Something new every day  

Posted by Rachel

God really smacked me in the face with TRUTH this morning, and from such a common Biblical location that I would have thought we'd have already been through this. Apparently not.

I've been continuing down this path of reading through the Bible chronologically, and that has brought me this week to Jeremiah and Daniel, since Jeremiah was the prophet who was present during the time when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon (AKA the time when Daniel was sent to Babylon and the whole lions' den thing happened). So I'm reading Jeremiah 29 this morning, already anticipating the verse (11) we all know to be a key verse in my reading, "For I know the plans I have for you..." Call me crazy, but somehow I have either never connected the two, or I have forgotten the connection, but those words were spoken by the Lord to the Israelites during their time of EXILE.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure most people don't like being exiled from their homes. The Israelites had just been forced to leave their home and go to captivity in Babylon, a place they were NOT familiar with or comfortable in at all. Putting myself in their shoes, I'm pretty sure I'd feel forgotten by the if he wasn't present. I've felt that way at times in the past few months, so I can imagine this emotion pretty well. And then, God speaks. But he doesn't say, "Don't worry, I'll save you soon."

Read it for yourself:
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD. This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

Woah. Knock me off my feet (well, not literally, since I read this from the comfort of my couch and was already off my feet...). Not only does he not promise to make things right immediately, he pretty much says make the most of it. Build lives for yourselves. Settle in... you are going to be there for a while. 70 years to be exact. 70 years! And yet, he then still has the audacity to say, I know what I'm doing and I have great plans for you. Only, to see those plans, you have to stay put in this uncomfortable place for a while, and oh yeah...this place? It's a part of my big, great plan. Um, not exactly what the Israelites (or I!) were expecting, I bet.

God also made it clear they were not to be idle. There were things for them to do. They were not to lay down and wallow in their self pity and frustration. They were to LIVE LIFE in the midst of captivity, hardship and strife. And more importantly, they were to be calling on God and seeking his face. Even when he promised they'd eventually be led out of captivity, he still expected them to seek him and, in that way, hold up their end of the bargain.

Hmmm... that's good. I needed that today.



Posted by Rachel

I returned on Monday from one of my favorite weekends of the year: July 4. Every July 4, my family has a reunion in Cashiers, North Carolina. There are five houses owned by different members of the family all on one street, and almost 80 of us were up there for the weekend this year.

We got there late Thursday night, and woke up Friday morning to my dad screaming, "It's POOP!" He had woken up to discover that our septic system had a slight problem, and was out of commission for the rest of the weekend, as it was a holiday weekend and no one could come out until Monday. Needless to say, that was an issue since we had 18 people in the house. Thankfully, there were four other family houses to "visit" as necessary, but that was only until the second house had septic issues and left us with only three working septic systems. Ingles (the local grocery store), had many Cowen family members visiting the restroom in the back corner. GOOD TIMES. Showers were a blast too - taken in 2 minutes flat at another house, or by allowing all the water to run into a tub that could later be emptied outside (and not in the septic system). I would say that the most fun would be the dish washing. Imagine enough food to feed 80 people, and all the dishes it takes to cook and serve that food. Now, picture all of that being washed in Rubbermaid tubs. Three of them.

The weekend was wonderful, Friday we went rafting on the Ocoee river. Friday night, we had dinner for all the "Gen3ers" at our house, and then followed that with lots of NERTZ, only the best card game ever.

Saturday was our huge meal, followed by family pictures and "history" time. Then of course a few rousing games of volleyball before headed out to fireworks. Most everyone started heading out on Sunday, but some of us stayed to enjoy a lazy rainy day on Sunday, and then some amazing hiking on Monday.

I love my family. I love the mountains.