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

Stone Pillows

Have your dreams become more disturbing during the pandemic? I was chatting with friends who remarked that this is happening to them. I, too, am experiencing dreams that are louder, more colorful, more intense, and frankly more exhausting than usual. Obviously the stress of what is happening is being played out in our subconscious the minute we release consciousness. I often wake up feeling unresolved and tired. I imagine this is to be expected, given the situation.

So I thought it would be good to study a dream this morning that actually brought some good news to the dreamer. This is the kind of dream we all wish for…one that brings a sense of awe and wonder with it. This dream was filled by the very presence of God:

Genesis 28 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 

And indeed, Jacob produced the twelve tribes of Israel, which spread all throughout Israel and dominated the land. But even better than that prophesy was the promise God made:

15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Note that verse 15 sounds very reminiscent of a promise Jesus made in Matthew 28:

 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (New Revised Standard Version)

I am with you, always. I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.

As you go off to college, I am with you.

As you go into surgery, I am with you.

As you go into the COVID-19 ward, I am with you.

As you go into the unemployment center, I am with you.

As you go into divorce, foreclosure, the second grade classroom, the never-ending argument…..I am with you.

Are you with ME?

18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

The word Bethel means “house of God.” Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the “house of Bread.” Appropriate, as he became the Bread of Life.

God invites us today to create a Bethel in our own hearts. When you establish your soul as a house of God, he is GUARANTEED to come and inhabit your life.

So make a place for him, and open wide your doors. We are all climbing Jacob’s ladder. God will be with you, always, even to the end of the pandemic age.

Every Rung Goes Higher by Jennifer Thompson

Pandemic Dreams

My pandemic dreams are getting wilder and louder. Some mornings I wake up exhausted by my dream-saturated sleep. Even in my tiredness, I am grateful for the silence that wakefulness brings. My deep consciousness is flooded with turbulence. I have read that others are experiencing this as well. How about you?

We understand that dreams are the mind’s way of unburdening itself of the daily pressures and disturbances that get shoved away throughout the day so that we can focus on what is at hand. Some posit that dreams are a form of memory processing, or are a type of protective act, i.e. a way to prepare the brain for danger and challenges. In any case, it stands to reason that the current pandemic would result in people having vivid dreams all night long.

In 1 Peter, we read a beautiful picture of life being ”a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.” That image is profound for us pandemic people. Oh, how we long to replace our deep consciousness of despair with the deep consciousness of God’s peace!

And I like that it reminds us that this is a journey, which implies that there is a destination. I am ready, as I’m sure you are, for us to ARRIVE at the end. Let me off this bus!!

Even better, we find God on this journey:

1 Peter 1 (The Message)

17 You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.

18-21 Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought.

YOU are not an afterthought to God. You call out to him for help, and he responds like the good, responsible father that he is. He has removed us from our sloppy, dead-end, empty-headed way of life.

Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

Don’t miss that…we have a future in God. This is comforting news in the midst of recent information that we might see a spike in COVID cases in the fall. A second wave may be imminent, and we are so weary of the first. But hang on. We have a future in God.

22-25 Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word.

What must change immediately is that we must “love one another as if our lives depend on it.” We are utterly failing at this. The vitriol, anger, and downright hatred that we see every day on our streets, on the news, and especially on social media must stop. We condemn ourselves with every post.

Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
    its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
    God’s Word goes on and on forever.

This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

Today is a day to seek the deep consciousness of God. Today is an opportunity to allow God’s Word of hope, salvation, and unconditional love to bring forth a new life in us.

THIS is what I dream of: a world-wide community unified as one body, loving each other through this pandemic, and offering only words of comfort and peace to each other until this is over.

What do you dream of? Are you experiencing disturbing dreams right now? Do you wake up tired? Do you long for peace?

Listen. Stay in the Word, and get out of the world. Find ways, especially at bedtime, to turn everything off and go deep into the consciousness of God. Pray like you’ve never prayed before.

God will deliver us, of that I am sure. The Word will bring new life in us.

Sweet Dreams by Becca Ziegler