Dis Unity

Our families are suffering from a lack of unity. Discussions on politics and national events have made any kind of family gathering (even by ZOOM) filled with polarized positioning, often expressed very loudly.

Our churches are suffering from a lack of unity. My denomination is on the precipice of a historic split that will forever change who we are, and I am heartbroken over that.

Our nation is suffering from a lack of unity. We have become the Un-United States. The disunity on our streets, in our media, in the national government, and in our towns is destroying us.

Can there ever be unity in the world again? One would think that a global crisis such as a pandemic would have caused us to lay down our swords and turned them into ploughshares for the sake of humanity.

But no.

When evil raises its ugly head and godly people are silent, the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy us by targeting our unity first. Knowing that there is strength in numbers, disunity is the goal of every evil force around us. When the righteous scatter, the enemy prowls around looking for weaknesses.

As people of God, unity should be our goal. Jesus‘ most fervent prayer was that we would be ONE. We are called to be the body of Christ for the world, working together in harmony to bring the kingdom of peace to the earth.

Let’s look at our psalm today and see what it teaches us about unity.

Psalm 133 (New Revised Standard Version)

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!

Unity is good. Unity is pleasant. Unity is a blessing. Like a fine and precious oil, God’s gift of unity should flow down the chins of his people.

It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.

Just as the dew on the mountains comes after the refreshing rain, unity is a sign of what life-forevermore will be in the kingdom.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

Where in your circle of friends, family, community, or world can you be the voice of unity today? Where can you offer a sign of reconciliation to someone “across the aisle” that would bring a moment of peace? Where can you lay down your right to express your opinion so someone else might voice theirs, and then listen with the goal of mutual understanding?

We can’t fix the world overnight. But you can change your attitude. Make peace with someone today and pass on a blessing of kindred living that is calm, respectful, and peaceful. One day, when Christ returns, we will all take a knee….in unity.

Every Knee Shall Bow by Kathy Schumacher

Follow the Directions

Have you ever been led astray by your GPS? When the GPS first became popular there were several reports of people following GPS instructions and driving into a lake or going the wrong way on a one-way street. Even with outstanding advancements in technology, it can sometimes be hard to get to a place if the technology is faulty or if you enter the wrong address.

When I first moved to the Outer Banks eleven years ago there were parts of Southern Shores that were not on the satellite maps. I spent one frustrating afternoon trying to visit a church member only to have to return to the church to get directions. I was using one of the older free-standing GPS units and I had left my cell phone at the church, so I couldn’t call anyone for directions. By the time I got back to my office it was too late for the visit and I was in tears. So much for advanced technology!

Isaiah was an 8th Century prophet who was the voice of God’s concerns during the Babylonian exile. His basic function was to be a GPS to the Israelites. He gave words of direction, instruction, and hope during the dark time of exile from Israel. The people of the diaspora desperately wanted to return home. They were looking for a way back. They needed a GPS to direct them to the holy mountain. Then came good news: insiders and outsiders alike were called to come to worship.

Isaiah 56 (The Message)

“And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
    working for me, loving my name,
    and wanting to be my servants— All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,
    holding fast to my covenant—
I’ll bring them to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.

The outsiders are us, folks. The Gentiles and outcasts who chose to follow God received an amazing offer to enter into the house of worship.

Here is the map for both insiders and outsiders to follow, laid out in two steps.

  1. Keep the Sabbath and don’t defile it.

2. Hold fast to my covenant.

Sabbath-keeping is so important to God. It is a mandatory respite from our busy life that directs us to intentionally stop everything and focus solely on God. Many of you will remember “blue laws” that required that everything shut down on Sundays. By removing all temptation, families couldn’t defile the Sabbath with distraction, leisure, or (worst of all) work.

God’s covenant was spelled out to the people in the Ten Commandments. By following God’s law, people could find their way into God’s house and remain there all of their days.

They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’
    to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar. Oh yes, my house of worship
    will be known as a house of prayer for all people.”

Here’s the best part. The house of worship becomes a house of prayer for ALL people. Imagine it! If we were to follow the directions laid out for us in this passage, we could be gathered together into a house of prayer for all people.

The Decree of the Master, God himself,
    who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather others also,
    gather them in with those already gathered.”

What do you need to do today to re-direct your life so that you are headed in the right direction? What does God’s covenant mean to you? Are you loving God and loving neighbor in everything you do? Are you defiling the Sabbath or keeping it holy?

All are welcome to worship in the house of prayer, where there is plenty of joy to go around. Come! Now is the time to worship and pray.

Let Us Go Up to the Holy Mountain by Becca Ziegler

Word-Sensitive

When you were growing up, were there words in your family that were forbidden? As a parent, are there words you won’t let your kids use?

The two unacceptable words in our house were hate and stupid. Naturally profanity was never allowed, but we also outlawed these two words because they were often used as weapons. Whoever wrote the ridiculous line, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” did not grow up as a child in America. Words hurt.

Jesus was word-sensitive. He chose his words carefully in every situation. Whether he was expressing anger, frustration, love, encouragement, or chastisement, his compassion always came through in his word choices. The rabbi in him brought out a precision of communication that was both loving and instructive.

In today’s passage, Jesus is teaching a crowd of learners a new understanding of “clean and unclean.” Many things were considered unclean in their Jewish tradition. But his arrival was the catalyst for turning those traditions on their heads. He teaches them to think about matters of the heart instead of meaningless practices.

Matthew 15 (Contemporary English Version)

10 Jesus called the crowd together and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 11 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

12 Then his disciples came over to him and asked, “Do you know that you insulted the Pharisees by what you said?”

13 Jesus answered, “Every plant that my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Stay away from those Pharisees! They are like blind people leading other blind people, and all of them will fall into a ditch.”

The Pharisees had come along and taken the Ten Commandments and turned them into 613 laws of minutiae. It was exhausting to keep all 613 laws straight, so they missed the two big commandments of loving God and loving neighbor. Jesus took issue with this. Their elaborate rituals of eating certain foods, their time-consuming hand and face washing, the way they studied the law while ignoring the plight of the poor, and their practice of judging the sins of others were problematic for Jesus. He ate with the sinners and focused on their needs.

15 Peter replied, “What did you mean when you talked about the things that make people unclean?”

16 Jesus then said:

Don’t any of you know what I am talking about by now? 17 Don’t you know that the food you put into your mouth goes into your stomach and then out of your body? 18 But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. 19 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others. 20 These are what make you unclean.

At the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. If your heart is unclean, your words will be unclean, and no amount of ritual hand washing will fix that. But please, for the sake of the world, do wash your hands.

Where is God calling you to account for the uncleanliness of your heart? Where are your words betraying you? Where have you hidden behind a facade of righteousness that is covering up your sin? Choose your words wisely today.

God’s word invites us to truly “come clean.” What can wash away your sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

No Other Fount I Know by Kathy Schumacher

A Thin Quiet

Whether it comes through a miracle, science, medicine, or nature’s natural progression, we all anticipate what it will feel like to hear the words “the pandemic is over.” We have complete faith that we WILL hear it. What we don’t know is if it will take six more weeks, six more months, or six more years. (God forbid!)

In the meantime, we hide in our caves and wait.

In our scripture today, we find Elijah hiding in a cave, fearing for his life. He has been chased there by the anti God-ers who have murdered the prophets and are now after him.

1 Kings 19 (Common English Version)

There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire.

We look to the strong winds of science to relieve us, but that hasn’t been accomplished just yet. We sit through an earthquake of medical advancements toward a vaccine, but so far, no joy. Even the fire of public policy that requires masks, hand-washing, lockdowns, and 6 feet of social distancing hasn’t eradicated this virus from the earth. Are all these things capable of slowing the rising curve? Yes. Is it happening fast enough? No.

After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

I think this is how the pandemic will end. Science and medicine are making great strides. Public policy is slowing things down and keeping us safe. But after throwing every human resource known to man toward solving it with a great show of wind, earth-moving, and fire, we still aren’t there yet. There will be a moment where God will speak it out of existence in a thin, quiet voice. But will we be able to hear him? In the end, as it is with everything that matters, we need God to save us.

14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”

God’s thin, quiet word saved Elijah. His thin, quiet word will save us, too. We just need to shut up all the SHOUTING at each other long enough to listen.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

God preserves those who remain faithful and wait. Will you be numbered among the faithful?

Quiet Daybreak by Wende Pritchard

When Songs are Silent

A few weeks ago I attended my conference’s Clergy Executive Session via ZOOM. This is an annual meeting where we affirm the commissioning and ordaining of new pastors, remember pastors who have died in the past year, receive reports of those who have chosen to go on leave or exit the denomination, etc. I logged in as I was finishing an outdoor class at my YMCA and the opening session began as I was driving home.

This was not a good plan. I was traveling on our busy bypass when all of a sudden a gorgeous baritone voice came through my phone. He began to sing “Be Thou My Vision.”

My favorite hymn.

When the bishop introduced him, she invited us to sing along from our multiple locations across Georgia and beyond.

I began to sing and immediately started to cry. It wasn’t just a finger-dabbing kind of crying; it was a full blown shoulder-shuddering, snot-flowing sob. This is not a good thing to do while driving on a busy summer day of beach traffic.

Singing is a beautiful, cathartic, uplifting, soul-stirring way to connect with the Holy Spirit. Somehow songs poke us in a place where we don’t usually get poked. Music resonates deep in our core, where we remember our mothers gently rocking and humming us to sleep and our daddies singing silly songs with us on long car rides.

Psalms are both painful and healing to me right now. They are painful in that they were written to be sung out loud on a journey with other pilgrims, which of course we can’t do right now. But they are also healing because I know that there WILL come a time when we can sing together again in large groups. Lord, hasten that day!

But for today, we sing silently with our eyes.

Psalm 105 (Common English Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord;
    call upon his name;
    make his deeds known to all people!
Sing to God;
    sing praises to the Lord;
    dwell on all his wondrous works!

Everyone I know, myself included, is hitting a wall right now. The mask wars, the number of COVID cases continuing to rise, remote learning gearing up to start (causing great stress for teachers, parents, and kids), waiting for days on end for COVID test results to come back, cabin fever, fears for our livelihood, sorrow over the 700,000 deaths worldwide, the lack of healthy social interaction…it is all getting to us. Tempers are fragile, friendships are frayed, families are not speaking to each other, and we need help. We need hope. We especially need to remind each other of the wondrous works God has done, is doing, and will do again.

Give praise to God’s holy name!
    Let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
Pursue the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always!
Remember the wondrous works he has done,
    all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared—
    you who are the offspring of Abraham, his servant,
        and the children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

When singing brings only tears, it is time to give silent praise. When a simple conversation provokes an angry response, it is time to seek the Lord. When everything you are doing feels overwhelming, remember God’s marvelous works, and let your heart rejoice.

Pursue the Lord and his strength when yours has run out. He will never run out on you.

Sing Songs of Silence by Michelle Robertson

Sibling Rivalry

I have always loved the Joseph story that appears in the Old Testament. It is the best part of Genesis for me. I love how it weaves in and out of one improbable situation after another. With themes of favoritism, prophecy, sibling rivalry, deceit, lying, cheating, arguing, imprisonment, and (finally) success, it is a veritable storytelling feast.

Today’s passage focuses on three themes: the perils of being braggadocios, the consequences of a family experiencing extreme jealousy, and the power of mob rule.

Joseph is the father’s favorite and was given a beautiful “technicolor dream coat” by his doting dad. He wears it proudly while he brags to his brothers that he has received a dream-vision that says that all the brothers would soon be bowing down to him in obeisance.

Can you imagine how well THAT played with the brothers? If your sibling said the same to you, how would you respond?

Genesis 37 (Contemporary English Version)

14 Joseph’s father said, “Go and find out how your brothers and the sheep are doing. Then come back and let me know.” So he sent him from Hebron Valley.

Joseph left and found his brothers in Dothan. 18 But before he got there, they saw him coming and made plans to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Look, here comes the hero of those dreams! 20 Let’s kill him and throw him into a pit and say that some wild animal ate him. Then we’ll see what happens to those dreams.”

Well, that was predictable! In some ways, Joseph’s lack of humility brought on his brothers’ ire. Joseph forgot that the glory belonged to God. If indeed he was destined to rise to power, it would be God’s doing and not his. By taking credit and lording it over his brothers, he invoked a jealous response…from God. God rarely suffers anyone putting himself on the throne in God’s place.

21 Reuben heard this and tried to protect Joseph from them. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Don’t murder him or even harm him. Just throw him into a dry well out here in the desert.” Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father.

23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they pulled off his fancy coat 24 and threw him into a dry well.

Luckily Reuben steps in and offers a less violent solution, with good intentions to return later and save his brother. But that was not to be….

25 As Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with all kinds of spices that they were taking to Egypt. 26 So Judah said, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and hide his body? 27 Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not harm him. After all, he is our brother.” And the others agreed.

28 When the Midianite merchants came by, Joseph’s brothers took him out of the well, and for twenty pieces of silver they sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt.

For twenty pieces of silver they sold their own brother. The story has a pretty good ending, but that won’t come for many chapters yet.

Let’s turn this on its side for a moment and look at it a different way. Do you suppose denominationalism does the same thing? Does the bickering between churches look to the world like a giant sibling rivalry? Can infighting within a denomination feel like the smaller brother is being thrown into a well?

The world is watching. If we claim to be “brothers and sisters in Christ,” we need to reach down the street to our other-denomination neighbor and pray for their ministry just as hard as we pray for our own. We need to rejoice in their growth and not be threatened by it. Within our denominations, we should celebrate our differences and not use them as a sticking point for judgment.

In the body of Christ, there are no divisions. No Greek, nor Jew, nor male nor female, nor Presbyterians nor Catholics nor Methodists, but ALL are one in the body of Christ.

So let’s act like it.

That They May be ONE by Kathy Schumacher

Isaias

As I write this on Monday, Aug. 3rd, I am sitting in my window seat overlooking a sunlit canal. An Emergency Alert just made my Apple Watch vibrate with a notification that a storm surge warning is now in effect for my area. Life-threatening flooding is forecast, and my watch advises me to “urgently complete efforts to protect life and property.” A kayak goes by and I get a CNN alert that Hurricane Isaias-turned-Tropical Storm Isaiah is now predicted to become a hurricane again as it makes its way right toward the Outer Banks tomorrow.

Oh, 2020, you little prankster, you!

Here on the Outer Banks, hurricanes, nor’Easters, flooding, and high winds are no stranger to us. I have already brought all of the potential “flying objects” in, have downloaded several Netflix movies onto my iPad, and I am planning to spend the rest of this day writing before Isaias comes barging in and possibly takes out my internet or my power. Or both.

Jesus was no stranger to storms. In so many ways, his entire ministry was a matter of moving from one storm to another. The storm of disapproval, the storm of persecution, the storm of disbelief, (even from his own disciples!) all the way up to the final storm of crucifixion.

But it is safe to say that Jesus overcame EVERY storm.

Matthew 14 (Common English Version)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

And Jesus says, “Come.” Come to me in the middle of your personal storm…the one that is keeping you awake at night and making the daytime miserable. Come to me in the fallout of your financial storm, and I will provide in ways you haven’t considered yet. Come to me in your pandemic storm, and I will show you ways to stay safe. Just come to me.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

All YOU have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm. Don’t take your eyes off him for one second. Strong winds assaulting you? Keep looking at Jesus. Crashing waves threatening you? Keep your eyes on him. Starting to sink? Look up!

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

The Son of God is reaching out to grab your life and save you. It is only when you reach back that the wind will settle down.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

The Calm Before Isaias by Wende Pritchard

Good News!

Can you remember a time when you had good news to share? What did you do? When I found out I was accepted into college, I ran next door to tell my best friend. When I discovered I was pregnant, I immediately called my parents and my in-laws. When I was appointed to my current church, I called both daughters to share the happy news.

When you have good news, you move heaven and earth to share it with the ones you love. You just can’t wait! It burns in your heart until you get to that person to share it.

In our passage today, Paul is discussing the good news of Christ’s salvation for all. This wasn’t just good news, it was strange news. Imagine the Jews and Gentiles in the crowd, hearing for the first time that there is a faith that is open to all and a way of salvation that doesn’t care who you are. You don’t have to be born into it. You don’t have to prove your lineage, complete a check-list of good deeds, or jump through hoops.

You just have to ask.

Romans 10 (Contemporary English Version)

11 The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed, 12 no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help. 13 All who call out to the Lord will be saved.

All who call on the Lord will be saved. This was a concept that radically changed the world. This opened heaven up to all people of all nations and all generations. There is only ONE Lord. Everyone gets to come in.

But wait…there’s a catch.

14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord?

YOU are the catch. In this wonderful offering of eternal life for all, there has to be something that prepares the way, and that is you. How can people hear if nobody tells them? How can they know about Jesus if nobody explains to them the wonderful good news of the resurrection? And how can you tell without being sent?

Jesus’ invitation to all of us today is to go and tell. Under the authority of the Holy Spirit, we are all being sent with a loving word of kindness into the world that needs to know about Jesus. We are offered an opportunity to share the best news someone will ever hear.

Who do you know that needs to hear this good news? Who is struggling for lack of hope and peace? Where is God nudging you to have that conversation with someone you care about?

The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

How beautiful when humble hearts give
the fruit of pure lives
so that others may live.
How beautiful is the body of Christ.


How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful is the body of Christ. (How Beautiful by Anne Wilson)

Go, and be beautiful to someone today. May it burn in your heart until you tell it.

How Beautiful!

Daddy, Watch!

Summer days at the beach and the pool are busy times for parents. There is little rest, relaxation, or reading when you have to keep an eagle eye on the little ones. Sand castle building, running into the surf, jumping into the deep end, hunting for ghost crabs, etc. all require careful parental monitoring. And if you take your eyes off them for a second to grab something from the beach bag, you’ll likely hear, “Mommy and Daddy, WATCH!” as your child perfects a somersault, learns to swan dive, or masters flying a kite.

We feel better when Mommy and Daddy are watching, don’t we?

Psalm 17 begins with the same plea to our Heavenly Father. Daddy, watch! Daddy, listen!

Psalm 17 (Common English Bible)

Listen to what’s right, Lord;
    pay attention to my cry!
Listen closely to my prayer;
    it’s spoken by lips that don’t lie!
My justice comes from you;
    let your eyes see what is right!
You have examined my heart,
    testing me at night.
You’ve looked me over closely,
    but haven’t found anything wrong.
    My mouth doesn’t sin.
But these other people’s deeds?
    I have avoided such violent ways
    by the command from your lips.
My steps are set firmly on your paths;
    my feet haven’t slipped.

This Psalm, attributed to David, was probably written during his time of being hunted and persecuted by King Saul. Young David is without a defender. He feels vulnerable. He is being oppressed and feels alone. So he cries out to his Daddy.

I cry out to you because you answer me.
    So tilt your ears toward me now—
    listen to what I’m saying!
Manifest your faithful love in amazing ways
    because you are the one
    who saves those who take refuge in you,
    saving them from their attackers
    by your strong hand.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? I sure have. I have felt attacked, misrepresented, vulnerable, and alone. That does not feel good. Are you feeling this way today? What does it mean to you to realize that God is always tilting his ears toward you?

This beautiful writing is a reminder that in fact, we are never alone. God sees. God hears. God will be our refuge against our attackers, and save us by his strong hand. When our steps are firmly on the path he has set before us, and if our feet do not slip from his ways, we will prevail and find safety in his arms.

No matter what it is you are dealing with today, know that God’s ears are tilted toward you and his faithful love will save you. Thanks be to God!

Watchful Osprey Parents

Sleepless in Peniel

How are you sleeping? Are you getting enough rest? Or are your anxiety dreams so loud you can’t relax in your sleep?

This is a constant topic of conversation among my friends and family. Just a few days ago a friend described a dream where a dog was loose on her property and injured a neighbor, who then threatened to sue her. That same night my husband dreamt that a friend came over and when he went to leave, the lawn was filled with alligators. What the heck?

I don’t always remember my dreams, but several times a week I wake up exhausted from them. I hope and pray for all of us that when the pandemic is over, our sleep will be more restful.

Today we join Jacob at the brook of Jabbok. He is moving his family in accordance with God’s instruction to go back to the land of Canaan and rejoin his father Isaac. Things have deteriorated with his father-in-law Laban and it is time to skedaddle.

Genesis 32 (The Message)

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

Sleepless nights can feel like wrestling matches. Indeed, it is often in the dark of the night that God comes to us to help us process things. Stress, anxiety, guilt, indecision, anger…our subconscious continues to deal with our waking issues even when we are dead asleep.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Here is the good news. God always works things out for our good. All of the times when we are wrestling with which way to go will work out in the end if we remain true to God‘s direction…even when that place is far away from our comfort zone.

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

Are you wrestling with something right now? Are your nights fraught with tossing and turning? Are you running toward God in your dreams, or away from him?

Jacob was blessed by God because he was OBEDIENT. He trusted God enough to pack up his entire family and move far away. He followed God’s direction at the expense of everybody’s comfort. And when God visited him for one last test of resolve, Jacob held on until the morning. And he lived to tell the story.

So stay the course. Hold on to God through the night, and when the sun comes up, you will see his blessing unfold.

The Day Breaks by Wende Pritchard