Thursday, June 28, 2012

Locust Years

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten —
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]—
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, 
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
Joel 2:25-26, NIV

The visiting missionary who offered our sermon Sunday said that farmers in South Africa today still dread the locust year. When a swarm descends, the whole crop can be gone in a day. If the famers endure that great loss, however, if they find a way to press on and not give up, the following years are the most plentiful the land ever experiences. The bodies of the dead locusts decompose to become fertilizer for the new seed. The harvest generated by the locust year more than compensates for the loss.

This is the God we follow. He repays for the locust years. He specializes in resurrection. Our losses are not too great for Him to overcome. Take heart, friend; take heart, O my soul: plenty and praise are coming.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Dragons and Baby Gates {Steinway Parable}

It's hard to believe, but Steinway, my Lhasa Apso, has been gone three years. As I have been remembering him lately, this story from apartment life in our first year back from the mission field has come to mind.

Steinway’s nemesis lives in our hall closet and emerges once a week or so for half an hour of terror. This green dragon, though chained to the wall, roars through our home devouring everything in its wake, and Steinway believes puppy-dog tails are its favorite food. Whenever it growls to life, consequently, he looks at me reproachfully and then scurries frantically from one hiding place to another. Just as he finds one that seems safe from the dragon’s clutches and starts barking at it with all the bravado he can muster, it approaches his new nest and he yelps and scampers to find a better one. From the looks he gives me, the most perplexing aspect of this trauma seems to be that his mommy would do such a thing. After all, I’m the one who lets it out, holds its leash, and apparently sends it chasing after him. If I am truly mistress of this home and love him, what am I thinking??!!!

You will understand, though Steinway receives my explanations with a blank stare, that I have a purpose greater than his own comfort: specifically, the cleanliness of the home we share. Also, because I do hold the reins to this beast, I will do everything in my power to keep it from swallowing his precious tail. And since it is only a vacuum cleaner and not a living creature, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be successful in the attempt, unless in Steinway’s desperate efforts to escape he crosses my path before I can avert the impending doom.

So what’s a mother to do? Well, this mother finally decided to throw him in the dungeon. Steinway, that is, not the vacuum cleaner. And actually it’s not a dungeon, just our bathroom, but from the way he cries and carries on you’d think it was the Pit of Despair, where years of his life will soon be sucked away.

Granted, it is a small, windowless room with nowhere to run around, but I do herd all his toys, his water bowl, and his favorite pillow in there before putting him in. What’s more, I lock him in with the baby gate rather than shutting the door, so he has a full view of Allen’s flowers on the balcony (and where his enemy is at all times).

That bathroom is the safest possible place for him at those moments, and the barrier he hates is the very thing that keeps him out of danger. What Steinway cannot understand, however, he will not trust. Given his history with me, since I’m the one who put him in the room and provided all manner of good things for his enjoyment, he could settle down on his pillow with his wooly-man and wait quietly until I opened the gate again. He could even stand at the gate and watch, barking from his impregnable fortress (barking without rebuke being a rare treat) or just marveling at my control over the beast, allowing it “thus far and no farther.”

Instead, he stands at the gate and cries to get out. And cries. And cries. It breaks my heart to hear him, and doesn’t do much for my ears, either, but it avails him nothing. This time, persistent, plaintive pleas do not change the outcome. Though I love him, my purpose to clean the carpets remains unchanged; because I love him, my purpose to protect him by confining him in a small space and unpleasant surroundings also remains unchanged.

Finally, the ordeal ends and I release him from prison. Invariably, he proceeds to check out the apartment. Did that monster eat anything important, like his food bowl? He pauses to sniff the air. Then he snorts:  Hmph. Smells okay. After assuring himself that all is again well and the danger has passed, he comes to me and burrows his head alternately in my lap and hand, which being interpreted means, “Pet me. NOW.” A disgusting display of mutual affection and a cookie follows. Doesn’t he deserve a reward for being so brave? After all, that dragon could have eaten his tail.

Lord, even though I laugh at some of the things my dogs do, at how foolish and slow of heart they sometimes are to understand, they are all too often more of a mirror than I'd like to admit. Someday, perhaps, I'll trust You so that I'll lean into the adventure of the dragons that roar and threaten me. Someday, perhaps, I'll grow bold and brave in the knowledge that You hold the reins of every danger, and no painful circumstance can touch me unless You in loving wisdom allow it. If I being evil desire so to protect my furry friends, how much more will You look after Your beloved child? Today, though, mostly I squirm away from the threats and yelp with fear and anxiety more than with actual pain. Lord, I trust You; I long to trust You more; help my distrust, for the sake of Jesus the Overcomer. Amen.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:19, NIV

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Golden Threads in Homespun

Sometimes I need a reminder of the benefits of keeping this Monday practice and the private gratitude list which undergirds it. The following words refreshed me in this discipline. May you find encouragement in them as well. May the Lord also "confirm to [your] soul God's love and [your] interest in Him and make [you (us)] love Him" more.
Fraser of Brea [a seventeenth-century Scottish pastor], at one time a prisoner for Christ's sake on the Bass Rock, resolved that he would search out and record the lovingkindnesses of God. He did so with a very happy effect upon his own spirit. He says, "The calling to mind and seriously meditating on the Lord's dealings with me as to soul and body, His manifold mercies, has done me very much good, cleared my case, confirmed my soul of God's love and my interest in Him, and made me love Him. Oh,...what wells of water have mine eyes been opened to see, which before were hid. Scarce anything hath done me more good than this." Let us take trouble to observe and consider the Lord's dealings with us, and we shall surely receive soul-enriching views of His kindness and truth. His mercies are new every morning. He makes the outgoings of the evening to rejoice. His thoughts concerning us are for number as the sands on the shore, and they are all thoughts of peace. Those benefits which recur with so much regularity that they seem to us "common" and "ordinary," which penetrate with golden threads the homespun vesture of our daily life, ought to be most lovingly commemorated. For often, they are unspeakable great. "I have experienced today the most exquisite pleasure that I have ever had in my life," said a young invalid; "I was able to breathe freely for about five minutes." 
For the beauty of nature, the fellowship of the good, the tender love of home; for safe conduct in temptation, strength to overcome, deliverance from evil; for the generosity, the patience, the sympathy of God; and for ten thousand thousand unobserved or unremembered mercies, let us unweariedly bless His Holy Name. "Oh, give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever" (Psa. 136:1).
from David MacIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer, Kindle locations 410 and 420

Thank You, Lord and Father,
for the beauty of nature,
for the fellowship of the good,
for the tender love of home,
for safe conduct in temptation,
for strength to overcome,
for deliverance from evil,
for the generosity, the patience, the sympathy of God,
and for ten thousand thousand unobserved or unremembered mercies;
for the blessings which weave golden threads into our daily life, my daily life,
for the resources and opportunity to assist my sister in planning a term paper,
for a Starbucks breakfast mini-date in a busy week,
for a friend's relief of a chronic pain issue,
for slight improvement in my mobility with the walking boot (cast for stress fracture in foot),
for email encouragement,
for two or more joining together in concerted prayer,
for a friend who loves Steinway pianos as much as I do,
for professional encouragement for my beloved,
for the gentling of grief with time,
for the gift of two lovely sunrises,
for an afternoon watching Italian soccer on a Spanish Internet stream with my athletic husband,
for an excellent, encouraging sermon from a visiting missionary,
for my mom not reinjuring her wrist in another fall,
for emergency room graces for her and Dad,
for a home computer repair going smoothly and well,
for grace to say yes to You in a hard thing,
for peace in answer to prayer,
and for Your adequacy for this day You have made.

My soul, praise Yahweh,
and all that is within me, praise His holy name.
Psalm 103:1, HCSB

(from the gratitude journal, #6474-6500)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Will Preach for Cupcakes

One morning last summer, Allen and I discussed the various errands to be done and whether I should attempt any of them. My stamina was even more limited then than it is now, but his job required a great many hours of overtime just then, and he was weary and grim. Still, he said he'd take care of them all over the weekend.

There was, however, one errand I had omitted from the list. I wanted cupcakes to photograph for the blog's first birthday, and I wanted to choose them myself.

When he left for work, I looked at a new local bakery's Web site to see their hours, knowing that with temperatures starting the day near 90F, I needed to get out and back in a hurry. To my relief, they opened at eight.

I dressed and headed that way. As I drove, I pondered Ann Voskamp's invitation to write about forgiveness for the Walk with Him Wednesday community that week. Was that the answer to my prayers of late for an open door to witness to someone of Christ? Should I write about God's forgiveness? In the background, Alistair Begg preached about the foolishness of the gospel, apparently on a text from 1 Corinthians. Yes, that was how I should approach Wednesday's post. God's forgiveness through the cross of Christ.

That settled, I parked the car and entered the bakery. The manager was coaching a young Asian woman, apparently a new hire. They both looked up, and she greeted me enthusiastically. He boxed up the cupcakes I selected and answered my inquiry about a yummy-looking bar cookie (of which the girl eagerly offered a sample).

She then asked if I was on the way to work. I said no, I was going home after this.

"You already finished your work??!!"

'Well, no, not exactly. Just trying to get errands done and get home before the heat got too bad.'

"So what kind of work do you do?"

'I, well, I...' What is it I do exactly? 'I... write.'

"I knew it! You just look like a writer. What do you write?"

'When I am healthy, I write business documents,' I told her, 'but it has been a hard year with a chronic illness flaring up, so right now I write on my blog only.'

"What kind of blog?"

'I'm a Christian, so I write devotional pieces about Christian ideas and what God is teaching me through my health problems.'

The girl asked for my card, and I gave it to her with the blog address. I learned her name, but here I'll call her Buttercream. It was not clear to me whether she wanted the contact information because of the business writing or the blog, so I asked her if she was a Christian too, if that was why she wanted my contact details.

"My friends are Christian, but I am not. My background is Buddhist, but I really think everyone finds their own truth." Oh.

"What about you? What do you think?" Oh!

My heart raced. God was answering my prayer for an open door, and He was answering it right now. Words, Lord. I need Your words.

'Well, I... Christians..." Deep breath, girl. In. Out.

'Christianity is a little different from some of the other world religions in that we believe--the Bible teaches--that there is really only one truth, absolute truth, or what you could call True Truth.' (Thank you, Francis Schaeffer, for that phrase.)

She's nodding, attention locked in. Her boss has excused himself to the back room. No one else is in the shop, so I continue.

'The Bible teaches that there is only one true God, but we aren't smart enough or good enough to find out about Him on our own. We need Him to reveal Himself to us.

'We see some things about Him in the world around us. Nature tells us how powerful He is and that He is eternal. He lives forever. Left to itself, the world should be winding down and falling apart, so there has to be something, Someone, beyond what we see to keep everything continuing on.'

"Yes! I think so too!! There has to be something keeping all this going!"

The back room is still quiet. No more customers have arrived. Full speed ahead then.

'But the greatest way He has revealed Himself to us is in the historic person Jesus Christ. He was God and man, so His life showed us what God is like. Jesus went around teaching and working miracles and healing people. Even more than that, He lived a perfect life. The Bible tells us God is pure and holy, and if we want to be His friends we have to measure up to that standard, too. Only, none of us do. We all mess up and fall short of His perfection.

'Jesus never did, though. He's the only person in all of time who never messed up. He loved us so much that He died on a cross like the worst kind of criminal to pay the penalty we deserved for our wrongdoings so we could be God's friends.

'Because He did that for us, all that's left for us to do is believe in Him, to trust that what He did is enough. If we do that, however, our lives will start to change and look like His life because He comes to live in the hearts of those who believe in Him.  We still stumble and get it wrong a lot, but we live better than before because He changes us from the inside out.

'When Christians die, then they will be completely like Jesus and not weighed down by sin anymore. For a Christian, death is actually a good thing, because then we will be like Jesus and be with Him forever.

'Does that make sense?'

"Yes. You should have a book club."

Now I'm confused. 'For, like, Christian books, so you can learn more about this, or what?'

"No, just any kind of book. Or a writing seminar. You explain very clearly."

'Well, I'll think about it. Thank you for saying that.'

"We could have it at your house. Potluck. Easy. You know, if not too much work for you."

'I'll consider it and come back and let you know. You work here every day?'

"Monday through Friday. And I study ESL." She named a local university.

It was a week before I found time to write all this down, and by that time I didn't remember quite how I closed the conversation and left. Shook hands? Very nice to meet her? I don't recall.

Why did I skip from natural revelation to Jesus? Why skip Easter? Why didn't I ask her where she was from or what she was majoring in? Why didn't I ask her if she wanted to trust Christ?

But I didn't. And I didn't have a Bible with me to give her. When I returned home, I found one, bagged it up, and set it in the back of the car, at the ready for the next time I saw her. Then I prayed for her to come to know God through Jesus.

So far, there hasn't been a next time. By the time I returned to the bakery, it had closed. Buttercream has my contact information, but I only knew where she worked. The Bible still rides around behind the driver's seat of our car, waiting for an opportunity. Buttercream is still on my prayer list. Maybe I'll meet her someday, and we'll laugh about how much I got wrong and left out, and the language and cultural differences won't matter anymore.

For now, all I can do is pray for her, offer the opportunity back to the Lord with what I made of it and what I didn't, and ask Him to smother it with grace, grace like frosting on those cupcakes.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV1984).

I Live in An Antbed

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chauffeur Surprise

Last week our pastor mentioned, in a sermon on family, that a secular study has found that the thing teenagers most want from their parents is time. That surprised me, because I never remember my dad lacking time for me.

It seems we spent a lot of that time together in the car: driving to his office in the summers when I worked with him, driving to and from ballet and piano lessons, and of course driving on family vacations. Sometimes we listened to Barbra Streisand or Man of La Mancha; sometimes we talked about books or school; sometimes we talked about nothing in particular.

He was willing to be interrupted when he was in his spot on the sofa paying bills, and we didn't hesitate to call him for help when one of my sisters got the stapler stuck to her hand.

He did not shrink from hitting the tennis courts with me nearly every evening of the semester I took tennis for physical education. He was a tennis champion. I was trying to hit the ball accurately enough to pass the class. It must have been exasperating for him, but he kept coming out with me, and at least it was time together. (He coached me into a B for the class. I still enjoy watching the game but have not stepped onto a court since. He fared better with my sisters in the athletic department.)

He also has a knack for making us feel special. At the end of my senior year of high school, the generous parent of one of my Sunday school students gave me a pair of orchestra seats to see West Side Story at the music hall. With two sisters and one seat to fill, I invited my best friend from those years, and we decided to make an evening of it, dress up in formals, and dine at a fancy restaurant.

Dad was smart enough not to let us drive ourselves around Big D alone late at night, so he said he would drive us.  He left work early, but instead of his Chrysler LeBaron, this Lincoln Continental was in our driveway:

He wanted to chauffeur us properly in a limousine, but this was the closest he could rent.

Like a proper driver, he went to my friend's door, walked her out to the car, and helped her in. He took us to the restaurant, ate his own sack lunch in the car, drove us to the musical, and waited (probably with a book) until time to drive us home. I think Mom accompanied him to keep him company, but I don't remember for certain, probably due to the pretend glass barrier between the front and back seats.

These photos lay in a box I recently sorted, and the memories made me smile as a typical example of the thoughtfulness of my dad and how well he has cared for us.

In the last two decades, he has also lavished that care and attention on children in local apartment complexes, orphans across the ocean, and the staff and congregation where he serves as deacon in a painful season of transition.

My dad is a gift from God, and it was a gift to spend the afternoon with him yesterday. It has never been difficult for me to understand the Father-love of God because of the way my dad loves me, and for that I'm so very grateful. If you did not know that kind of love from your earthly father, may the Lord dazzle you with His healing love and delight. Your Father is very fond of you.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and rich in faithful love. 
He will not always accuse us
or be angry forever. 
He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
or repaid us according to our offenses.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His faithful love
toward those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:8-11, HCSB

More gifts from God last week:
successful wrist surgery for Mom
an afternoon on the sofa with her, watching her favorite musical
a preliminary diagnosis of my foot pain as the beginnings of a stress fracture
2.5 extra pounds of walking boot on my right leg for a few weeks
a car and extra stamina to spend an evening and a morning seeking a shoe for the other foot that doesn't make my back hurt
opportunities to testify of God's goodness to two of the store employees in that long morning
permission to discontinue my blood pressure medication (possibly a result of the other recent medication change)
book talk with sister and dad
protection from hail and damaging weather
suppers I didn't have to plan or prepare for 5 of the last 6 nights
new phone I'm slowly learning to use
a lovely seafood date with my beloved
his wise counsel and insight
sermon on one of my favorite Old Testament narratives (2 Chron. 20)
an afternoon with my dad
my husband the grill-master
our heavenly Father, the source of every good and perfect gift

I Live in An Antbed

Monday, June 11, 2012

Three Keys to Happiness {Psalm 84}

How lovely is Your dwelling place,
Lord of Hosts. 
I long and yearn
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.
Even a sparrow finds a home,
and a swallow, a nest for herself
where she places her young—
near Your altars, Lord of Hosts,
my King and my God.
Psalm 84:1-3, HCSB

Our house sparrows enjoying the suet

1. Dwell in praise and God's presence (v.4):
How happy are those who reside in Your house,
who praise You continually. 

2. Find strength in Him to keep journeying on, even through the valley of weeping (v.6), toward our true Home (v.5):
Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

3. Put your trust in the LORD of hosts (v.12):
Happy is the person who trusts in You,
Lord of Hosts!

Lord, You define happiness so differently from the world around us, from the flesh within us. Raise our eyes toward You in praise. Fix our hearts on following You, no matter what. Grow our trust in You. You are the fountain of all happiness. Grant us grace to receive the joy You offer this day, through Jesus our truest joy. Amen.

This week I have heard God whispering love to me in such specific, tailor-made ways. All thanks and praise to Him for His goodness and gifts:
~this prayer which calls me by name just now
~Corrie ten Boom quotes: "There is nothing too great for God's power; there is nothing too small for His love," and "God has no problems, only plans. There is never panic in heaven."
~her testimony of how God brought her a handkerchief for her cold in the concentration camp, just moments after her sister prayed for one
~encouraging card and note at perfect time
~text and photo message from dear friend
~my friend Courtney's beautiful artwork incorporating poems from here
~new dishwasher, so quiet and effective
~2.5" of rain and an unseasonably cool June day
~new gutters carrying the runoff away from the house (their first test passed)
~happy hour at the frozen yogurt shop near A's office
~lunch with Mom and Dad
~virtual vacation through their travel photos
~a friend's shared song lyrics that spoke to my heart
~the power of a well-told story
~Ebony's tail thumping happily in his sleep
~laughing at the young cardinal who is still figuring out the feeding tray and sometimes comes up with a seed all over her face

~arrangements for surgery Tuesday to repair Mom's broken wrist have come together quickly after discovery that the bones moved
~my cancer survivor friend's good CT results
~more beans, tomatoes, and blackberries from the garden
(gratitude journal, #6265-6283)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Jesus Doeth All Things Well"

From time to time, usually when my pain spikes and I can't pinpoint any particular misbehavior on my part which caused it, the what ifs attack. What if the doctor has misdiagnosed my pain? What if the long diagnostic delay has made this permanent? What if the medicines are more harm than help?

A friend and new breast cancer survivor tells me she thinks these anxieties come with the territory of prolonged or chronic illness. For her, every new twinge could be the first warning that the cancer has returned. For both of us, some of these questions are legitimate areas of further medical investigation.

For that reason, two weeks ago I sought a second opinion on a key aspect of my care. Our conversation and the wide variety of tests ordered seem to corroborate some of my concerns, particularly the one about the accuracy of a key element of my medical history.

This raises a new sort of what if, one I had swept under the rug of my thoughts until now. Really, I don't know anything for certain until all the test results are in and the doctor herself interprets them to me. It is still in the realm of possibility, however, that the primary diagnosis which has guided medical decisions for a decade will be revised or even replaced.

That said, I do already know that my what ifs are generally neither helpful nor faithful. If God is sovereign and loving, as the Bible teaches and I believe, no illness or physician error, if that should prove the case, can touch me without His permission. If He has permitted difficulty, it is for my good, for the building up of the body of Christ, and for His glory. He is trustworthy.

Sometimes when the what ifs attack, testimony from someone who has already walked a similar path can penetrate my troubled emotions better than abstract truth. The dominance of narrative in the Spirit-breathed Scriptures makes me think God designed us this way. One day recently, American hymnist Fanny Crosby's witness out of her lifelong blindness provided the help I needed.

Before Fanny Crosby had reached two months of age, a common cold resulted in permanent blindness when a newcomer to the town treated her in the stead of the regular family physician, who was unavailable at the time. The stranger turned out to be an impostor without any medical training whatever and left town, never to be heard from again.

Concerning this tragedy, Miss Crosby wrote, "In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him, for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do" (Smith and Carlson, Favorite Women Hymn Writers, 32).
What work was that? Teaching at a school for the blind in New York City, becoming the first woman to speak before Congress, befriending Presidents, writing a prodigious quantity of poems and later hymns, and serving the poor. "Indefatigable" comes to mind when I read of her life.

On another note, also from Miss Crosby, these words on prayer also strengthened feeble knees to persist in intercession whether or not I can see any results:
In one of her last messages, she said, "God will answer your prayers better than you think. Of course, one will not always get exactly what he has asked for. . . .  We all have sorrows and disappointments, but one must never forget that, if commended to God, they will issue in good. . . .  His own solution is far better than any we could conceive" (Ibid., 37). 
One of my favorites of her very many hymns is the following one on God's guidance throughout our lives. For some reason, I have never sung it in church that I recall but made its acquaintance instead through the Rich Mullins recording from The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 2. (See below for a link to listen on YouTube.) Whether the hymn is new or familiar to you, I pray that you find Miss Crosby's words still speak to your particular need and what ifs today. Jesus doeth all things well, friend. Let's remember how He has done so for us and share our stories with each other.

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

[If you are reading this in a feed reader or email, you may need to visit the crumbs blog directly to view the video.]

The book cited in the quotes provided most of the information here. The remainder comes from the documentary The Fanny Crosby Story, available to rent and stream at Amazon or for purchase as a DVD at if it is not available at your local church's library.

I Live in An Antbed

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Lord of Hosts

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
~Martin Luther, English translation by Frederick H. Hedge

When we sang these words from Luther's martial hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," in church yesterday, the name of God in this second verse captured my attention. "Lord Sabaoth, His name": does this line hold any meaning for contemporary Christian disciples? For me, the answer is a decided affirmative.

"Sabaoth" is a phonetic approximation of a Hebrew term which appears more than 500 times in the Old Testament. Approximately 300 of those occurrences combine it with YHWH, the covenant name by which God revealed Himself to Moses before Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Traditionally, the combination YHWH Sabaoth has been rendered in English Bibles as "LORD of hosts," although the popular NIV translation usually renders it "LORD Almighty."

That "of hosts" part, the Sabaoth in the name, refers to the vast angelic armies ("hosts") Scripture teaches are invisibly engaged in serving "those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). Joshua received a glimpse into this spiritual battle (Josh. 5:13-15), as did Daniel (Daniel 10) and Elisha's servant (2 Kings 6:11-17).

"LORD of hosts," then, depicts the one true, living God as the commander of the heavenly armies. It is a military title, evoking the warrior God the children of Israel praised after the Red Sea crossing (Exodus 15:3). Even James and Paul employ this title, transliterating it from the Hebrew just as Luther does in his hymn (Romans 9:29; James 5:4).The Lord Jesus Himself appears in this role in Revelation 19:11-16, where John writes this:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
What has this to do with us? We are not engaged in armed conquest of the Promised Land. Perhaps this imagery even offends our pacifist sensibilities. Sometimes this facet of God's character honestly makes me uncomfortable. Considering God as Father, Bridegroom, or Shepherd feels more cozy and consoling, yet even in Psalm 23, David takes comfort in the Lord's rod and staff, means not only of leading the sheep but also of defending them against deadly predators.

Why would the revelation that Yahweh our God is commander-in-chief of mighty, invisible heavenly armies be a comfort to David or to us?

When we are besieged by seemingly unrelenting trials and afflictions, wave after wave of difficult and sorrowful circumstances, it steadies us to know
The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Psalm 46:7, HCSB).
When beset by fears, doubts, and temptations, it comforts me to know that the battle to take every thought captive is not only mine, but God's:
The  Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Psalm 46:7, HCSB).
When bullied by the wealthy and powerful,

The  Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Psalm 46:7, HCSB).

When beleaguered by poverty, imprisonment, or even death because of faith in Christ, it sustains hope to know the enemies of the gospel do not have the final word but that vindication is coming:

The  Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Psalm 46:7, HCSB).
The strong God of the Bible is no less so today. If enemies material or immaterial overwhelm you, dear crumble, take heart: you are not facing this battle alone. Far from it! If you are a child of this warrior God through faith in Christ Jesus, how will He leave you undefended?
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37, NASB).
 Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

Lord God of hosts, we praise you for your great might. It humbles us to the dust to consider that You promise to assert Your power on our behalf, in our defense. Some days we are especially conscious that we need a fierce warrior. Thank You that You will not let us down. When our enemies and temptations seem too much to bear and we are grasshoppers in their sight, help us believe that You, the Commander of angelic armies, have no difficulty overcoming them. We ask Your protection and defense against whatever assails us today. O Lord God of hosts, hear our prayer in Your mercy, for Jesus's sake. Amen.

Thanks be to God
for revealing Himself in the Bible,
for His whole character, even or especially the parts that stretch my trust,
for fighting our battles,
for giving us sure refuge,
for the confidence that nothing can in the end defeat Jesus, the Faithful and True King of Kings,
for the battles that open us up to experience this part of God's character,
for new light on old hymns,
for the profound theology we sing in them,
for a relatively quiet week,
for lab tests trickling in, exposing how much I still have to learn about my own health,
for my mom's broken wrist not requiring surgery,
for celebrating a friend's daughter's wedding from afar and sharing another friend's sorrows,
for new gutters to match A's beautiful paint job on the house,
for no less grace and might available for this week ahead than the week behind,
for the LORD of hosts with us, the God of Jacob our stronghold.
(from the gratitude list, #6200-6214)

sharing in community with Ann, Laura, Michelle, and Jen today: