Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I am His servant

Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth He has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of His hand He hid me; He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver. He said to me, "You are my servant, in whom I will display my splendor." But I said, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God."

And now The Lord says (He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself, for I am honored in the eyes of The Lord and my God has been my strength) He says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

Monday, August 5, 2013

Old Testament Commission

When we think of our purpose on earth, many of us think of John Piper's motto:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” 

But most of us think of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:

Let's go instead to the Old Testament, and allow me to show you the Great Commission before Christ walked the earth. Come with me to Isaiah 43. It is always a bit tricky to exposit a chapter, because I can only hope that you will actually read the context, and not simply take what I cut and paste here. The meat of this passage is in the Word. What I write here is merely connections being made within context. Without the rest of the chapter, the power of these connections I make is lost. The importance here is God's Word, not mine. So please prioritize what He has written over what I have written. 

Once you have read the passage, I will present a few questions about this commission, and answer them with scripture. There are five questions this passage provides answers to. 
~Who is being called?
~What is their identity/status?
~What are they being called to do?
~What must they say?
~Why do they speak?

So lets get started. 

Who is being called? Isaiah 43:6-7 
"I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

Also, the first verse is critical as well.
"But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine."

What is their identity/status? Or perhaps, a better wording: How does God (the Caller) see them? Isaiah 43:4
"Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you..."

What are they being called to do? Isaiah 43:10
"“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me."

and verse 12b
"and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am"

What must they say? Isaiah 43:11-12
"I, I am the Lord,
and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God."

Why must they say it? Isaiah 43:19
"Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert."

So what can we draw from these truths?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sociolinguistic Journals- Part 4

Contextual or Cultural?

Chapter 14 of Holmes discusses interviews, within the context of misunderstandings. Discourse is analyzed constantly by the participants, even while they are speaking. This analysis is how a participant decides what to say. When I was about 16, I went in for my first formal interview, without any job coaching at all. When I was asked why I wanted to work in that company, I told them I just needed a job. When they asked me what strengths and weaknesses I brought to the table, I listed them out with brutal honesty. As the reader can imagine, I bombed that interview. Although I answered the questions in the most appropriate way I knew how, given my knowledge of English as a native speaker, the interviewer was not actually asking for the information I gave him. If I, a native speaker, had such trouble understanding the contextually informed meaning, how much more would a non-native speaker? Holmes discusses this very situation, and outlines a case in which a man immigrated from Nepal blindly took an American interview for all its literal questions. I would like to present another case of similar situation, and discuss an ethical question we have often encountered as interpreters for the Deaf. Not only are Deaf clients working in the context of a second language, they are working through an interpreter, which further separates them from the interviewer, and also are dealing with a huge cultural gap. Deaf culture, as a rule, is a very straight forward culture, and its language- ASL- does not have much structure to allow for naturally evasive or circumvention communication. Due in part to the visual/spacial nature of the language, ASL is very literal, and although it is fully capable of discussing abstract ideas, does so explicitly. This concept of asking for one thing but desiring and expecting another is foreign to ASL. So when an interpreter is in this environment, mediating culturally and linguistically between a hearing English speaker, and a Deaf ASL signer, how much mediation can take place? If the hearing interviewer asks "What strengths and weaknesses will you bring to our company?", do I sign "STRENGTH WEAKNESS YOU BRING WHAT?", and elicit a literal response? Or do I sign "SKILL YOU HAVE CONNECT WORK HERE WHAT? SKILL IMPROVE YOU WANT WHAT?" and illicit the response the interviewer is expecting? How much of this misunderstanding is contextual (aka- because we are in an interview) and how much is cultural (aka-because one is Deaf and one is hearing)? If the difference is solely contextual, do I leave the responsibility on the Deaf interviewee, to learn his/her lesson the hard way, like I did at my first interview? The mere fact that I am there standing (metaphorically and somewhat physically) between them makes it more difficult for the Deaf person to get a read on the interviewee. He/she may find it impossible to discern why the interview went awry. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sociolinguistic Journals Part 3

Language Planning & Deaf in America

In Deaf education around the country, language planning is creating a dichotomy between two schools of thought. First, there is "oral" education, that prioritizes English for all their students. Aiming to provide independent access to the American world, they train their students in speech, reading, English (generically) and sometimes even lipreading. The other approach is more accepted by the culturally Deaf ('Deaf and proud of it'). This is education in full ASL for any and all students in their school. This provides the students with full access to language from the start. Both approaches are examples of language planning; both channel all students into the same 'language corral'.

I want to suggest a scenario in which language planning is entirely absent, but the students are still given access to their environment's languaculture (a new term referring to both language and culture, as they are tied together). In (select) public schools today, when a student turns up with anything outside of normal- anything that can't be handled in a cookie cutter classroom setting- they are referred to the Special Education department. Now, this may create a stigma, a negative one, for nobody likes being labeled as special ed. But this is where the magic happens. Specialists of many fields within this department will meet and discuss the individual student's situation and needs. Conferences take place with the student or parent (if the student is not a legal adult) and as many professionals as possible. At this meeting, an agreement is is found, a plan made. A student may be provided with hearing aids and a mic/speaker system in the classroom. Or a full ASL interpreter. Or maybe both, depending on what the student needs. They can get private tutoring in whatever language is preferred, and can even specify their preferred sign system for the interpreter to use. Surely, individual needs are better met without language planning

Gender Stereotypes in Language

Historically, all (as far as I know) cultures of the world assign dominance to one gender or another; most assign it to males. This turns up in language, a reflection of the culture in which the language developed. I decided to look into ASL, to see what kinds of gender marking shows up. Starting with the following sign pairs, what is noticed? MAN/WOMAN HUSBAND/WIFE BOY/GIRL GRANDPA/GRANDMA SON/DAUGHTER BROTHER/SISTER

Each of these sign pairs is identical except for the gender marker. The gender marker for female is sign initial, on the side of the chin. For male, it is on the side of the forehead. 'Sign initial' means that these signs start in those places, and continue with the sign appropriate for that pair. It is interesting to me that the gender marker for male is higher relative to the gender marker for female. This suggests male dominance. However, gender neutral signs, like PEOPLE CHILDEN NATION etc do not bear any gender marking and are truly neutral. There is never an appropriate situation in which a gender marked sign would be understood as neutral (as is with "mankind" in English).

I hypothesize that the distinction between neutral signs and gender marked signs is because of the state of the culture ASL developed in. ASL developed in a culture that supported diversity, success of the underdog, and equality. Although male dominance is hard to erase completely (placement of the gender marker), the playing field was much more level when ASL came into being.

Sociolinguistic Journals: Part 2

English Variations

Reading the section in chapter 4(Holmes) about World Englishes got me thinking: what about generational changes in English? There are about as many differences between the African English and the American English as there are between the 1600's English and the 2013 English. A prime example of this came up when discussing a Christian tract my colleague was writing. He was using the King James Version Bible for all his references to the Scriptures. He and I had debated if certain terms and phrases could be understood by the common man, or if they should be revised or explained. But that particular afternoon, we were dealing with a phrase that said "Know ye not...?" We discussed the appropriateness of such a high dialect. He opted to change it to "Do you not know...?" I didn't stop there though. Concerned with cross-cultural and cross-generational language changes, I wanted to be away of the shift. I wanted to acknowledge that the generation we are trying to reach is using a different heart language than we or our parents did. I do not want to assume that comprehension means the impact will be the same. Even if you can understand something, the way it affects you can be dampened by the syntax. So, I recommended using a contraction: "Don't you know...?" My colleague was hesitant to make that further change, but it got me thinking about these language changes.

English Variations Cont

Although I have a relatively small number of international friends, I learn a great deal from those I have. One particular friend is from Great Britain. He and I have found dialect sparring to be a diverting activity. I want to share a few examples of our dialogues, before I comment on them.

"Something you might find humorous... I was reading along in "one World Two Minds" and came across  the phrase "Blinkered thinking is dangerous thinking." I drew a blank, completely. I had no idea what it meant by "blinkered thinking". Then I had a flashback to Mark sitting in the trunk of Robin's car and the three of us discussing terminology. You guys call those things on horses eyes "blinkers". The lightbulb went on, and I had to laugh. I didn't realize Denis Lane was a brit :)

"Him: My book arrived on Thursday, so let me know when yours arrives and we can make a start.">Me:"make a start" :) We say "get started" haha.">You're gonna get me talking like you pretty soon."In both of these samples, notice how we compare the differences in our variety of English. These are just two from hundreds of dialogues, contrasting word choice, lexical appropriateness, word order, idioms, and even pronunciation. Of course, he claims to be 'right' purely because he is British, and we are an off-shoot of his variety. Discussions like this are enjoyable because we are from two different geographical regions. If, on the other hand, we had been from two different classes or levels of a system, this conversation would likely not have been appropriate or humorous.Incidentally, during a discussion on this topic, I was reminded of the movie "My Fair Lady". The very issue of class variations is the whole basis of the movie. The doctor (speech therapist) took a low class woman and trained her to fit the upper class. Interestingly, her speech wasn't where the training could stop. There is a cultural separation between classes as well, and that came into play later in the story. As with all other topics, we can't discuss one dimension without touching others.

Sociolinguistic Journals; Part 1

Fun House Mirrors

In Norway (and New York), interviews were held with women on the topic of standard and vernacular speech (Holmes, ch7). When women were asked explicitly about the level of (or amount of) standard speech they used, they reported a higher level than what they were actually using in the interview. Men in Norway did the same thing, but in the reverse. They claimed more vernacular use than they actually used. Is this because they (and we) view ourselves in a skewed perspective? How we view ourselves, or how we wish others would view us, can change our choices of speech even when we are not conscious of it. Interviews held in Australia revealed that boys would increase their vernacular when being recorded, showing a desire for distinction between themselves and the interviewer.

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammar

In grammar school, students are taught the rules for their first language. The students are already using this language deftly, so the training at that point is perhaps to instruct students in the terminology and equip them to discuss it academically. It also gives them the tools to put sentences together "correctly". There is a problem, though, when a student is taught a grammar rule that is broken in his home regularly. This is where we face the difference between prescriptive grammar and descriptive grammar. For example, we say that in English, sentences must have a noun and a verb, must not end in a pronoun, and a noun must be a person, place, or thing. This is prescriptive grammar. It does not accurately reflect how we actually use English. If we wrote a descriptive grammar, we would acknowledge that subjects and verbs can be dropped if there is mutual understanding, sentences end in prepositions all the time, and we can make up words, or noun-ify other parts of speech if we want! Examples: "Where is that book?" "Under the chair." (Lacking a noun AND a verb) "Hers is the only party we went to." (Preposition ending) and "Skating is what I want for Christmas" (noun-ify a verb). When we use descriptive grammar, it validates, not contradicts, what the children of learning. Now then, do we each children rules straight up textbook style, or teach them how to identify what we do when we use English? We want to validate their language, as they did in that school from Southern California(a reference to a video shown in class). But they also need to know how to write academically. I would recommend, then, teaching children the difference between informal and formal register. When speaking, this is the register we use. When writing a journal, we use a similar register. When writing a research paper, however, we must use a formal register. Grammar rules are different between each, and so they would have to be learned. I think children are capable of learning the difference. I would be hard-pressed, however, to tell a native speaker that they are not speaking their own language correctly.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The End is Just Another Beginning

Dear Friends and Family,
    I am realizing that the past month has flown by with so many changes, and I haven’t updated you all for the most part. Some of you have heard that I’m not going back to work at C. Hunter Ritchie next year. Some of you have heard that I’m going away this summer. Some of you have been waiting to hear what mission field God sends me to next. All of these are well grounded and true. Let me fill in the gaps.
    Rewind with me a few years. There I was, living my life as a Christian single gal, serving at the church, looking for a job, looking for a husband, etc. Through circumstances that I’d love to share with you in person, God brought me to a new place. Although I had always understood that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “Jesus died on the crossfor my sins”, God showed me in a no-nonsense way that I was capable of sin. And as I realized it, I also realized that it is not just the depth of your sin, orthe extremity of it that causes God to mourn. But rather, it was the regularityand flippancy with which I daily placed myself ahead of Him. My own desires being more important than His- that is idolatry. It is a wretched thing, especially for a professing Christian. Realizing this, and feeling socompletely distant from the God I thought I knew, I sought passages inscripture to bring me closer to Him. When I read the last few chapters of Job,I met a God who was perfectly holy, and utterly majestic. Comparing that tomyself, as the low sinner I knew I was, I was shocked by the chasm that separatedus. How could I ever think of knowing (let alone being known BY) a God like this? And then it dawned on me- the truth of the Cross of Christ, and the powerof the work He did. He reconciled me to God by paying for my sin and covering me with His own righteousness. What a mind blowing realization. This is the Gospel of Christ.
    In this season of awe, I began attending a new church, where the power of the Gospel and the beauty of true theology was poured liberally down my parched throat. I was caught up in a “movement” at our church toward evangelism and missions. We were headed to NYC to teach ESL classes and providea children’s program for the parents in the classes. The whole summer leadingup to our trip, our team(and whole church) was engaged in evangelism training,through the Making the Gospel Known ministry. A friend of mine told me recently that evangelism is like steroids for a believer’s faith, and that proved true in my life. I realized anew that the power of the truth of what God did appliedto SO MANY out there who hadn’t heard. And I brushed shoulders with them every day. So after NYC, I applied to SIM and spent a summer in Burkina Faso. Many of you know of the trip, but if you look back in my facebook timeline, you’ll find many pictures from it. That was last summer.
    So here's the new stuff: Since I returned from Burkina, I have been seeking a place to work on the foreign mission field for a few years. I had come across  Wycliffe  Bible Translators in my search, and exchanged some emails with them. Iliked WBT because they were focused on languages, something I am interested inand somewhat good at (Thank you Lord!). Their goal is to get the Word of God into every language. Their focus is the Gospel, and so is mine.  Then some missionaries came to visit our church. They worked for Wycliffe. Talking to them lit my fire anew, and I applied to WBT that weekend. I have been working with them since then to further my application process, and look at what direction I should head. They are sending me to the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the University of North Dakota this summer to take some classes. I leave next week. I’ll come home in the fall, though, don’t worry. Because of orientation late next fall, and the unknown of when I’ll be able to get out on the field, I decided not to continue in my position at CHR. I know that my dear friend who is taking my place will do a fabulous job, and be able to commit a lot more time and attention to those kids than I will. But trust me, I will miss my family there.
    I’m also going to miss my church family. But most of all, I’m going to miss my parents and siblings. There is no number of sweet hours that can be spent together to make up for the bitterness of leaving the ones you love. Thankfully, there is grace for that. As Christ keeps each of you, I know He will keep me. And I pray for many more hours of sweet fellowship when I return.
I covet your prayers and thank God for you regularly. 
Serving Him,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hearing Love in the Silence

I have fifteen minutes before I need to leave for work... I have no makeup on, but hey, I'm tired of wearing makeup anyways.
As you probably already know, I work in a classroom with 4 students. These 4 boys have autism. This is my first year working with them, and I love it. But what I'm about to write about, although it was inspired by them, applies to each of us, in every relationship we have.

You know that Winnie-the-Pooh quote, where Piglet asks him how to spell 'love' and he replies that 'You don't spell love, you feel it'? Well, I would take that to another level. It is really important to many people, including myself, that I hear the words "I love you" on occasion from the people who are closest to me. It really can help me through the day, and I think you will all admit to the same need or want. But here's the thought that I would like to suggest: We don't say 'I love you', we show it.

You may not know much about autism, or you may know alot, but this is one basic understanding for you: They do not show appropriately show emotions. Which means, unless you have trained them to say it, you'll never hear the words "I love you" from them. When you do, it usually means nothing (except, perhaps, 'give me an M&M'). So, working with these students has been one HUGE lesson in depending on Christ for my intake of love. I wrote about it here. But I've realized recently that they do, in fact, express affection.

They may never say it out loud, or decide independently to give you a hug, hold your hand, or bring you flowers like typical 2nd grader. But if you open your eyes, and open your heart, you'll see it. That moment when he reaches up and rubs one of your curls between his fingers until it frizzes and knots. That moment when he unties your shoes, steals your water bottle, or closes the book you opened, just because it makes you look at him. That moment when he panics because you walked away when he wasn't paying attention, and he looks around frantically for you. That moment when he remembers your name, and adds "Miss" to the "Cortney" because he wants you to give him a piggy back ride (and somehow figured out you like it when he says that). That moment when he is listening to a story and takes your hand.... and picks off your fingernail polish. These are the moments that he SHOWS how he knows you, needs you, even loves you.

But look at your life. Who is it that you wish would say it more often? Your husband? Your wife? Your teenager? Your temperamental 3yr old? Your grandparents? Your parents? 

I dare you to stop and open your heart. 

They know you. They need you. They love you. Their life will SHOW it, even when they don't say it. 

Let us also endeavor to intentionally show our love for those around us. Hear what scripture says, about our relationships in the light of the Gospel.

Romans 13:8  Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Galatians 5:13  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
1 Peter 1:22  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
1 John 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Megachurch Megaprayer Megacall

For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
(Romans 14:11 ESV) (A quote from Is 45:23)

This past Sunday I was visiting a delightful church up in New Hampshire, while staying with some friends. It was kind of a mega church, but only by comparison to my sweet little church. They did their announcements by a cute prerecorded video, had a huge stage with 2 mega-tron screens on either side, and the children's workers were in full Medieval costumes. Above us on the sanctuary ceiling hung the national flag of every country in the words. On the walls was depicted the name of the Lord in many many different languages.The worship is where the differences really hit home. The music was excellent, with many talented musicians, but the songs were pretty typical CCM. You know the kind, where they repeat the same two lines over and over again, until it sinks in and you realize you had been tuning out the meaning for the first 3 minutes. Yeah. The kind of song where the words are truth, but there isn't any explaination. For example, "God you are a good God, you are so good to me". Oooohhh, thats some good stuff right there... ;-) Sorry to tease. I was chuckling (alright, laughing) during this song, because of its simplicity. But I had to allow that the words were truth, and although they were somewhat repetitive, it wasn't blasphemous to sing along. In fact, if it weren't for the truths in the hymns I know from my own church, I would never understand the feelings that are being expressed in these newer songs. I understood the feeling conveyed because of what God had done.

Then it started to dawn on me. The people and nations represented in the flags that waved over my head have likely never been told the truths I had learned and understood, about the Gospel. They had never counted their sin, fell at the foot of the cross, or felt the freedom of a lifted burden.

And yet, they would fall. As the next song played, I was nearly blown over by the realization that EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW, including those who never have before... EVERY TONGUE CONFESS, although they never had before.... And when they do, it will no longer be a choice, and there will be consequences for not living a life bent under His reign.

It moved me near to tears and I sat, scribbling these thoughts frantically in my notebook. I ended with a desperately whispered prayer, "Lord, send me to tell them!"

TGIF and Water

This Friday has been one that ended with me waving goodbye to my kiddo's on the school buses while simultaneously shouting "freeeeeeeeeedooommmmm!!!" under my breath... Our mantra here is  "Love with all you have; Laugh at all the things that don't matter". I am realizing more and more that all I have isn't enough. I need so much more, for the people around me, including but not limited to the kiddos. These people have so many needs, and don't necessarily give back. I'm realizing that when I pour into other's lives, it leaves me desperately dry. I am a cracked vessel, and couldn't stay full if I wanted to... My mom shared a quote from one of her radio preachers (I forget who it was): "The only way to keep a broken vessel full is to keep it unter the faucet." How true I have found this! Within the first month of working with these kiddos, I was as dry as a bone. What a necessary lesson for me to learn, and how thankful I am that I know where the Living Water comes from!

I may walk through firey trials that lick up what moisture is left, or I may find myself in a barren land, parched to the core. I may wander, lost in a valley of confusion, or press forward like a runner in a race. In all these, I will end with nothing if I do not keep myself hydrated by His grace.

Learning more about Him, who He is and how He cares for me; this is how He keeps me full. He leads me by still waters, when I meet Him in the quiet garden. He pours down rain of fellowship on me when I am pressed, rushed, and torn. It is Him, the Lord my God, who sets me up and leads me on.

Lord, let me never forget that it is You who gives this living water. Forbid that I ever seek water from another. Let me not grow faint in thirst, but keep my cup running over.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Who is He?

On my way through both Joshua and Mark, God is showing me how His Word displays His nature and His character.

   "The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below." Joshua 2:11

 "And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:11

 "He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God." Joshua 4:24

 "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17

 "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:28

 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” Mark 2:10-11 

 "Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground." Joshua 5:15

 "When His family heard... they said 'He is out of His mind.'" Mark 3:21

 I'm not done, but will keep you updated :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

God of Love in the OT (Also, Ebenezer Part 2)

So I sat down with my tea and my Bible, and read through the book of Deuteronomy. Why? Because its a snow day. Also because I'm using "The Bible Eater" reading plan, and it is the read-in-one-sitting book assigned to this quarter. If you had asked me yesterday what was in the book of Deuteronomy, I would have paused and guessed "laws and practices for the Hebrews?" and would have been mostly right. What I wouldn't have guessed is that I would have been inspired, saddened, tickled, and moved at different sections of the book. It was a great read, and I recommend it to anyone who has an afternoon (or whole day, in my case). So what does a book of law hold that would have kept me so riveted all afternoon? Let me share...

A common misconception in the outskirts of the Church is that God is Justice in the Old Testament and Love in the New Testament. In a superficial sense, I see where this comes from... God gives laws at the beginning, and punishment at the end of the OT. Juxtapose that with the Savior (Jesus) at the beginning and a wedding feast at the end of the NT, and its clear where we prefer to live. But let's see how this jives with what I read today... I found some of the most poetic and heart-melting language in Deuteronomy, stuff that is WAY mushier than I've heard in the NT. Please, beloved, hear your God's heart.

"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth."

"The LORD set his love on you and chose you"

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,"

"And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments"

"and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God."

“He found him in a desert land,
    and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
    he kept him as the apple of his eye.
 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
    that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
    bearing them on its pinions,
 the Lord alone guided him."

Do you hear Him, treasured possession? Know that the God above is a God of love, and has been from the beginning. 
(Deut. 4:39, 6:10-12, 7:6, 7:9, 26:18, 27:7, 32:10-12)

Now, about Ebenezer... 
So, in Burkina this summer, I was looking through a hymnal that belonged to a fellow missionary, and found the hymn "Come Thou Fount". The second verse had an asterisk by the name "Ebenezer" and it referenced 1 Samuel 7:10-12. The basic concept is that we can stand on faith that the God who has helped us thus far will continue to help us. Ebenezer means "Rock of Help" and it has stuck with me. I set up my own Ebenezer, in my front yard, which you can see here

So, my trip to Burkina was less of a destination than a starting point. I felt somewhat like God was winding me up, like a toy car, preparing to set me off in a new direction. I probably spent that trip more in introspection and prayer than in outward ministry. God was changing my heart, and I was in the perfect place to be molded. So, I set up my Ebenezer as a statement to God and to myself that as I had trusted Him to bring me thus far, I was hoping by His good pleasure, that He would bring me "home" again. To my eternal home. (also, at certain moments, to my earthly home in Virginia haha). 

I recently had the privileged of assisting in my friend's labor and witness the birth of her child. She and I, and our care group, prayed just about a year ago, that the Lord would heal her body and enable her to have children. We prayed constantly and rejoiced greatly when she conceived  She worried, though, even from pre-conception, about health. Her health (the reasons we were praying in the first place), and then after she conceived, her baby's health. She worried about early pregnancy miscarriage, and late pregnancy illnesses. She worried about preterm labor, and labor complications. She began worrying about Baby's health the morning after she was born, I heard it in her voice and in her words. And about a week after she was born, I got the age old text "Please pray for me, I'm worrying about her health again." I was inspired by the Ebenezer concept, and shared it with her. I encouraged her that I was, indeed praying, for both her and Baby. I also encouraged her to get a notebook, and to start writing in it every time she worried and yet trusted God, and He pulled them through. I told her this was going to be her cross to bear, and she needed to brace herself for the long haul. If she wrote down God's faithfulness, then in moments of fear, she can look back and see God's work. She can say "Here I raise my Ebenezer" and trust God in the situation she is facing then. 

In my 1 Samuel class, we were reading chapter 7 last week and it was so exciting for me! A fresh reminder of this, for myself. Then I realized, I probably should keep a book like I recommended for my friend. So I started one. It is my Ebenezer book. God is my "Rock of Help". 

Then today, reading Deuteronomy, I found this verse. 

“He is your praise, He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deut 10:21

I am reminded of the countless times someone recounts the story of the Israelites back to them, from "Brought you out of Egypt..." on to the current time. That is essentially the same concept. I'm encouraged by this verse. He is my praise, He is my God.