One of my mother’s favorite Biblical ideas was the idea of Ebenezer – “This far the Lord hath carried you.” In fact, her friend cross-stitched that word for her in a beautiful piece. So today, Kaitlin Curtice’s words on Ebenezer feel so important for us as people, for us as writers. We live in heavy hard times (maybe they are all heavy and hard?), and we must trust that the part of the journey we have completed – be it in writing or in living – has gotten us just where we need to be.
(Please note – If the Christian tradition isn’t one out of which you operate, I hope you will translate Kaitlin’s words to whatever sense of the universe makes the most sense to you, my friends.)
How can you seek God if he’s already here? It’s like standing in the ocean and crying out, “I want to get wet.” You want to get over the line to God. It turns out he was always there. —Deepak Chopra
There are mentions in the bible of the word “Ebenezer,” a sign that in an experience we have known and seen God. Things have been feeling heavy around here lately, do you sense that? It’s not just America, either. It’s not just our neck of the woods, our corner of the world. Things feel like they are on fire, like we’re going through birthing pains. It feels difficult and hard to breathe. We are relying on self-care and trying to gather up compassion for others as best we can.
So our Ebenezers are the moments, the spaces, sometimes the objects that speak to us, that reach us, that carry us and remind us that we are not alone. I have had Ebenezers in the shape of my children’s words toward me, in prayer, in small rocks that I’ve found in the forest. Ebenzers have been leaves falling from trees, quiet movement of rivers or lakes, or moments of quiet. Ebenezers are all around us if we look hard enough.
On November 7th, my book Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places * releases into the world. I wrote this book of 50 stories and prayers to reflect on the idea of glory—of extreme beauty—in our everyday circumstances. My hope is that by reading my stories, you find your own. One of these stories is about Ebenezers. It’s about stopping to take in a moment, to be fully present, and then to go back out into the world refreshed.
I believe it’s what we need most right now. We are exhausted people, and to care for ourselves and each other, we have to stay tethered to what is good, to what fills and restores us. Then, we are ready to go back out into the world and do the good work we are called to.
Please enjoy this excerpt from my book, and pre-order your copy today.
When you leave a meaningful experience, or you’re changed, or you see a new side of life that you weren’t aware of before, it’s only appropriate that you take from it an Ebenezer, a sign that God was there in your midst.
We met Mike and Cathy, a couple older than we were but also experiencing their first conference with International Justice Mission. We became instant friends, and over that short weekend became as close as children and their parents. A few years later, they visited us when I was full-bellied pregnant, and we ate pizza and talked about the mystery of God that pulls people to each other and deeper into a goodness that cannot be fully understood.
I went to visit Cathy and Mike one weekend in September, right before my birthday, and right before the fall equinox. In Minnesota, the air was already turning crisp and people were wearing their fall layers, preparing themselves for the coming northern winter.
We attended a conference that weekend called Why Christian?, the first of its kind. We heard women speak about the church, about the Jesus they knew who bled with the brokenhearted and used spit and dirt to heal. He was the Jesus who used anyone and everyone to love, to be the church, to give life to the weary.
And I realized that weekend that he was also the type of guy who might grab a rock or two as an Ebenezer, just like Cathy does. He’s one who remembers, who counts the sacredness of human experience as something to be honored.
When we came back to the house from the conference, I found a pile of Ebenezers on a table right by the back porch. You only know if you stoop down and look closely that the rocks are from all over the world. Her Ebenezers. I ran my fingers over the names marked on each one, places she’s visited, spaces in which she has experienced and known God.
Written in permanent marker on the faces of the stones. They are forever reminders of experiences, of people and places, stories of glory. Three days later, I was on a plane headed back to Georgia. The cool air was evaporating with every lift in altitude, and I knew it—I knew I needed something to hold on to, something to remind me, some piece of that holy experience. But I’d forgotten to grab a Minnesota rock. I’d forgotten before the plane was up in the air and I was untethered.
What I had was a plane ticket home and a voucher for a free drink. I ordered a Heineken, sat back with my journal and pen, and remembered. I looked at that can, that tiny tower of aluminum that reminded me of who I was just three days before the trip, and who I’d suddenly become. A few days earlier, I’d never flown by myself before. A few days earlier, I’d never gone on a trip alone with the expectation of meeting God in a new way. Now, I was seeing something new in myself. I was seeing that maybe God was doing something new inside of me, another side of Mystery that I hadn’t seen before. I knew things were different, because before that moment I would have never considered buying a Heineken on a plane without a full dinner first. Instead, I had a pack of peanuts and trusted the voice of God to lead me into something new, even though I didn’t understand it.
I sat back and took a lot of deep breaths and marked the air in which I was flying with my own reminder, my own Ebenezer—here in this space I have seen and known God.
I want to know you,
and I want to remember knowing you.
If I can take pieces of my life and forge them into bits of remembering,
things will stick, your presence will become
more real to me
every day of my life,
and every experience will be both mine
Teach me the art of tethering.
Hallelujah and amen.
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