my favorite thing the app provides, the sweet assurance that my people are home and safe. 

When we first installed the app, we marked the map with places we frequent: Memaw and Papaw’s house, school, work, bike trail, park. A normal day of school and work and exercise and fun caused a flurry of notifications as we came and went from place to place. Over the year of 2019, we tallied thousands of comings and goings, ins and outs. And 2020 forecasts an increase of arrivals and departures. 

In the second book of Kings, chapter 11, we learn of a ruthless, murderous woman and a faithful, protective chief priest. When Athaliah learns that her son, King Azahiah of Judah, is dead, she kills all the royal family so that she can can reign over the land. But Jehoiada, the chief priest, and his wife hide King Azahiah’s son for six years while Athaliah reigns. In the seventh year, in order to anoint Joash as the rightful king and end the ruling of Athaliah, the chief priest arranges for the guards, captains, and priests to set up around the king and the house of the Lord. He tells them:

“And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king, shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.2 Kings 11:7-8, ESV

What protection! “Be with the king when he goes out and when comes in.” With a multitude surrounding him, the seven-year-old son-of-a-King was crowned, anointed, and proclaimed King of Judah. And the next chapter says, “…(he) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days…” (12:2).

That is the type of protection, generations earlier, Moses wanted for his people when God told him he was going to die before the Israelites entered the Promised Land:

“Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall bring them out and lead them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep who have no shepherd.” Numbers 27:15-17

So God commissioned Joshua to lead and protect the Israelites. 

But, oh, Joshua died. And Jehoaida, the same. They left the future generations, they left our generation, without their protection. So who will be with us as we go out and come in? Who will protect us as one decade ends and another begins? Who, but our steadfast, always-faithful, ever-forgiving, all-powerful God?

“I lift my eyes up to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

He who keeps you will not slumber…

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121 vv.1-3, 8)

Psalm 121 is a “Song of Ascent”, a song of confidence in the Lord that was meant to be sung by the people as they traveled to Jerusalem for worship. It is a song of confidence that we can sing from this time forth and forevermore.

2019 is going out, 2020 is coming in. So when the notifications chime in, be confident.

Ding.  Season of diapers and caretaking. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. Your baby is going to college. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. Starting a new job. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. A broken relationship. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. Grief. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. Uncertainty. The Lord will keep your going out and coming in.

Ding. Same-old, same-old. The Lord. Will keep. Your going out. And coming in.

As the new year approaches, be fully confident. You are protected like a youngster surrounded by soldiers with weapons at-the-ready. Know that the Lord will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Peace (in your comings and goings),

Shena

Better Together

*This post first appeared on True Reflections

There are twelve miles of wide-open road between my house and my church. Speed limit 45. Along that route, there’s a bend in the road where I click the Jeep’s cruise control down a few miles per hour to match the limit posted on the sign. In that bend, I can assume there will be a county Sherriff’s deputy tucked in among the brush and rubble of an abandoned restaurant. He might be running radar or filing paperwork.  Either way, his presence slows me down.  The black and gold colors remind me of what I already know: The speed limit’s 45, Shena! Slow. your. roll.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

By the time I cross paths with Mr. Sherriff’s Deputy, I’m all ten-and-two, eyes-on-the-road, doin’-the-speed-limit. Thank you very much. Because I know he’s there. I know he’s checking my obedience. And, hello, I don’t want to get a ticket on my way to CHURCH!

Whether I’m going to a mid-week Bible study or Sunday Church Day, I get to church ticket-free (so far). And I get there fast. Because I love it. I crave church. I’m better because of it. I’m not better in the ten-and-two-driving-past-the-deputy sense of the word. I’m certainly not what some would call “better behaved”; because something about church and God’s word and gathering with these folks makes me feisty, and energetic, and a bit unbridled. Actually, I think church makes me more like me. More like the me God created. 

Recently, my church hosted a mid-week worship and prayer night. I was there alone. My husband and son were not flanking my sides as they do on Sundays. (I feel God so purely when the three of us worship together.) But that evening I was solo. And late. And the band was passionately quiet, singing “Do it Again.” The reality of the lyrics settled into my heart.  “Your promise still stands. Great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in Your hands. This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet.” Thank you, Jesus, for your faithfulness.

The song ended and we were prompted to pray with the people we came with. Or, in my case, the other late-comers seated behind me–two lovely mamas whom I adore. We chatted and hugged and uncharacteristically went to our knees. Kneeling in a triangle, holding each others’ hands, we prayed. I listened to the honey-sweet testimony of a child healed from infection. We prayed thanksgiving. I heard the heart-aching plea for God to show himself as kind and near. We prayed for revelation. I shared how good and clear God had been in answering my prayers. We prayed nothing. I couldn’t speak.

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“I’m still in your hands. This is my confidence.” Photo courtesy Cobblestone Community Church

After the service, sitting in my car preparing for the 12-mile drive home, I realized my heart had been stirred. My faith had grown. Testimonies and vulnerabilities and encouragements. These things had grown me. It’s not the first time. It happens frequently. Meeting like that, in a building where other Jesus-followers are meeting, moves my introverted feet forward in my faith. 

In Hebrews 10, the author describes how life changed for God’s people once Jesus came. When Jesus died on the cross, he cleared away our sins (all of them!) and then laid a path for us to draw up close to God. Then the author says, basically (my paraphrase), “Do it. Draw near and hold onto hope!” Then in verses 24 and 25 he says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

How kind of this friend of the Hebrews to say, “Hey, don’t you forget about each other. Think about how you can support and encourage and love your fellow Christians to love better and act better. Let them do the same for you. And, by the way, you can only do this well if you’re seeing them, meeting with them.”

That is what I witnessed that evening at church and many days before and since! The closeness of meeting together stirred me up and spurred me on toward love and right actions. Other days, friends have come alongside to straighten my path, post a speed limit, gently call me out of my disobedience (or more likely my disbelief).

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My morning walk reminder to slow my roll.

Years ago I traveled that stretch of going-to-church road to spend time studying the book of Hebrews with a woman whose example I admired greatly. One conversation wound about, per usual, from Bible study-ing to wife-ing, to mom-ing. Our chat landed on the little hurts I was letting fester. And over hot tea and honey, knees pulled up on the couch, she told me (and these are my words of her gentle reprimand) I was wrong and impulsive in my reactions to small offenses. She pointed me to Scripture that said I should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” because “human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19-20) She encouraged me to spend the next week studying and praying about what God has to say about covering minor offenses in love. 

God did a sweet, chiseling work in that “meeting together” with a woman wiser and bolder than I. He used her to tell me to slow down, to know God’s truth, and act in obedience. Then He planted that time she and I spent together in my memory. It became the kinder, less intimidating deputy reminding of what I already knew: Slow to anger, Shena! Choose love.

In growing closer to God, I can study alone. I can hear the voice of God in His scriptures. I can feel His presence through prayer. But I travel the distance to meet together because, as a believer, I am placed on both sides of the Hebrews 10 passage. I meet to be encouraged and to offer encouragement. To be stirred and to stir.  I need to hear and I need to say, “Be encouraged, grow your faith. And, Girl, sometimes, slow. your. roll.”

Who are your “meet together” folks? Can you sense the position you fill when you meet together with other believers? I pray you can. Do you know there’s a gap left when you don’t? I pray you’ll step into it.